Summer School is a 2006 independent film that is somewhat of an anthology film in that there are five different stories, but all five stories are bridged together by one main character and setting. Summer School’s setting is…summer school, of course, and the film follows Charles, a horror fan and internet movie reviewer, who after a marathon horror-movie session, succumbs to a series of terrifying dreams. Each nightmare is worse than the last and Charles begins to have trouble knowing what exactly is real, and what is not as he wakes up from one bad dream, only to be in another, even more frightening nightmare.
Summer School is written and directed by five different film school acquaintances that filled numerous roles behind and in front of the camera in this low-income $8K horror film. The directors include - Lance Hendrickson, Troy McCall, Mike P. Nelson, and Ben Trandem. Trandem, who also produced, wrote, edited, and even did the special FX, is the brainchild behind Summer School, which came about when he himself was actually in summer school. Being a fan of horror films, as one would guess, Trandem was bored out of his mind, so he created the character of Charles and the idea of having him be tortured by a series of five different nightmares during a day spent in summer school.
After this initial idea, Trandem got a bunch of film school classmates to come up with their own take on a favorite horror genre and make a fifteen-minute story out of it with Charles being the connector to each one. Each story itself is very simple, but varied from one another with genres touching on monsters, vampires, Nazi’s, Hill Billy rapists, Slasher films, and even the occult. There is nothing super original about most of the stories, but they are very short and to develop so much is a somewhat more difficult than with a full-length feature. It is the simplicity of these stories that almost makes Summer School kind of fun and is something that may be great for a younger horror fan. If I saw this at 14 or 15, I would have loved it for sure!
I didn’t necessarily love it, but I did really enjoyed Summer School and with the movie having its story limitations, it keeps such a quick pace that it isn’t much of an issue. Each dream is fast, fun, and directed with an individual style from each other. That is where the biggest positive comes from in this negative budget film, the movie is so well made and even with major budgetary restraints, it is impressively shot and looks almost as good as any well made film found in theaters with a budget of $45 million. It is shot in a way that looked very natural, with great camera placement and angles.
The overall films style was very tight too and there is a huge 70’s-80’s vibe and it is done quite well, especially at the very first few moments as Charles comes rollerblading into his empty class, to this music that you would hear in a video collage of New York hustle and bustle from an old ass Sesame Street episode (long sentence). Even the character of Charles has a slight retro look with a slightly moppy hairdo, a yellow t-shirt (‘cause yellow = 70’s to me), and swap the rollerblades for a brand new pair of roller-skates and the look is complete. It isn’t overpowering or obnoxious either and along with that, a film involving a horror fan, made for a low budget and it is not self-referential is such a nice break. Not once was there a line like “Guys! What would Bruce Campbell do in this situation?” or “This is just like a Carpenter movie!”
The supporting characters are all fine and a few of the youths are near typical of a low budget horror film, but they are all interesting enough. There are only a few supporting roles played by Tony D. Czech, Lance Hendrickson, Amy Cocchiarella, who would make up Charles’ two trouble maker friends and a love interest/crush. Charles, aka “up-Chuck” is played by Simon Wallace, who does a mostly solid job as the film’s driving character and he has a good enough look and quality to pull off the lead role. Some of the acting is pretty bad, however, to give a film that cost less than James Cameron’s cum rag would be slightly unfair. Clerks had some terrible acting too.
Summer School has very recently shown up on “the second coming of Christ,” or better also known as Netflix instant watch – so it can easily be seen that way and I think it is worth a look if you are a fan of fun independent horror films. Most of you know how I feel about the subject; support the little guys, especially when they are making some technically great films with almost no money.
Check out the Summer School website for more info and film credits for the movie and also, CNAMB club kid, Cortez the Killer did an awesome interview with the filmmakers over at Planet of Terror not too long ago. If you get a chance to check out the movie, please let me know your thoughts, just be sure to bring a hall pass with you.