Cruel Summer (2016) Review

This title was recommended to me for viewing and I am glad this came in my direction. Coming from the UK, this harrowing thriller shows what can happen when someone with intense rage mixed with mistaken identity can be deadly and in this case unforgivable. Judging from the poster, this looks like a classic slasher film that takes place in the woods but don’t be fooled by the appearance. This is much more than that. From Writer and Directors Phillip Escott and Craig Newman, Cruel Summer, based on true events, is a dramatic and unfortunate story involving teens whose circumstances shows how, lack for a better word, cruel the world can be.

This story currently on VOD as of 2/27, involves a young autistic teen named Danny, who has been granted to go on a solitude camping trip by his two loving parents overnight. That sense of serenity changes when he runs into three other teens, Nick, Julia, and Calvin. Each with their own reason to target Danny suffers the teen set out to torture Danny by any means necessary.

I think this is a great film for those who don’t get too squeamish over something sad and a bit depressing. Think Requiem for a Dream for instance. That film while very good in many different ways depicts a story that doesn’t give you a good feeling when it’s over. However, by the end of it, you are taken through the lives of characters that go through real life of things that may not happen before your eyes. The intensity and drama that comes from that can still be something to pull from the movie making it worth the watch. That is what I think of Cruel Summer.


Picture provided by

Danny is played by actor Richard Pawulski. Pawulski does a great job capturing the innocence and wonder of a young adult who wants to explore life and nature. Also Pawulski’s character Danny while dealing with autism wants to show his independence and to his parents that he can take care of himself. You like him right from the start. The man who plays Nick, the antagonist of the film, is Danny Miller. He is mostly popular of his TV roles in series from the UK including “Emmerdale” did a fantastic job as this over the top hot head teen who believes that Danny slept with his girlfriend. Making himself look like an idiot and fool in front of his friend Julia ignites a fire in him to take down Danny once and for all. I find the character of Nick very interesting because we are supposed to loathe him for his actions in this film. When you look at these characters actions throughout the film leading up to the encounter with Danny, you get a sense of high masculinity insecurities seeping out of him having to prove his manhood 24/7 to himself and his peers. Julia (Natalie Martins) and Calvin (Reese Douglas) are brought into the fold to take down Danny just happen to be victims of bullying as well as being the bullies themselves. The added peer pressure seen in this film makes the outcome sad because of the reason behind what happened.


From left to right: Reese Douglas(Calvin), Natalie Martins(Julia), and Danny Miller(Nick) Picture from Wildeye Releasing

The film goes at a pace to show both sides of teens who grow up in different paths. With a little bit of backstory to keep you occupied leading up to the interaction between the teens; you get a sense of their background and motivation as the three bullies search over the city for Danny. It creates a build-up of what is to come when they finally meet up with him in the woods. When the film gets to the crucial event, this is when you start to really feel the emotion of all characters involved. So many emotions are happening all at once here because all of it could be avoided. I won’t say anything further but just know that you are in for a roller coaster of emotions.


Nick and Julia deciding what to do with Danny. Picture from Wildeye Releasing

So after all that depressing sadness I just set you up for, why am I recommending this movie? Why would you choose to watch something so sad? One big reason that makes this a great film is that it is a clear example of what bullying is and what it’s capable of. It also shows what happens when you are a witness to bullying and choose to standby and do nothing. While you may never lay your hand on anyone, you as a witness are just as bad as the one violently acting on someone else. Peer pressure between teens and young adults exist and most of the time it happens to someone who can’t or isn’t capable to defend themselves. This is a film that should be watched as a reminder that this is going on in the world and that it must be stopped and prevented. While this isn’t a typical horror film, there is clear terror in this movie and the terror these characters feel in the movie as well makes this a horror film in my book. This is a film I may never choose to watch again but it is worth the watch and I also have a better understanding of standing up for the little guy and also know that I play a part in the epidemic of bullying whether I like it or not.

4 out of 5

Thank you for reading my review. I would recommend watching a trailer to this movie to see if you have any interest in giving this movie a look through. Catch the powerful performances and witness a very tragic story to someone that didn’t deserve it. If you happened to have watched this film, I would like to hear your thoughts on the film. Comment below and if you have any suggestions on what I should watch next, let me know. I’ll see you at the movies. Movie geek and Proud.


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