Monday, March 15, 2010

Mindless Movie Monday: Solstice

From the same director/co-writer as The Blair Witch Project, Daniel Myrick's direct-to-DVD film, Solstice (2008) most certainly cannot be said to pack the same punch as that famous indie.
Said to essentially be a re-make of the Scandinavian movie Midsommer, it never quite gets off its feet enough to be truly frightening, and the characters are ripped from any random CW tv show.

Solstice tries so very hard to be an eerie, backwoods-bayou Skeleton Key-type of film, but it fails to live up quite to that standard. Granted, the small town Louisiana feel of it does invoke some chills, and they do throw in a bit of voodoo to attempt authenticity, but it still lacks in any real substance.

Our protagonist here, Megan (Elisabeth Harnois), is returning to a family owned summer house "down in the bayou" with a bunch of friends to celebrate Midsummer (summer solstice), also known to them as St. John's Day. We soon discover that Megan had a twin sister Sophie who committed suicide some months earlier. We see Sophie (also played by Harnois, though with dark hair to make the distinction) in flashbacks and realize something terrible led her to take her own life. But we're not privy to that information just yet.

Prior to their arrival at the summer house, the group of friends stop at the local grocery store to pick up supplies and they meet Nick (Tyler Hoechlin - not looking like any random boondocks bag boy to me!).

The girls swoon, the guys roll their eyes and it all seems very typical of perhaps an old episode of Dawson's Creek. Especially with Hoechlin having more than a passing resemblance to Kerr Smith.

At the house, while everyone else is settling in, Megan is feeling uneasy. She finds an old key ring of Sophie's that has a mysterious key on it and starts having flashbacks of the night she died. Somehow, she senses Sophie is there, watching her. Supposedly the dead have an easier time communicating with the living at Solstice times.

When they later go back to the store to get a few things for dinner, Megan sees Nick reading a magazine about the spirit world and after some egging on, he tells her some backcountry voodoo mumbo jumbo and they in turn invite him over for solstice dinner.

Meanwhile, Megan continues having bad dreams of being buried in mud, visions of shadowy figures, mud starts running out of all the taps, and Sophie's keyring seems to pop up unexpectedly on several ocassions, even after she buries it outside in a white cloth (Nick's voodoo advice). When she goes for a run, she falls over a large muddy sink-hole but is able to avoid being drawn in and only hurts her ankle.

A suspicious local man, Leonard (R. Lee Ermey - playing yet another eccentric codger here), warns her of the danger (bit late for that!) and when Megan finds Sophie's hat in the man's truck, she freaks out.

Soon after, she sneaks into the guy's house when she knows he's not home and finds evidence of some sort of crime - newspaper clippings telling the story of a young girl who has went missing about a year ago. When Leonard arrives home, she jumps out a bedroom window to avoid being caught.

At the solstice dinner, everyone is having a fairly good time until Megan brings up the whole Sophie's ghost idea. Everyone balks at the thought except Nick, who suggests they perform a ritual to try to communicate with Sophie and find out why she would be haunting Megan.

The ritual ends up being nothing more than a reason to see the stars of the movie in their underwear. Guess you have to be nearly naked to call on the dead. Who knew?

There is one tense moment when Megan is pulled underwater by the supposed spirit, and this causes her to have a revelation that the spirit isn't Sophie, but that it is Malin - the young girl who has been missing.

But how does Sophie fit into this mess? Did she know something that caused her to commit suicide? What's up with the enigmatic Leonard? And just what does that secret key open?
It's actually not a bad little mystery - but gore-hounds beware, you won't find much here. There is an uncomfortable scene involving a fingernail, but nothing any more extreme than that.

The cast, which also includes Shawn Ashmore (TheRuins, Frozen) and Amanda Seyfried (Jennifer's Body) do a respectable job with the material handed to them. Though a few members of the cast had nothing more to do than unpack the car and make dinner, and seemed to be nothing more than filler. And the location the film is shot in (post-poned due to Katrina) does lend an air of mystical creepiness, as New Orleans and the bayou almost always tend to do.

But there's not a lot of substance here to behold. It seems to be more of a "Lifetime Movie of the Week' than a true horror movie. There are little to no true scares, no blood to speak of, and no genuinely frightening images. So what is left?
A hum-drum mystery that falls together just a little too easily. But for some reason, you'll want to see how it ends, and that alone (well...besides Tyler Hoechlin!) will keep you watching.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

No comments: