Three young women are on their way to a concert of heavy metal music. On the way, they stop at a convenience store for some junk food and an ominous warning from the old man behind the counter. Back on the road, a mysterious van passes them on a lonely stretch of backroad and the occupants toss something out at the girls’ van and it splatters all over the windshield. (It looks like poop but turns out to be something less offensive.) Angry but unharmed, the girls make it to the show and end up parking next to the very same van.
If you’ve seen enough horror movies, you can almost guess what happens next while watching We Summon the Darkness. And that’s just what director Marc Meyers (My Friend Dahmer) and screenwriter Alan Trezza (Burying the EX) want you to do. Start guessing what comes next. Try to guess who the killer is. Look for clues in the dialogue or in the sets that will reveal why people are getting killed in the first place, Start an audience pool to see who gets killed first. Or better yet, find a way to unplug that part of your brain before it explodes. Meyers and Trezza have seen those movies, too, and they’re determined to make something different this time around.
And, for the most part, they pull it off with style.
We Summon the Darkness stars Alexandra Daddario as Alexis, the leader of the young women, and she gives a bold performance both in the various scenes leading up to the concert afterparty and in the wild events that take place once the rock show is over. Like so much of We Summon the Darkness, hers is a familiar, almost archetypal role. She’s the strong one, the one that will band the other women together when things go badly. And while Daddario is convincing in that role she also shows us little sparks of something different along the way, something that is just one spark away from exploding.
As her partner in crime, Val, Maddie Hasson doesn’t show the same kind of depth; you just know there is something slightly mad about her two seconds after she shows up on the screen. It’s up for us to decide if it’s a good kind of mad, like a funny/crazy friend mad, or something else. Something darker. Hasson walks a fine line between the two to keep us guessing until the truths of We Summon the Darkness are revealed.
The third woman of the group, Beverly is played by Amy Forsyth. Although she doesn’t get the same kind of well-developed arc that Daddario and Hasson get, her character is still a huge part of the story and Forsyth pays it well.
Unfortunately, the guys in the movie — Keean Johnson, Logan Miller, and Austin Swift — are pretty flat, serving more as props for the story to hit certain beats along the way than have any real integral part of the story. It’s a beautiful bit of role-playing, in a way, since it’s the women in horror films that usually serve the thankless purpose of plot prop.
The film also features a cameo by Johnny Knoxville as an evangelical TV preacher trying to raise funds to build homes for wayward girls, but the part is too underdeveloped and underwritten for Knoxville to do much with it.
Although We Summon the Darkness revolves around the “big plot twist,” it’s actually what happens once that is over where the movie really shines. The acting gets better, the action gets better and the film gets better. It’s as if the entire cast and crew were holding their collective breath until the surprise gets sprung. Once that happens, and it’s pretty effective when it does, everybody seems to settle in to have fun making a really enjoyable horror movie.
We Summon the Darkness invites you to their party on June 9, 2020, on Blu-Ray and DVD.
- John Black, We Summon the Darkness