The latest entry in the horror-comedy genre is the slightly lightweight but still enjoyable We Summon the Darkness, from director Marc Meyers (My Friend Dahmer, Human Capital) and writer Alan Trezza (Burying the Ex). The film manages to pull off something of a surprise switcheroo early in its fairly short running time, and it does so successfully because of audiences’s expectations of male and female roles in horror stories.
Set in the late 1980s, the film begins with three young women headed to a metal concert (the band’s subtle name: Soldiers of Satan), decked out in overly-glam leather and denim. The de facto leader seems to be Alexis (Alexandra Daddario, Baywatch), who brings along her best friend Val (Maddie Hasson, Novitiate) and a new member of their “group,” Bev (Amy Forsyth, Beautiful Boy), who seems a bit hesitant about the whole outing. They encounter a group of three guys in a detailed van who are varying degrees of chuckleheads—Keean Johnson (Midway; Alita: Battle Angel) as Mark, Logan Miller (Escape Room) as Kovacs, and Austin Swift (Live by Night) as Ivan—but seem harmless enough. They agree to meet up after the show at Alexis’ father’s nearby vacation house to party afterwards, and that’s where things get weird.
There are background hints (on televisions and newspapers) that there have been a series of 18 ritualistic murders in recent months in this area of the country, and Satanists are the primary suspects. As a result, we begin to wonder which of two things will happen: either the three dudes will turn out to be killers, or the real Satanists will show up to this fairly isolated house and start knocking people off. I don’t want to ruin any fairly obvious surprises, but I will say that the blood starts to flow rather freely from this point on, even as the reasons for these killings gets more and more ridiculous.
The filmmakers manage to keep a certain amount of humor going throughout the proceedings, but when it comes time to stab or shoot or use what appears to be an industrial-size rotary brush cutter to slice someone up, things take a more serious turn. A couple of unexpected visitors show up at the house during the course of the night, including Alexis’ stepmother (Allison McAtee) and a local sheriff, but they are dispatched with quickly, because as we’ve learned over the years, young bodies are what sell tickets (or rentals, as the case may be). The film is not only set in 1988, but it manages to have a genuine ’80s vibe about its energy and Satanic Panic themes, and the groovy, underlying synth score by Timothy Mark Williams brings pulls it all together quite nicely.
Once the big reveal is made, the rest of the film may seem somewhat anticlimactic, but it still has enough propulsive force to keep things moving and enough spurting blood to make things really messy. There’s a somewhat amusing extended cameo by Johnny Knoxville as the on-screen preacher making the connection between the murders and heavy metal music, and while it borders on pulling us out of the film completely, he’s still an apt, against-type choice for the role, which he at least doesn’t overplay. We Summon the Darkness (the name of the supposed Satanic murder cult, and a way better title than this film deserves) is a mostly entertaining work that I wish had really pushed its clever premise even further to make it an almost groundbreaking take on familiar material. Still, Daddario’s manic performance kept me intrigued enough to wonder where this movie was going, and I had some fun getting there.
The film is now available on VOD and most streaming platforms.
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