Review: We Summon the Darkness

Year: 2019
Runtime:
Director: Marc Meyers
Writer: Alan Trezza
Stars: Alexandra Daddario, Keean Johnson, Maddie Hasson

By Jessica Tandi

The best kind of horror film is the one that involves all the trappings of a cliché. Though it might be tempting to posit that those that leave us the most on our toes are ones that are full of novelty and turn the genre on its head, that is surprisingly not always the case. Some of the best horror films are those that readily boast everything we might expect. There is something about being lulled into a false sense of security that is far more compelling than being presented with something so unique that strangeness ceases to be strange. Presented by Signature Entertainment and Frightfest, “We Summon the Darkness” pairs longstanding trademarks of the genre with a contemporary twist, resulting in a brilliant contrast. While it may be filled with scenes we recognize, it certainly makes for a refreshing take.

Initially, everything about the film indicates that this is just going to be another slasher movie where innocent girls get hacked to death. Our heroines seem way too confident, the guys they pick up seem way too skeevy, and sex is on everybody’s lips. There is, however, one thing that is missing from what you might expect- the cheesiness.

Everywhere you look there are all the indications that this movie is set up to be a gigantic cheese fest: ominous southern preachers, satanic panic headlines, creepy men at gas stations in the middle of nowhere… It’s like an all you can eat buffet for 80s slasher junkies. The big kicker here is, it’s immediately apparent that everybody can really act.

The expectation for a let down is there, but it never comes. The editing is well done, the score is acquainted but professional, and the production value is far higher than what one would presume from such a setup. Simply put, from the beginning of the film, everything is a pleasant surprise.

we summon
Alexandra Daddario and Maddie Hasson in We Summon the Darkness (2019)

“What makes “We Summon the Darkness” great, however, is that things aren’t what they seem to be on the surface. Underneath, there’s a lot more to the iceberg. “

If it weren’t for the evident quality, one might even get bored early on, and turn it off, assuming the ending. However, “We Summon the Darkness” takes itself seriously before we do, and so we raise our expectations as each scene unfolds. It leads us down a familiar path with unexpected turns, twisting our presuppositions into something delightfully different.

There’s a feminist undercurrent to the film as well. Though it’s not evident at the genesis, “We Summon the Darkness” plays with gender roles and stereotyping as both a novelty and a plot point. By the summation of the unfolding events, what has been displayed could fill the syllabus of a gender studies class. But beyond its more profound implications, the film is enjoyable. It could stand alone, without the need for analysis and depth.

we summon darkness
Alexandra Daddario, Maddie Hasson, and Amy Forsyth in We Summon the Darkness (2019)

The opening scene introduces us to Alexis, Val, and Beverly (Alexandra Daddario, Maddie Hasson, and Amy Forsyth), who are on their way to a heavy metal concert in the early 80s. As they travel down a long stretch of country road, taking stops along the way, we learn from newspapers, radios, and televisions that there have been a string of ritualistic murders with markedly Satanic elements present. Much to the surprise of no one who has ever seen a horror movie, our leading ladies seem none too concerned with the headlines.

“There’s a feminist undercurrent to the film as well. Though it’s not evident at the genesis, “We Summon the Darkness” plays with gender roles and stereotyping as both a novelty and a plot point.”

At one point, a milkshake is thrown out of a moving van at their Jeep. Once at the concert, the girls see the same van and take their revenge by throwing fireworks inside, smoking out three metal heads named Ivan, Mark, and Kovacs (Austin Swift, Keean Johnson, and Logan Miller). Against what appears to be their better judgment, Alexis, Val, and Beverly agree to let the guys make it up to them through the tried and tested measures of beer, weed, and conversation.

There’s something a bit off about what is being said, though. It has been clear throughout all of this that Beverly is the most level-headed girl in the group, but she’s also clearly lacking experience and so the other two have taken the reins, encouraging her in their debauchery. When it comes to actual knowledge of heavy metal, however, Beverly shines and the other two stumble. It isn’t much, but it’s enough to peak the audience’s interest in just who these ladies are.

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Alexandra Daddario, Maddie Hasson, and Amy Forsyth in We Summon the Darkness (2019)

After a head-banging concert, the two groups decide to meet up at Alexis’s giant mansion in the middle of nowhere. It is there, over a fire pit and in the cool night hours, that things take a turn for the weird. Of course, that is what we’ve been expecting to happen all along. What makes “We Summon the Darkness” great, however, is that things aren’t what they seem to be on the surface. Underneath, there’s a lot more to the iceberg.

Overall, the film is a success. It takes common clichés and turns them into something nuanced and different. Furthermore, the unexpected twists aren’t just there for show. They touch on societal paradigms and open up a whole new world of possibilities for horror entertainment.

4 stars

Signature Entertainment & FrightFest Presents presents We Summon The Darkness on Digital HD

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