BY: DAKOTA DAHL
Starring Rachelle Henry, Mike Vaughn and Sophie Giberson
Written by Tara Johnson-Medinger and Brandt Dureau
Directed by Tara Johnson-Medinger
123 Go Films
Since you are reading Rue Morgue, it’s a pretty safe bet that at some point, you had a Goth phase. In fact, many of you are still deep in your Goth phase, and may never grow out of it (elderly Goths are rare, but awesome.) So while Tara Johnson-Medinger’s MY SUMMER AS A GOTH may not be our usual fare of bodies-stacked-high horror, it’s still a poignant coming of age story that is sure to resonate with the creepy crowd.
We join Joey (Natalie Shershow, Leverage, American Vandal) as she spends the summer with her oddball grandparents. Her mom is dumping her off to go on a book tour, a possibly unwise decision considering Joey’s father has recently passed away. Joey feels a grief that others at school can’t relate to, and are often dismissive of. She doesn’t fit in, with good reason, and is trying to find her footing.
Enter the Goth boy next door, Victor (Jack Levis, Purple Eyes, Friends Don’t Die) who is as dreamy as he is pale. While Joey is quickly swept up in Victor’s overbearing personality, those familiar with the scene will recognize Victor as a pretentious, gatekeeping fuckhead. He quickly makes it his personal project to completely remake Joey’s look, which she half does out of curiosity, half to impress Victor. Along the way, she also befriends Victor’s other Goth friends, who are infinitely cooler since they are way more inviting and way less preachy.
Somewhere along the way, she also runs afoul of a hot-headed Punk Rocker who, despite making a horrible first impression, might be the actual friend she needs. After all, the grieving process is equal parts sadness and anger, so jumping back and forth from Goth to Punk makes a kind of sense (something I personally did in high school).
Watching Joey’s broken heart navigate the minefields of both adolescence and Goth culture is oddly compelling, so even if teen angst stories aren’t your thing, MY SUMMER AS A GOTH may sneak up on you with its charm. Every now and then there’s a film that makes you say “There’s no reason for me to love this film, yet here we are.” It just has a mystery appeal, especially for audiences who know Goth stuff.
You really have to wonder if writers Tara Johnson-Medinger and Brandt Dureau had their own Goth summer since their angsty depiction of the subculture is more subtle and realistic than the usual out-of-touch bullshit unfunny non-Goths shit out. The good Goths are funny, charming and friendly. They just happen to wear a fuckload of black while listening to Siouxsie and the Banshees. They’re kids in a clique, no different from the wrestling team, stoners, or drama kids. Natalie Shershow’s depiction of Joey, a fragile and confused teen, is incredibly realistic. She lashes out randomly, has trouble expressing just how hurt she is, and becomes bizarrely timid around attractive people. It’s such an incredible rendition of both mourning and mood swings that she almost steals the show. The only reason she doesn’t is because Jack Levis’ depiction of the manipulative Victor is so perfectly smarmy and vapid that you can’t wait for him to get punched in his presumably pale dick. MY SUMMER AS A GOTH captures the oft-overlooked character of the counter-culture bully, and Jack Levis delivers that villain amazingly: serving as a warning to burgeoning Goths that people like victor don’t represent the culture as a whole.
There’s also something to be said about the soundtrack, which is a tremendous mix of brand new tracks along with some established Goth bands like Golden Gardens, Mercury’s Antennae, Man Repellant, Tea for Julie, The Dancing Plague, The Spider Ferns, The Secret Light, We Are Parasols and Anders Manga (you may better recognize Anders by the name Terrortron, from our compilation They Came From Rue Morgue.) If you’re basic (like me) you’ll feel personally validated by the cover of The Cure’s Just Like Heaven.
MY SUMMER AS A GOTH is a genuinely touching and realistic depiction of Goth-y teenage melodrama that’s now available on VOD.