Directors: Phillip Escott, Craig Newman
Cast: Danny Miller, Reece Douglas, Natalie Martins
Production Company: 441 Films
Runtime: 80 minutes

Some film are hard to watch. We don’t necessarily watch them to be entertained. We watch because an important issue is at hand. We hope to gain enlightenment by embracing the darkness. Cruel Summer (2016) is that kind of movie…

In the movie, Danny (Richard Pawulski) is an autistic young man who goes on a camping trip in order to receive his Duke of Edinburgh Award. Nicholas (Danny Miller) is hunting Danny for his own bitter reasons. Will Nicholas’ friends go along with his horrifying plan?


Richard Pawulski is simply outstanding in the role of Danny. His performance is genuine and captures the nuances required to authentically play a man with autism. He never goes too far in his portrayal. It really is a brilliant piece of acting.

The relentless tension I felt while watching the film came from knowing that something bad was about to happen to a completely innocent person. I watched as the inevitable occurred, in the same way I do while watching a horrible news story.

The movie is loosely based on the murder of Terry Hurst in 2004. Other events of a similar nature were also referenced in creating the film’s plot. The movie is a composite of a few different stories, but the Hurst case seems to be at its centre.


This film reminds me of Playground (2016), which dealt with the abduction and senseless murder of James Bulger. That one is a tough watch too. In both cases, the horror is the type we sadly find in the real world, which is difficult to face.

The movie delivers a powerful message about toxic peer pressure and extreme bullying. The lack of empathy portrayed by Danny Miller in the role of Nicholas is chilling. Hopefully, seeing this kind of extreme behaviour will make you want to help change the world.

It should go without saying that this film isn’t for everyone. It’s disturbing on many levels and will stay with you long after you’ve turned off the lights. Cruel Summer will get into your psyche and break your heart. Maybe that’s what we need to change…

– John Migliore

For more information on the film, check out the links below…

Official Trailer

IMDb Page

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