Director L. Gustavo Cooper takes some big-time cues from Stephen King for his “coming-of-rage” story about a young girl with supernatural powers and a devilish secret. June, featuring Kennedy Brice in the title role, travels those well-worn paths of films like Carrie and Firestarter but plays out more like a cross between Rosemary’s Baby – grown to the age of 10 – and modern devil incarnate films like The Last Exorcism. Regrettably, many viewers may not appreciate June as much as they could because the box art promises something far more effects-heavy and consequential than the spectacle and tone the film delivers. June is far more intimate, following the adoptive family raising June and the secrets she holds and that of the organization that placed June under their care. June becomes a supernatural conspiracy film filled with witchcraft and spiritual end-of-the-world prophecies. The film benefits from solid direction, strong performances from Victoria Pratt and Casper Van Dien as the adoptive parents and a terrific, creepy showing from young Ms. Brice as June. The ending robs the film of its potential, ending just as the story finally finds its footing and elevates to an engaging, interesting peak.
The script from Sharon Y. Cobb and Cooper, follows young June who survives a horrific incident when she was just an infant, leaving her orphaned. Years later, as she approaches her pre-teens, June (Kennedy Brice) displays supernatural powers, nearly killing her caretakers and leading to her being taken back into custody by a mysterious firm out to protect her. Eventually, her caseworker, Victor Emmanuel (Eddie Jemison) ends up placing June in the care of Dave and Lily Anderson (Casper Van Dien and Victoria Pratt), young couple who cannot have children of their own. Before too long Lily begins to notice there may be more to the imaginary friend, Aer, than meets the eye while Dave fears for their lives when he nearly loses his hand in a garbage disposal accident. The more secrets are revealed, the more Dave uncovers threats to his life, to his marriage, to June and to his sanity. Meanwhile, June struggles to rid herself of her influential invisible companion or embrace its prophecy and powers. June’s decision may very well lead to the end of the world.
With a film like June, the key to its success rides unceremoniously on the shoulders of its young star. Kennedy Brice is more than capable of handling the demands of the role. While she does not achieve the status of a Drew Barrymore or an Isabelle Fuhrman (Orphan 2009), Brice does make June her own, giving her an air of menace and terror aided handily by CGI effects, dark eyes and vocal manipulation. She shows great promise and really kills it toward the end when it really counts.
Casper Van Dien, a long way from Johnny Rico fighting alien bugs in Starship Troopers, gives his role of Dave Anderson a sullen and slightly apathetic characteristics that make for an interesting character. The more supernatural elements and threatening forces he encounters, the more he has to grow into a heroic and caring figure. What he doesn’t realize the closer he gets, the more the outside forces are pushing him away, driving a wedge between him and his wife, Lily. Victoria Pratt is the true standout of the film in the wife role. She lights up the tension between her and the family and quietly manages to add suspicion to everything around her. She is able to draw the audience into her plight and display a side that questions her every motive in the same beats and tones. Between Pratt, Van Dien and Brice, June features a unique dysfunctional dynamic that is full of a range of emotions from hope, love, horror and deceit.
L. Gustavo Cooper manages to make the most of his presumably small budget, making use of complicated CGI and limited cast and locations. When it comes time for June to display her powers early in the film at the foster home as a reaction to an abusive environment, the director provides a taste of what June could be capable of. The early promise of these types of effects are never realized to full audience expectation until the very end however. Cooper weaves in a synth sound track and an efficacious voice-over for June to make these scenes highly effective and exciting. He also competently handles the harrowing tension needed for important scenes such as the aforementioned garbage-disposal scene and a scene where Lily is trapped in a burning garage. While the film guided by Cooper’s capable hands provides exactly what the script requests of him, the end result of his endeavors never take full advantage of the larger implied scope of her powers and potential of the themes and story. It is all more than adequate, but barely so.
June is a thrifty little thriller that will satisfy many viewers but leave a good number wanting more from the promise of its decently crafted story. The intention of the film feels much larger than what is committed to the screen, perhaps due in part to a poster that teases more that is in the film and an audience used to more bang for their buck in terms of scope and grasp. June is right at home as a Lifetime movie of the week or a SyFy feature presentation and there is very little wrong with that. The performances from Van Dien, Pratt and Brice go a long way in making the film a far better experience giving their characters both the grounded tone and emotional temperament cured by the script. All the pieces fit nicely together but the larger picture is just out of its grasp. June is a well cooked meal that needs a little more seasoning to make it special.
June (2.5 / 5)
RLJ Entertainment releases June to DVD and Digital on October 6th.