2009 Running time: 68 Certificate: 15 Rating: 4

Synopsis

Already drawing comparisons to Stand By Me and Deliverance, this lean, low budget British horror is a real find. A gang of Welsh scallies get a harsh life lesson when they bunk off school and venture into the woods. Coming across Peter, a drifter too tightly wound for comfort, they soon discover the danger their mums always warned them about has become very real. Sharply written, and played to naturalistic perfection by a largely teen cast, this is edge-of-seat stuff right up to the final shock.

Director

  • Julian Richards

Cast

  • Kevin Howarth

  • Ciaran Joyce

  • Amy Harvey

  • Jonathan Jones

  • Darren Evans

  • Christopher Conway

  • Ryan Conway

Review

Throwing back to the 1980s when going into the woods and talking to strangers were imprisonable offences, this deceptively simple thriller throws off modern technology (only one kid has a mobile and that has no credit) for a pared-back tale of escalating fear and alarm.

A gang of potential ASBOs, led by bully boy Paul (Jones) and rival Bingo (Joyce), go to their hangout in the woods near the council estates of St Davids, Wales.

While riding a moped nicked by the gang's only girl (Harvey), Paul and his crippled brother knock down Peter (Howarth), a possible one-time soldier who ingratiates himself into the group.

But, Peter's mood-shifts and insistence that the kids play a series of increasingly violent "games" where they appear to have the upper hand soon reveal the grown-up is not wired quite right.

Reportedly based on a hostage situation in Richards' own past, this stripped to the bone reworking of The Last House on the Left and Deliverance uses the low-budget demand of its woodland setting to surprisingly claustrophobic effect.

After the hoodie horror of Eden Lake and The Children's demon brood, this is a nice change of pace that puts kids in peril from adults.

Shifting tone with real skill and riding a high level of unease, Al Wilson's script keeps it real, the kids' tough talking and gangsta posturing quickly wilting under the hot lamp of Peter's madness.

Slyly suggesting this devil is summoned when one of the gang makes an impromptu ouija board out of a pop bottle, the fall from grace undertones are rife in the religious names (Peter, Paul, a lost dog named Jesus) and idyllic setting.

Climaxing with a real heart stopper and a sobering epilogue, Summer Scars packs more suspense into 68 minutes than most big budget thrillers do at twice the length.

Stand By Me done as Deliverance? Even better - think Dead Man's Shoes meets This Is England.