It’s fun watching the progress of a young filmmaker as he continues to fine-tune his craft. After director Ryan Stacy’s Midsummer Nightmares from several years back, he returns with the sequel Midsummer Nightmares II: Summer’s End. But the concept behind the original—a Halloween party in the middle of summer—has been dropped for an exploration of how the survivors of the first film are coping three years later.
In true slasher sequel form, several of the characters from the original are back. The beefy dude who helped save the day is back, but his relationship with main girl Audrey has soured. Audrey has been replaced by lovely actress Christy Faulkner. Ryan not only did a masterful job of casting a dead ringer for the original actress (Christy also happens to give off the vibe of the Meryl Streep chick from Elm Street 2), but the sequel opens with the ending of the first film—and Ryan only uses footage in which the main actress’s face is not shown, just her flaming red hair! Pretty smart, Ryan!
Kelci C. Magel, another actress from the first movie is back—playing her original character’s twin sister because she died in the first movie! I actually like her character in the sequel better, so clearly, twins aren’t totally identical! Although, I loved Kelci’s death scene in the original. The sequel never goes to that extreme in its deaths.
And of course, the killer is on hand, with knife in hand.
The first kill provides classic elongated suspense before it finally happens. Ryan’s techniques, from camerawork to musical score, have vastly improved since the first movie. But when the killer appears brazenly without the mask and talks to the victim before offing her, you can’t help wonder why there’s even a need to wear the mask later on. After all, once one person disappears, Audrey and all her friends are pretty sure that the killer has come for them. There must be more to what’s behind the mask….
As in the first film, the meat of the movie is very dialogue and character driven. The character interactions and relationships are more straightforward and the dialogue is tighter and more natural. In fact, the development of the characters play a bigger role than the kills in this one, which are all saved for the end.
Midsummer Nightmares II: Summer’s End feels much more like a payback film than a conventional slasher. The killer is pissed that Audrey is still alive, Audrey is pissed the killer is still alive. All Audrey’s friends end up at the same house and then get killed off rapidly, one after the other with little build-up and no extended chase scenes. The driving force of the plot is to get Audrey and the killer in the same room for a second showdown.
I won’t tell you who wins, but things are definitely left open for a sequel…one that could take the series in a whole new direction.