Summer of Blood
October 17, 2014
Onur Tukel as Erik
Anna Margaret Hollyman as Jody
Dustin Guy Defa as Gavin
While not a monumental achievement in the history of cinema, Summer of Blood does what a good movie should do. It entertains.
Erik Sparrow (Onur Tukel) is a loser. He’s lazy. He talks too much. He’s socially awkward and as you’d expect from this self-proclaimed Jerry Garcia look-a-like, in dire need of a professional hair trim and color job. But you know what? In his life, he’s trying, and he truly loves his girlfriend Jody (the “I’ve seen this girl before” Anna Margaret Hollyman), despite his refusal ofher engagement ring at dinner one night. This hurtful slight begins a downhill journey for Erik — a myriad of bad dates, reprimands at work and eventually, a fateful encounter with a vampire (what next?) With not much left to lose in his life, paired with the mesmerism skills of his attacker, there’s minimal struggle from Erik. Even when asked by the vampire, “Do you want to live?”, he replies… well, we’ll leave that response for your viewing pleasure. Once bitten, he lives up his new life-style, becoming sexually adventurous, taking his job termination in stride (providing one of the best “take this job and shove it” moments ever) and going out for midnight strolls in search of appetizing snacks. But all the while, there’s the memory of Jody, the wish for normalcy and an eventual family. And despite his “do whatever feels good” attitude, there is the looming regret of his engagement misstep.
The film takes a bit long to get to the “meat” of the story (pun intended). It’s quite clear early on that Erik’s a wad, and we know there will eventually be bloodshed (there are vampires in this flick), so let’s move this thing along. However, Erik’s annoying ways and strange outlook on life do eventually endear him to the viewer. It’s not exactly pity, because you know that he knows that he’s something of jerk, but you still feel for the guy. And Tukel really has a tremendously engaging screen presence. He’s a very strange amalgamation of a sexy Kurt Russell (and it’s not just the beard, it’s the attitude and some of the line delivery) and several of the schlumpy bits of Zack Galifinakis. But his performance is all good. And that leads to this proclamation: the most remarkable thing about this picture, is the stunning lack of bad performances. There’s not one weak link in this chain, and for an indie flick, that alone is worthy of acclaim. While Tukel is a bit over the top at times (it’s appropriate for the character), everyone else is believable and likeable, from the valuable supporting players who comprise Erik’s “brides” (the shot of them all in bed is straight out of Coppola’s Bram Stocker’s Dracula) all the way down to the old gent tackling the role of Erik’s landlord. Particular mention should be given to the buxom Melodie Sisk as “Blake”, one of Erik’s dates. Aside from Tukel himself, she stole the show.
For the gore-hounds in the peanut gallery, the frequent jugular sprays are well done, and almost secondary to the dialogue of the scenes. Pay particular attention to the moment when Erik and his “blood-daddy” Gavin (the dude who turned him – Dustin Guy Defa) share a late night snack. Their conversation is important to the story and well written, so the victim becomes merely a prop completely ignored by the characters (aside from the blood-sucking, of course). Poor thing.
As for the other technical chunks, they work. The soundtrack was appealing and jarring at all the right places (with the end credits track a particular delight), the frequent shots on busy city streets (I’m assuming done guerilla-style) had a nice, almost Midnight Cowboy feel to them. And the writing? Particularly good. While there were a few too many geeky film-student references, the majority of the jokes hit their mark. However, it must be said that Erik’s discussion of film auteurs (star Tukel wrote/directed/produced/edited) was a nice inside-joke touch.
Not much in the way of scares, which is something good horror (even if it’s a horror/comedy) should also deliver. There was a moment of tension when Erik meets his “blood-daddy” (the harsh back-lighting and contact lenses did the trick), but other than that, there was no suspense, tension or any respectable “boo” moments. Obviously, there were not meant to be. Just sayin’, don’t expect a “grab-your-friend-in-the-theatre-seat-next-to-you” type of horror movie goodness.
And interestingly enough, the love story, which is well done, was not the most emotionally resonant moment in the picture. The scene in which Erik takes one of his first victims, ends with a pleasing and almost touching tableau. Erik enjoys the perks of his new endeavors, but there is that ugly side, which “Louis” (Brad Pitt in Interview With a Vampire) so frequently loathed. This specific moment with Erik and his victim puts a tiny lump in your throat – unexpected in a film so full of wackiness and laughter, but an important and telling moment for our lead.
The ending leaves a little to be desired. It ends on a good joke, and certainly in line with the tone of the rest of the picture, but it feels as if it could have gone the route of just a teensy-weensy bit of schmaltz. It wouldn’t have been completely out of the blue, as toward the end of the story, Erik begins to rethink recent events and internalize his life/death choices (the moment on the subway when he acts out a piece of throw-away dialogue from early on in the picture is priceless). A tad more emotional satisfaction and closure would have served the story well, but that may be only for the emotional softees in the audience. Ahem.
Finally, there was a brand new bit of vampire mythology introduced here. No spoilers, but when you see it, was it for real or not? A joke at a character’s expense left me wondering if it was just a mess-around or if there was some truth hidden in the hopeful joke? Hmmm. It’s better left to your own individual interpretations.
Bottom Line: While not a monumental achievement in the history of cinema, this does what a good movie should do. It entertains. With a fabulously unstable and adorable lead character, great dialogue, as well as rich and kooky performances Summer of Blood is a worthwhile watch, even in these darkening days of fall. Get it? Come for the promise of blood-thirsty vampires, stay for the acting and the main character.