Eye For Film >> Movies >> Phantom Summer (2022) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
“I had this dream...it seemed like I was watching a movie but also participating in that same movie.” Right from the start, Matheus Marchetti’s Phantom Summer is explicit about the direction it intends to take. Scenes are bathed in red or green light. The camera moves in a languid, dreamy way, lingering on specific objects such as a curious fan-shaped mirror. Two young men, each sporting a mop of curly hair and a low quality moustache, meet in a large, abandoned house. One of them is crashing there; the other wants to use it as a place to meet up with friends. He is quickly made welcome. In due course these two will fall in love, but the circumstances will be far from straightforward.
In a scene which might be real of might be a dream, children conduct a strange ritual. Are they making a horror film, or is this something more sinister? They wear masks and elaborate clothes. Similar garments can be found in the house, whose teenage invaders enjoy dressing up as they do what teenagers do during the summer holidays, drinking and flirting and fooling around with the occult. They gather on the shore, sharing a local legend about an obsessive musician who wrote his masterpiece in human blood and was never seen again. Something sinister seems to be lurking in the water. When they splash around in the pool, an unseen presence tries to drown Martin (Bruno Germano). Later, we will see it take the shape of a shark (Sue Ellen Tubaroa), but there is nothing natural about it.
Martin is on a quest. Long ago, before he understood his sexuality or what it could mean for him socially, he fell for one of his friends, a skinny blond boy called Daniel (Daniel Paulin). Not so long afterwards, Daniel disappeared, and nobody knows what became of him. Sometimes he thinks he catches sight of him. This seems to be tangled up with his growing feelings for Lucas (João Felipe Saldanha). There’s a suggestion of the complicated feelings of guilt and betrayal which can follow the loss of such a loved one, but despite the subject matter, this film is rarely downbeat. Rather, as he follows clues in real life and in dreams which might resolve the mystery of Daniel’s disappearance, Martin seems to develop a growing sense of wonder at the world and all it has to offer, a beautiful evocation of the excitement of growing up and expanding one’s horizons.
Those horizons are expanded rather more than usual in a film which keeps upping the ante as the story progresses, never letting its obvious budgetary limitations get in the way. Its ambitions grow not only narratively but stylistically, as it transforms into a musical and the special effects become increasingly elaborate. Although the quality of the acting is variable, with many of the cast first timers, the characters hold it together. There’s a joyous exuberance about the sex scenes and it’s refreshing to see a fat young man presented as an object of desire, whilst the other young people get their own dramatic storylines. In accordance with teen horror film tradition, there will be moments when you will want to scream at them not to be so stupid, but nothing here is quite what it seems.
One of the most entertaining offerings at 2022’s Fantaspoa, Phantom Summer is unashamedly camp and highly unlikely to scare anyone, but knows its horror tropes well and has a lot of fun with them, delivering an almost operatic experience. Fans of queer cinema will find it a treat.Reviewed on: 02 May 2022