Summer of Blood

Summer of Blood,  Onur TukelWritten and Directed by ….. Onur Tukel
Cinematography by ….. Jason Banker

Runtime 86 min. Color
Aspect Ratio 16:9 HD
Camera: Canon 5D

Onur Tukel… Erik Sparrow
Jonathan Caouette…Pedestrian 1
Zach Clare … Victim 3
Dustin Guy Defa … Gavin
Juliette Fairley… Denise
Dakota Goldhor … Penelope
Vakhtang Gomelauri… Middle Eastern Man
Julian Grady … Older Son
Rhys Grady … Younger Son
Max Heller … Carl
Anna Margaret Hollyman … Jody
Alexander Johnson …Man on Subway
Clifford McCurdy … Co-worker
Raquel Pelzel … Mother
Vanna Pilgrim …Samatha
Keith Poulson … College Dropout
Jerry Raik … Leiberman
Angel Ralph Rosario … Man on Subway
Jessie Ruuttila … Victim 1
Jason Selvig … Jason
Melodie Sisk … Blake
Drew Tobia … Pedestrian 2

Each year I patiently wait or TCFF to send me the publication listing the films to be exhibited for the coming festival. Some are films I have heard of, others are by directors, actors and or writers who’s body of work with which I’m familiar, but periodically a title, name or image captures my attention; such was the case with “Summer of Blood.” A film with a quirky collection of Vampires and a 30 something guy just trying to skate through life.

As the film opens, Erik Sparrow (Onur Tukel) lives in a decent apartment in New York, has a solid job, and his long-time girlfriend, Jody, who by all measures is out of his league proposes to him. Rather than jump at the best offer he is likely to get, he instead, in a comically awkward scene, voices one lame excuse after the next, complaining and rambling in the process. Erik is not a “great catch,” he’s a bit over weight, complains constantly, lacks any work ethic, in fact we don’t really understand how he got the life he has,  or his ability to keep it afloat. It is clear that Jody is done asking him, and so on the way home, when  she bumps into an old boy friend from college, she gives up on Erik and rekindles her old romance.

What is obvious to us viewers escapes Erik, who actually thought he could just hold on to his life with out putting in the needed effort or commitment. He tries to win Jody back, but his feeble efforts fail to convince her that he has changed. So Erik hits the dating world, we watch as he bringing one date after another to the same restaurant, and manages to insult, or at least piss-off each date. There is a part of me that was rooting for him; so I couldn’t help but cringe as I watched him screw-up  each attempt to connect with these woman.  We see him at work, where despite being on probation, the only interest he shows is in flirting with an attractive female co-worker who clearly has better offers. When she turns him down he steals her picture and uses that to, well, I’l let you fill in that image.

But as I began, this is a vampire movie, and so Erik happens upon a guy under a bridge with a gash in his neck, near death. Erik offers his help, but only with the same inept, half-assed effort that he brings to each situation. As his life slides to the point that even he recognizes his his desperate state,  he meets a mysterious  stranger, named Gavin, near the location of the prior night’s victim. Gavin starts up a conversation and then asks Erik, “Do you want to die?”  Picking the easiest path, Erik responds, “I do.” fade to black. One of the interesting things about Summer of Blood is that, by his own admission in the Q&A after the showing; director Onur Tukel is not really much of a follower of the whole “Vampire lore.”  He seemed to be intentionally detached from the rules surrounding the making of, and killing of, vampires. Despite my own love of Stoker’s classic Dracula and near obsession with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” I had no problem with Tukel’s  ignoring the conventions, and just using the the general concept as a vehicle to reinvent his character.

 Erik awakes to find an inner power, strength, confidence like he has never known. We watch as Erik returns to the dating world, only now success replaces his past failures.  Woman love him- He is a guy who can do nothing wrong in bed. No surprise to us, he finds out there is a price for his new vitality, blood. He must feed on others, and along the way makes some interesting choices of victims. But for all of the ways Erik is changed, he still plagued by the same fear of commitment, which can be a real problem when your immortal.

It was a beautiful summer night in Traverse City, and after the showing I had the opportunity to spend about an hour hanging out in the park and talking to Onur about making the Summer of Blood. He was extremely warm, and happy to share tips and advice to me, an 18 year-old aspiring film maker. He was also as funny off camera as he was on screen. If you get the opportunity to watch this film, don’t miss the chance. I’m still hoping he continues his plans to turn out a sequel.

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