WHAT was easily the most darkly, brutally realistic film of TripleSix festival was shown on Sunday afternoon. Cruel Summer, starring Emmerdale’s Danny Miller tells the true story of mindless bullying taken to the extreme. Not an easy film to sit through.

It’s difficult for a film like this to appeal to a great many people, but it’s clear that directors Phillip Escott and Craig Newman wanted to create this film almost as though you were watching an elongated crime reconstruction video, admittedly with a little more violence.

The film’s stark realism is its strong point and for those who are interested in subjecting themselves to ‘real-er than real’ crime films, you’ll want to check this one out.

Horror as a genre is all about style and creativity and that is sadly where Cruel Summer falls behind for me. There are plenty of crime horrors throughout the genre’s history that are packed with a filmmaker’s stylistic input and are better for it. Cruel Summer, due to its hyper-realistic nature, simply comes off as not enjoyable to watch.

The topic of bullying, especially when taken to the uncomfortable, harrowing levels shown in this film, is always a difficult one to deal with for filmmakers so the directors have to be commended for making as well made a film as this.

This film is definitely a well-made one because not once do you feel like this isn’t something that actually happened. The performances from Danny Miller, Reece Douglas and Natalie Martins are wonderful for what they are; depicting the kind of people we are all aware of and are perhaps more afraid of at first glance than anything else.

Cruel Summer tells the story of Danny (Richard Pawulski), an autistic boy who enjoys the solitude of camping who is being tracked down by the group of three due to lies being told about him to the group’s leader, Nicholas (Miller) about Danny and Nicholas’ ex-girlfriend. These ‘stories’ send Nicholas on a violent rampage, adamant on finding Danny and ‘dealing with him’ to the reluctance of Calvin (Douglas) and Julia (Martins).

The dialogue in the film is yet another layer in creating its dark, gruesome realism and while, on personal level, I could find little enjoyment in watching the film, I have to appreciate it for what it is.

The film was preceded by the European premiere of the short film, Pigskin, which tells the story of a cheerleader who is seemingly being haunted by a figure that forces her to harm her own body to a disturbing degree. Certainly an intriguing little short…seek it out.

It’s difficult to recommend Cruel Summer because it seems impossible to find any enjoyment in and hits far too close to home but like I said, if you like this kind of thing, maybe check this one out.

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