Summer School (DVD)
Reviewed by Melissa Bostaph
Starring Simon Wallace, Amy Cocchiarella, Tony Czech, Lance Hendrickson, Jennifer Prettyman, Ty Richardson
Directed by Ben Trandem, Lance Hendrickson, Steven Rhoden, Troy McCall, Mike Nelson
With better than 90% of the films I watch being bad film festival submissions and Foywonder cast-offs, I don’t often get the treat of actually enjoying movies anymore. I already had the tendency to get burnt out on cinema easily, so being regularly barraged with more shit than a keeper at a monkey house has damn near pushed me to the edge of madness. My never-ending task is the equivalent of following the family pooch around the backyard waiting for that one tiny sparkle. I know that little son of a bitch swallowed the diamond ring. Now it’s my job to sort through the droppings to find it.
My saving grace, my salvation, the only thing that keeps me from becoming a national news headliner for mass murder and mutilation is the all too rare jewel in the shit pile! And, my friends, I must say that I found my gem. It may not be the perfect cut and clarity, but it certainly has better luster than most of what one would find in the steaming mound surrounding it.
My gem is Summer School, and the guys over at Random Creatureface Films have polished it nicely into a fantastic DVD release that is worthy of any collector’s “display case”. These boys really know how to get the most out of a limited budget. I saw that when I first watched their film, and it is shown further with the quality of their DVD. The film far exceeds what you might expect from an indie film made by a bunch of “twenty-somethings” and $8,000.00, and the Summer School DVD is no exception.
I won’t get into a lengthy review of the film itself because I don’t know if I could do it as much justice as my husband did with his review when he covered it at the time he and I first saw it at the Eerie Horror Fest. Suffice it to say that I never have grown tired of following Charles through his nightmarish day of summer school. I’ll always be able to brush aside the spider webs (no matter how silly they look) to enjoy this movie again and again. And that’s really saying somethin because I’m not one to re-watch ANY films repeatedly unless I am forced to by my eager children ... or my equally as enthusiastic husband.
The DVD on the other hand deserves a bit of discussion.
Not only do you get a gorgeous widescreen presentation of the movie, but you also get three, count them THREE, commentary tracks, each as entertaining as the rest. There are also the obligatory scene selections, deleted scenes, behind the scenes montage, and gag reel and a few other hidden goodies which add a tad of merit overall. I have to admit to being a bit biased because I know these guys, and they crack me up anyways, but I’m confident that even without knowing them, people will be pleasantly amused and informed by the commentaries on the disc. The real surprise for me though was the way the DVD is crafted. The menus are brilliantly created to meld perfectly with the feature. I greatly enjoyed exploring each “page”.
With the main jewel already in the perfect setting, Random Creatureface Films didn’t stop there. Instead of the typically “sufficient” gleam most indie filmmakers would be happy to propose with, these guys went for the dazzle by adding five additional gems in the form of short films. Each is under six minutes in length and well worth the time it takes to admire them.
First we have "The Statement of Randolph Carter", Lance Hendrickson’s love song to Lovecraft, which is sung beautifully with notes of atmosphere and eerily spoken words. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from living with a Lovecraftian militant, it is the fact that when it comes to films based on Lovecraft’s writings, you either get it right or you fail epically. In my opinion, Lance got it right.
Next there’s "The G.I." by Mike Nelson. Starkly shot against a snowy backdrop, it seems to be a typical war film but turns into something right out of a cryptozoologist’s greatest wet dream gone bad. Skillfulness abounds in every aspect of the film from direction to editing and acting. Even early on you can tell these guys know their shit!
"Kill Your Killer" is a throwback to the old grindhouse film previews all the way down to the grainy film look and the warning from the film’s producer. It’s a simple and fun addition to the rest of the DVD, and it even cleverly includes a few snippets from Summer School.
Ben Trandem’s contribution to the short films is "Necrotize", a gritty looking zombie flick that would be best described as a what would have happened if zombies would have shown up to join Leatherface and kin for supper. It’s my least favorite of the shorts on the disc, but I think that may be more due to the recent zombie infestation in my cinematic viewings than to any actual lack of cinematic integrity. It’s well done ... I’m just sick to un-death of the indie undead.
Last but certainly not least is "Finger Food", a hidden goodie from the multi-talented Mike Nelson. He works both in front of and behind the camera in this four-minute film about a writer struggling to meet a deadline and the strangest case of the nervous munchies ever! It’s a true testament to the stress and personal sacrifices that we force ourselves to endure as writers.
It seriously doesn’t get much better when it comes to privately released indie horror DVDs. So, if you’re looking to get a whole lot delivered for your DVD dollar and you’d like to support a worthy indie flick, I’d like to recommend the Summer School DVD. You may not be able to “pop the question” with it, but it should fit on just about any hand out there without the stinky green ring of poor quality.
You can get your fingers on the DVD (provided you still have them all that is) on the Random Creaturface Films website. If you’ll be in the Denver, Colorado, area April 18th through the 20th and prefer the more personal or see it before you buy it approach, you can meet the guys and see their film during the Horrorfest events at the Starfest Convention.
4 1/2 out of 5
4 out of 5