Starring Alexandra Daddario, Amy Forsythe, Keean Johnson, Johnny Knoxville
Written by Alan Trezza
Directed by Marc Meyers
If the title We Summon the Darkness reminds you of such ominous offerings as Lords of Chaos and The Devil’s Candy, you’re probably already assuming, and rightly so, that the next ninety or so minutes are likely to be filled with a healthy dose of heavy metal love and possibly even a little witchcraft. If this was an album instead of one of the latest indie horror gems, you’d light a candle and spin it backwards. Once the opening scene rolls out, what seems like a pretty straightforward hangout movie slowly starts to take a turn down a dark path where two worlds at odds since Black Sabbath’s debut record hit shelves collide once more with deadly consequences. Director Marc Meyers and writer Alen Trezza (Burying the Ex) put a great cast to good use here and make the days of Satanic Panic look almost fun, depending on what side you’re on of course.
With Saban Films releasing, the famed company behind Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, it’s no surprise that there’s a fun team-up on display early on between the three lead actresses: Alexandra Daddario (Alexis), Maddie Hasson (Val), and Amy Forsyth (Bev). Delighting in playing the part of the quintessential rock ‘n’ roll band aids, Daddario and Hasson inject Alexis and Val with a fun sense of abandon, while Forsyth channels the more introspective Bev that seems like the smartest one of the group. Once they all arrive at a heavy metal fest in Nowhere, USA, they quickly work a little magic to acquire some free beer from three seemingly boneheaded guys with a custom van. If you’ve seen the 1986 documentary Heavy Metal Parking Lot, then you have a pretty good idea what these dudes look and act like but actors Logan Miller, Austin Swift and Keean Johnson have the chemistry of lifelong friends that all have an underlying charm underneath the grime. There’s a dangerous flirtation going on that the boys don’t quite pick up on, mostly because they’re too busy being lovable jackasses.They’re a little confused by their luck but have no intention of letting go of a chance at total debauchery with ladies waaay out of their league. While these kooky kids are busy having the time of their lives, a slew of ritualistic murders have swept across the area, giving off the feeling that at some point the festivities are going to get a lot more…festive before the night is through.
Enter Johnny Knoxville as a televangelist. Only seen through snippets of news centered around the mysterious religious tinged murders, Knoxville’s Pastor John Henry Butler must be connected somehow but that’s yet to be seen. It’s good to have Knoxville back on the little screen and he manages to avoid doing any insane stunt work which may let a few viewers down, but it just wouldn’t fit the part. He plays the Pastor with a little menace hiding behind the grin and once things turn for the worse, he just might show up to be a part of a bloody finale.
Confined to relatively one expansive location, there’s some moments of inventiveness and mad glee that keep the pace from petering out, and a good amount of blood and household weaponry sprout up at opportune times to maintain some sense of momentum. You may wind up surprised with who you start to root for in We Summon the Darkness, but that doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Again, as the title may suggest, there are a lot more blades being wielded than flying bullets, and the only blaze isn’t in the campfire outside. Once the true, cruel intentions of some of the characters reveal themselves to create a genuinely unsettling moment, there is a little too much over-explaining too early on that results in a heavy helping of exposition. Moving forward, Trezza’s script does hit all the right beats and even though they can be seen as script writing cliches, the timing works once new characters stumble into frame.
Also, if you’re expecting a soundtrack blaring Blizzard of Oz and Mayhem while the bodies start to pile up, this just isn’t laced with that kind of attitude. Mostly because of a limited budget and music licensing, that’s understandable and maybe it would’ve made an over-the-top premise even more over-the-top. The score by Tim Williams whizzes and hums enough, however, but you still may have a metal itch that needs scratching when the title card comes up on the final shot. So have your playlist ready.
We Summon the Darkness is available on Digital and VOD this Friday April 10th!
Maybe these metalheads should have stayed home to watch the livestream. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.