DVD REVIEW: SUMMER OF BLOOD / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: ONUR TUKEL / SCREENPLAY: ONUR TUKEL / STARRING: ONUR TUKEL, ANNA MARGARET HOLLYMAN, DAKOTA GOLDHUR, DUSTIN GUY DEFA / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 23RD
Erik Sparrow is a 40-year-old adolescent who has everything and appreciates nothing. A man whose commitment issues are his defining characteristic, we are introduced to him at the point at which his comfortable but loyalty-free life begins to unravel, and Summer of Blood essentially maps a genre analogy onto his midlife crisis.
Written, starring and directed by Turkish New York-based artist Onur Tukel, the film (whose name is deliberately suggestive of the morals and mores of the cultural revolution of 1967) holds a mirror up to a certain kind of post-slacker middle age and is perhaps almost predictably odd in mood and tone; Nick Hornby meets Richard Linklater via Woody Allen – with vampires.
Sparrow’s three-year relationship with girlfriend Jody (Hollyman) ends after an evening during which he first refuses her marriage proposal before the pair run into an old friend of hers, whose life has taken the opposite trajectory to Sparrow’s. Soon Sparrow finds himself flirting with an initially disinterested co-worker (Goldhur) and frequenting a dating website, with a certain superficial success. But Sparrow’s lack of substance means he is unable to maintain any kind of faith (in every sense), until one late night wandering the city streets he encounters and is bitten by a vampire.
The Allen-ish quality, which works fantastically well during the dialogue sequences (there’s a naturalness about the entire cast that makes the whole thing eminently watchable), makes for a gently amusing and good-natured experience – in spite of the ever-present sardonicism – but is less a good fit with the genre elements that become increasingly prevalent throughout the second and third acts. Tukel nevertheless creates some beautifully realised characters and there isn’t a single wrong note among the performances.
If there is one criticism that can be levelled, it is that – similarly to Hornby’s High Fidelity – there’s never a sense that the lead character deserves any of the rewards that come to him. So although the film ends on a positive beat, it is one that it hasn’t earned. That the vampire aspect of the story is never really examined is fairly moot; the consequences are more important than the causes and this is much more a movie about people than it is conceits.
Tukel, who manages to avoid most of the traps that Allen himself latterly fell into, is likeable enough and a very watchable screen presence, although remains perhaps rather too genial during the film’s more perilous moments. His Erik Sparrow is the perfect evocation of a man who manages to remain appealing entirely because of his humour and amiability, despite having an actually rather unpleasant worldview. Regardless, Summer of Blood is tremendously enjoyable and probably much more observant than many ostensibly more weighty productions.