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SUMMIT (review)

Review by Dean Galanis
Produced, Written and Directed by Christina Raia
Starring Lauren A Kennedy, Rob Ceriello, 
Emma Barret, Ricardo Manigat, Ryan Kramer

Five college friends embark on a ski trip but soon become very, very lost.

They take refuge from the extreme cold (to some extent) in an abandoned house.

Lack of facilities, heat and food soon take their toll, and….are they being watched…?

Summit boasts the kind of premise that can lead to a classic chiller or a forgettable hunk of crap, or a million things in between. The film begins with a shot of a woman’s dead, bloody body, and basically avoids any kind of violence or thrills until the last few minutes.

The result is far from disastrous; the actors, while certainly uneven, have a decent rapport and the slow-burn pacing has few dull moments (until, weirdly, the climax – but more on that later. No spoilers, promise).

The film was shot for $20,000 and mostly looks it, with camcorder-level cinematography, some lousy sound mixing and several amateurish moments (there are times when it looks like the car the kids are driving is going about 10 MPH). Director/writer Christina Raia does manage some stylish shots here and there, and creates a nice atmosphere in the rotting home (the snowy location helps quite a bit), though much of her staging has the look and feel of very early Kevin Smith: nail down the camera for a long while as characters yak in two- and three-shots. These actually work as often as not, thanks to the aforementioned rapport, some uneven but mostly natural dialogue and motivations (though there are a few eye-rollers), and the expectation of violence and reveals.

Raia also wisely eschews a wall-to-wall musical score during the long conversations, unlike many more weak-kneed directors have done in the past. And the sparingly-used score by Colin Harrington is fairly effective.

But let’s get back to the expectations, and consequently, the climax. Upon checking my notes while writing this, I correctly guessed the outcome (more or less) about halfway through the movie. The movie still had me, as I was curious if a) I was wrong and the ending was a shocker, which would be cool or b) I was right, and there was a kick-ass explanation, which would also be cool.

The ending was not cool.

Sadly, after an uneven but commendable hour, Raia drops the ball with a cliched, uninteresting and passionless climax (and denouement, it should be noted) that is a buncha sound and whining signifying boredom. Truly, I was looking at my watch during the climax!

I’d be interested to hear what Raia was hoping to accomplish with this film.

If it’s just a straightforward campfire tale, she succeeded in the build-up but failed with the revelation. If it’s supposed to something more….well, there are hints in the dialogue early on, but they don’t pay off, either. Ultimately, the failure here lies in a lack of nerve or imagination when it comes to what this movie is supposed to be.

Still, for a first feature made for $20K, Summit ain’t bad.

Horror fans always on the lookout for up-and-comers in the genre should definitely check it out, as I think Raia has shown with the positive elements on display here that she will improve and do herself and horror fans proud with future films.

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