We Summon the Darkness

Review by Rich Cline | 2.5/5

We Summon the Darkness
dir Marc Meyers
scr Alan Trezza
prd Kyle Tekiela, Jarod Einsohn, Christian Armogida, Alexandra Daddario, Thomas E van Dell
with Alexandra Daddario, Keean Johnson, Maddie Hasson, Amy Forsyth, Logan Miller, Austin Swift, Johnny Knoxville, Allison McAtee, Tanner Beard, Harry Nelkin, Stephanie Moroz, Erik Athavale
release US/UK 20.Apr.20
19/US 1h31

johnson swift knoxville

miller, daddario, forsyth and hasson
Starting as a pastiche of 1980s youth comedies, this movie plays on the fears of the period to build both humour and horror. Alan Trezza's script indulges in trashy movie cliches while upending them, as dialog spins the story around. But a cheesy attempt to add a thematic slant never takes hold. So there's a creeping sense that there's actually very little to this film beyond the escalation of grisliness.
In 1988 Indiana, Alexis (Daddario) and her pals Val and Bev (Hasson and Forsyth) take a road trip to a heavy metal concert, while a TV preacher (Knoxville) warns about the music's satanic influence. There are also reports of a grisly occultic murder spree in the region. At the concert, the girls meet chucklehead buddies Mark, Kovacs and Ivan (Johnson, Miller and Swift), and afterwards invite them back to a huge holiday house owned by Alexis' parents. But drinking games lead to unexpected revelations of murderous intentions.
Performances are offhanded, building a sense of personality that helps pull the audience into the mayhem. The characters feel complex for this genre, avoiding the standard one-trait-per-person pitfall to instead let details emerge along the way, such as how Bev has never had a wild night like this and Ivan is the butt of the boys' jokes. So is the discovery of a switchblade in Mark's pocket a little obvious? Or is something else going on here? The script gleefully plays with the audience, dropping bombshells into each scene.

The six leads dive headlong into their roles, building intriguing tensions into their inter-relationships. The stage-setting never feels rushed, even if the carnage seems to erupt before they get a chance to develop things very far. But the spinning narrative gives them plenty to react to. Aside from the fact that there's no question about who's good and evil, the characters remain relatively grounded. Although Daddario's Alexis gets increasingly frantic with each unexpected turn of events.

Where the plot goes feels somewhat freeform and out of control, abandoning more intriguing ideas for simple thrills and extreme gore as a couple of surprise visitors add to the body count. In the final act, there's some genuine suspense in how the characters turn on each other in increasing desperation, as well as some witty touches in their sharp attitudes, inventive weaponry and excessive nastiness. Still, the final onslaught is so sloppy that it becomes increasingly difficult to care what happens.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 21.Apr.20

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