Starring Alexandra Daddario, Amy Forsythe, Keean Johnson, Johnny Knoxville
Written by Alan Trezza
Directed by Marc Meyers
It was a hell of a time to be a metalhead in the ‘80s. The Satanic Panic-era of history remains one of the most interesting times in history for this writer and it’s always great to see films touch upon a time when you could get tried and convicted for murder based on what you wear and/or listen to; when churches would show their youth groups news pieces on Satanic rituals and read books like Joanna Michaelsen’s Like Lambs to the Slaughter (which caused parents to ban things like The Smurfs and so on). It was a wild time and Marc Meyers’ We Summon the Darkness plays into that scare, giving viewers a story following a group of metalheads having to fight off some fanatically deranged murders.
What makes We Summon the Darkness work so well, is its ability to make its viewer think they’re watching one thing, while slyly setting up twists that you don’t see coming; it has such a knack for pulling the proverbial run from under your feet. When we first meet the trio of metal heads on their way to a show, we assume we’re getting a film that will soon find our protagonist trio (played by True Detective & Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D’s Alexandra Daddario, Mr. Mercedes’s Maddie Hasson and Beautiful Boy’s Amy Forsyth) soon running from Satanic killers. And assuming we’re getting that setup, the film almost doesn’t work for a little bit. The characters come off disingenuous in ways and while that might feel like a hindrance, when the trio decides to throw a post-concert hangout with a trio of male hesher counterparts, the film does a bait and switch that is unexpected and makes the iffy first few minutes make complete sense, right when the film hits the ground running.
Alan Trezza’s script is full of left turns, which makes this cat and mouse take on Satanic metalheads, blind faith and misconceptions a lot of fun. Daddario, Hasson and Forsyth are entertaining as hell to watch, playing up their roles and shutting down the always frustrating “Well, what was YOUR first metal show” challenges thrown their way by the male trio played by Austin Swift, Logan Miller and Keean Johnson. An early game of showing who’s a true metal fan is one of the film’s highlights, because let’s face it, we’ve all had a-holes try to challenge us when it comes to horror and those people are always excruciating to deal with. That scene in particular really shines, because it allows you as a viewer to assume you’re watching a trio of metal head gatekeepers stalking our trio, but the film soon decides to say, “I bet you didn’t see THAT coming,” and heads into an unexpectedly dark area, the tone shifting into an unsettling, heavy at times approach that is not only a shock, but a welcomed one.
We Summon the Darkness is at its best, when it does head into those dark, shocking areas, but the issues with film lie in the mood shifts it has from time to time. The comedy works and the intense, cat and mouse, take on blind faith also works well. But while some films are able to shift seamlessly from one to another, this one feel s almost jaunting at times. It succeeds in its darker moments and the humor is a bit distracting, but not enough to completely pull you out of the Manson murders-like aesthetic that the film’s second half does so well. Every cast member is aces in this one and though Swift isn’t given as much to work with as the rest of the cast, the actor is one of the many highlights of the great casting of the film. It’s a wild ride, full of unexpected twists and if you say you guessed them in advance, you’re wrong. Maybe not, but like I said, there’s always one asshole trying to tell you what you will or will not know and I figured I’d be that person for one sentence of this review.
We Summon the Darkness is an entertaining, twisty horror movie that revisits the Satanic Panic era of the 1980s. The tone is inconsistent but not enough to distract from the film’s great second half.