If there’s one thing more compelling to a US small town than a high school prom queen, it’s her disappearance. This was the dark secret at the heart of surreal 90s classic Twin Peaks, and now Amazon Prime’s Cruel Summer, also set in a decade for which millennials feel increasing nostalgia, takes up the theme, adding a touch of 1999’s The Talented Mr Ripley for good measure.
Starring Chiara Aurelia and Olivia Holt, Cruel Summer offers warnings for those who might find all this disturbing. Meanwhile the soundtrack reunites Brandy, the Spin Doctors and Skunk Anansie. Kate Wallis is the prettiest and most popular schoolgirl in the fictional Skylin, Texas. Her abduction may or may not have been witnessed by traintracks-sporting outsider Jeanette Turner, who nonetheless proceeds to occupy the highly-desirable shoes of her former idol: her circle of friends, her gorgeous boyfriend, even her looks. But then Kate reappears a year later. A court case ensues, in which each episode takes on their perspectives in turn.
Adam White writing in the Independent says that Cruel Summer “unfolds like a beach read, dropping outlandish plot twists every 15 minutes or so. That it’s not all a bit much is mostly down to the show’s editing, which cross-cuts elegantly between summers and their changing emotional temperatures.” And Variety’s Daniel D’Addario reckons it “ends up a pleasant surprise: A show with a grabby premise but also a great deal on its mind.” However, in The Hollywood Reporter Inkoo Kang thinks that Cruel Summer has a “lot of great hooks” but that it “doesn’t quite deliver on the pleasures it promises.”