Starring Onur Tukel, Anna Margaret Hollyman, Jason Selvig, Dakota Goldhor
Directed by Onur Tukel
Distributed by Monster Pictures UK
Erik Sparrow (writer/director and star Tukel) is a very tough person to be around. Stuck in his own world of perpetual denial, he’s as socially awkward as they come and often confused at the negative reactions of others to his far-out, and frequently offensive, lines of verbal reasoning.
Despite this, he has a long-term girlfriend, a place to live and a stable job – though he doesn’t put much effort into pulling his weight when it comes to any of these things. In short, he’s flying by the seat of his pants – coasting by on little more than luck… but his luck is about to change.
As Summer of Blood opens with quite possibly the most awkward restaurant proposal scene in the history of cinema, you’re quickly taken into the film’s low-key, mumblecore style. Shot with a ‘fly on the wall’ feel, Summer of Blood‘s performances feel natural, rippling with improvisation and thoroughly organic awkwardness. In holding these together, the film handles itself impeccably, feeling far from amateur in its overall presentation.
Erik, as you’ll come to expect from him, messes up his part in this critical life moment quite spectacularly and summarily finds himself roaming the streets a single man – his girlfriend, Jody (Hollyman), taking off with an old friend, Jason (Selvig).
On his travels Erik comes across a man in an alleyway who is bleeding profusely from his neck. Doing hilariously little to help, Erik finally sets off to look for assistance only to end up getting sidetracked in a conversation with two passers-by about how much he looks like Jerry Garcia. Yes, he really is that much of an ass.
Anyhoo, following a string of disastrous attempts at online dating and one-night stands, Erik soon comes face to face with the lone vampire who stalks the alley – and after a quick munch, he wakes up to find himself afflicted with the vampiric curse and sans his job.
But is this really a curse for someone like him? It would seem not, as he sets about creating his own sexually-charged harem of vampiresses, ‘glamouring’ his landlord into not having him pay rent and stalking the night with little to do but… stalk the night, really. Soon he decides to win Jody’s heart back… but can he bring himself to do it in the face of his unending thirst for blood?
Come on… of course he can!
Summer of Blood is a real cinematic agitator, taking the classic concept of ‘The Hero’s Journey’ and, for all intents and purposes, throwing it out the window. Erik Sparrow is an idiot. A dolt. A bumbling, pseudo-intellectual arse of a man who views his unkempt self as the ultimate enlightened non-conformist… and then when he’s bitten and turned… well, that outlook doesn’t change.
He does have a couple of momentary existential crises, but there’s never a sense that he’s ever fully committed to any particular perspective – he just doesn’t know how to make up his mind and pursue what he feels is right. Because he’s never that sure. It’s a constant cycle of idiocy, remorse, self-acceptance through ropey cognition, and back to idiocy.
And you know what? Summer of Blood is here to tell you that that’s perfectly fine when it comes to film, and it does so splendidly. It’s frequently hilarious and refreshingly nonchalant in its handling of vampirism; endearing to the point that the inherently unlikeable nature of its protagonist isn’t a barrier to entry – it’s actually what makes it so very funny.
Of course, no small kudos for that should go the cast, especially Tukel’s hipster-ish lead turn, which garners much of the laughs – especially in moments when he’s angry or frustrated and shouting loudly. His delivery is absolutely spot on when it comes to tickling the funny bone. Standing ably opposite is Hollyman as the long-suffering Jody – personifying the audience’s connection to Erik: aghast at his complete cynicism and apparent social ineptitude, but irresistibly drawn to him nonetheless.
Summer of Blood is a ‘marmite’ film, for sure. You’re either going to dig it highly, or you’re going to be so pissed off with Erik’s behaviour and the mumblecore leanings that you’ll be seeking an exit before the halfway mark – but for Yours Truly, it’s a blast. Like a more overtly comedic Vampire’s Kiss by way of Curb Your Enthusiasm, it tickles all the right places while it mines gems buried inside the mundane with relentless zeal.
The only thing letting it down, frankly, is an underwhelming finale that ties things up much too quickly and with a throwaway lack of thought. Yet, strangely, it doesn’t feel a particularly poor fit – just, like anything that has come before, another slap-dash decision that Erik is going to have to deal with in his own way… for better or worse.
Monster Pictures bring Summer of Blood to UK DVD with a decent set of special features, including around 25 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage (which makes it look like the film was equally as fun as it was frustrating to shoot); a quick on-camera ‘Fang Test’ with Tukel; a collection of three deleted scenes that were wisely excised (or shortened); the trailer and a full audio commentary with director Tukel that, while somewhat dry at times, still makes for a good listen.
Definitely worth a look.