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WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS (2019)

Directed by Marc Meyers
Written by Alan Trezza
Starring Alexandra Daddario, Johnny Knoxville, Keean Johnson, Logan Miller, Maddie Hasson, Allison McAtee, Amy Forsyth, Stephanie Moroz, Austin Swift, Tanner Beard
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Wonky and weird, WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS runs rampant with some crazy concepts, some projected twists, and some fantastically over the top performances. At times, it feels like the script was a first draft or that this one was limited by budgetary constraints. Still, even though the main twist is pretty obvious from the get-go, the film was able to pack in a few surprises by the end.

It’s the late 80’s and hair metal is in season. Three gals, Alexis (TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D and TRUE DETECTIVE’s Alexandra Daddario), Val (IMPULSE and MR. MERCEDES’ Maddie Hasson), and Bev (HELL FEST and CHANNEL ZERO’s Amy Forsyth), head out to see a metal concert and happen upon a trio of dudes, Mark (the very Colin Ferrel-esque Keean Johnson from ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL), Kovacs (PREY and ESCAPE ROOM’s Logan Miller) and Ivan (Austin Swift). After a bitchin’ concert, the two groups decide to party together at Alexis’ house despite the fact that there seems to be a Satanic cult loose ritually murdering folks. The media is all over this story and everyone from the police to the local Pastor John Henry Butler (Johnny Knoxville) are warning the public about these notorious killers. But that’s not going to get in the middle of these six kids’ dedication to party!

I want to avoid revealing the twist here, but I did see it coming from a mile away. Still, the film tries to keep their cards close to their chest as long as they can in order to prolong the anticipation. By the 30-minute mark and after the twist is revealed, the film became much more fun and unpredictable. The group finds themselves in an unconventionally dangerous situation and given the kooky personalities of the group of talented younger actors, it makes for some extremely fun moments. I found myself enjoying the last hour of WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS more than I expected as once the secret was out. The rules are kind of tossed out the window and I craned my neck and paid more attention to this one as if it was a highway car wreck.

I won’t be vague in saying that this is an absolutely watchable cast full of likable actors. Daddario has already proven to be a star, yet she blends in well with the other two lesser known, but equally talented gals, Hasson and Forsyth. The three of them together just ripping on each other and blabbing about nothing in particular is some of the most charming moments of WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS. These gals rock together and it is obvious that these genuinely funny interactions are the moments this film wanted to sell most. Out of the three, Maddie Hasson is the true standout as the slightly bent and boisterous Val who has a no fucks given attitude and a penchant to party more than the rest of the girls. Hasson seems to have had a ball playing this character and she really does shine every moment she’s on screen. She made me a fan for life with this performance. While Daddario has the star power, Hasson was the one that stole the show for me. Forsyth is given more meatier part to play and does so well. She stretched her dramatic muscles in CHANNEL ZERO’s NO END HOUSE season and plays an equally strong character here. The only problem I had with the actors was that they were obviously not teenagers, but that’s been a trope in horror movies since the 80’s so I can’t hold it against this one.

With the unpredictability of the last hour or WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS, I was surprised at the rather storybook ending they went with to wrap things up. As twisted as things got, I was hoping for some real, shock-me risks by the end, but instead, things are tidied up a little too easily for my tastes. An ironic tone is sought after, but I don’t think it achieved the depth it shot for. The film also tries a bit too hard to sell it that it is set in the late eighties with some throwaway lines that go nowhere like “Do you know who’s hot? Judd Nelson.” I don’t think the film needed to remind us so often of the era it was in, though I did love the Metallica Cliff Burton conversation. Growing up in that hair metal era, I had a blast with the bulk of WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS. The cast, especially Maddie Hasson, deliver lively and engaging performances. I just wish the rough and tumble story would have stuck to its guns all the way through to the end. Still, there are few films that harness the level of reckless abandon that this one does.