Solstice (2008)

Fresh from their joint success co-directing The Blair Witch Project, Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick each chose to pursue solo directorial projects. Going some way to suggesting that he was the more talented of the pair, Sanchez gave us the hugely underrated alien abduction thriller Altered while Myrick offered up this pile of turgid rubbish. Solstice is basically a teen-oriented re-hash of a million and one supernatural thrillers with generous shades of What Lies Beneath thrown in for good measure.

Elizabeth Harnois is Megan, a girl whose twin sister committed suicide six months previously. On the eve of the summer solstice, her friends decide that the best way to get her out of her own head is to take her on a trip to her families lake house where they plan to spend the weekend drinking and reminiscing. Whilst there, she begins to suffer from nightmares and hallucinations and with the appearance of handsome local mini-mart employee Nick and redneck loner Leonard (the always amazing but vastly underused R. Lee Ermey) things start to get weirder still and she believes her deceased sister might be trying to give her a message from beyond the grave.

The cast is fleshed out by pretty young things Shawn Ashmore (Frozen, The Ruins), Amanda Seyfriend (Jennifer’s Body, Alpha Dog), Matt O’Leary (Sorority Row) and Hilary Burton, all of whom look the part but sadly fail to conjure any genuine emotion or warrant any real sympathy, with the possible exception of Seyfried. Harnois is a perfectly able actress but never seems to step outside of the safety of the doe-eyed damsel in distress stereotype here, which is a shame given that she showed so much promise in black comedy Pretty Persuasion.

Some of the storytelling devices and sub-plots in Solstice are entirely pointless and seem to serve to either offer explanation or pad out the running time. One particularly irritating inclusion involves the rather pointless and under-written character Nick whose sole purpose is to provide supposed insight into the strange events and to act as romantic interest for our main character. Both are reasons that appear to have been sloppily crow barred into the script and are riddled with cliché.

Despite one or two scenes (including one moderately nasty incident involving a fingernail), Solstice is almost entirely gore-free which isn’t surprising for this sort of supernatural horror. Unfortunately, Solstice is also resolutely scare-free and despite the fact that Myrick seems to be attempting to emulate the atmospheric tension of Asian horror cinema, he falls vastly wide of the mark. Given its 15 certificate in the UK and the inclusion of so many teen-favourites from TV and film, it’s safe to assume that Solstice is aimed squarely at the Twilight crowd who may actually find something to enjoy here. Sadly, for the rest of us self-respecting, adult-aged moviegoers, Solstice offers nothing of any interest. The plot is wafer thin and predictable, the acting merely so-so and the direction is pretty bog standard. Avoid.

Rating: ★★★½☆☆☆☆☆☆

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