Running Time: 70 mins
Director: Ryan Stacy
Starring: Christy Faulkner, Kelci. C Magel, Stacy Freeders
As sure as Ernie loved the bulls every slasher movie sires a sequel and Ryan Stacy’s 2011 independent slasher Midsummer Nightmares is no exception. Released this month Midsummer Nightmares II: Summer’s End picks up some three years later as Audrey (Faulkner) is recovering from the many, many loses incurred that summer night when suddenly Dani’s back!
The problem with the 2011 film was very much down to identity. As an independent film its construction and pacing was largely strong but thematically, narratively and aesthetically it bowed down too greatly to its origins and (in some set-pieces) Scream. MNII starts off promisingly with a quick blast of a recap to bring the audience back up to speed on what went down and ultimately what will be the driving force for the sequel. Unfortunately, the lessons of old have not been learned from and the problems are repeated. Where MN  felt derivative of its genre and lacked identity MNII replicates this theme making itself a derivative of its genre sequels, and one in particular…yup, Scream 2. As a side note consider this: with so many horror sequels barely scraping a three star review why to produce something so derivative that can only really achieve this at most?
It’s a shame, as there are some nice elements on offer that could have been explored to showcase not just the best of the script but also an identity of the writer/director, Stacy. I’ve watched two of his movies now and I can’t tell you anything about the personality of the “author” except for the fact that he might like the Scream franchise a bit. This is a criminally wasted opportunity. Take a look at
Belfast’s own George Clarke. From a quick look at his oeuvre
you can tell his cinematic influences, his passions and interests, his fears,
his heroes –everything. Just because
you’re telling a fictional story doesn’t mean it can’t be biographical. In fact, one would argue that it’s essential that it is biographical
otherwise how do you bring any of the characters, plot points, or arcs to life?
Kelci C. Magel (Cadence) is brilliant. It’s easy to see why Stacy cast her (again) only this time as the twin sister of her deceased character from the original. Magel has a presence on screen that’s inviting, enticing, she draws the eye in –having the audience seek her out whenever she is on screen. Her scenes with Faulkner bring the best out of our lead and her relationship with stepbrother Vincent is one of those aforementioned missed opportunities especially since Jesse Kennedy (Vincent) has an equally relaxed and easy style of acting. Scene stealer extraordinaire has to be Abby Seagraves (as Grear). Her chilled delivery style screams early John Waters and would fit easily alongside Lady Divine, Queen Carlotta, Mr. David, or any of the other colourful, goofy, off-kilter characters from the Cavalcade. More Abby, please. More. Sadly there’s too much armchair-acting (in which performers sit around talking). It sucks the momentum out of the scenes and pulls the audience out of the narrative as the overwhelming stillness of the shot becomes apparent.
There’s also a few narrative problems, most of which can be overlooked but one threatens to derail the audience concentration each time it comes up. At the end of the first movie…spoiler alert…
…when Dani is presumed dead having been beaten unconscious by Audrey the police don’t find a body. Yet she is presumed dead. Why? The climatic fight sequence did not take place on a boat, or near La Brea tar pits, or an incredibly hungry bear; it took place in the basement of a house. So how did the body disappear? Why was she presumed dead? Surely “at large” is a better description. It’s a nit of a point to pick but it’s this attention to detail that all too often has audiences yelling this doesn’t make sense and is only proof that, at screenplay level, the narrative deserved a second pass and a read-through by an outsider. Add to that the fact that the twist is 1. unnecessary and 2. called in the first act and you have some major issues to address.
Like its predecessor Midsummer Nightmares II: Summer’s End has some interesting aspects that really deserved to be expanded upon. They could have not just added something to a well-worn sub-genre of horror but really opened up narrative avenues that would have been interesting and unique. However, like its predecessor the film is bogged down in repetition and devoid of identity that only has you questioning what the driving force was to begin production.