We Summon the Darkness (Movie Review)

Everyone’s favorite mischievous jackass, Johnny Knoxville, preaches the gospel of our lord in We Summon the Darkness, a new Horror-Thriller. Saban Films delivers the satanic chaos to Digital and VOD on Friday, April 10th, 2020 thanks to Saban Films.

In 1988, Alexis (Alexandra Daddario: Texas Chainsaw 3D 2013, Baywatch 2017), Val (Maddie Hasson: God Bless America 2011, Mr. Mercedes series), and Bev (Amy Forsyth: Channel Zero series, Rise series) are on a girls’ road trip to the Rock show. A random (and rude!) drive-by chocolate shake attack leads the ladies to combine forces with Ivan (Austin Swift: Live by Night 2016, I.T. 2016), Kovacs (Logan Miller: Scouts’ Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse 2015, Escape Room 2019), and Mark (Keean Johnson: Midway 2019, Alita: Battle Angel 2019), a group of Pabst-guzzling dudes in a bedazzled van. Heavy Metal mayhem ensues at the Soldiers of Satan show, and soon the sextet find themselves getting cozy back at Alexis’ house.

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As the night starts to heat up, some of the group will be sorely disappointed when, due to a shocking twist, the blood begins to fly. Along with slicing and dicing from an outboard boat motor and AquaNet flamethrowers, toss a televangelist named John Henry Butler (Knoxville: The Dukes of Hazzard 2005, Bad Grandpa 2013) into the equation, as well as a string of satanic murders in the Heartland, a reporter (Stephanie Moroz: I Still See You 2018, Burden of Truth series) with enormous hair that would make Murphy Brown envious, and possible cult activity.

Voila! You have We Summon the Darkness, which clocks in at 90 minutes, directed by Marc Meyers (My Friend Dahmer 2017, Human Capital 2019) and written by Alan Trezza (Burying the Ex 2014). It also features the acting talents of Allison McAtee (Californication series, The Haves and the Haves Nots series), Tanner Beard (Valley Peaks series, From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series series), and more.

What could have been a hysterical good time, similar in spirit to 1996’s Scream—but with an agenda to comment on religion—is instead a rather generic Horror-Thriller with only the most minimal of comedy. A film that initially has an aesthetic and youthful appeal reminiscent of recent flicks like 2017’s The Babysitter, We Summon the Darkness starts out with crimped hair and a denim jacket full of promise, though unlike 2017’s It or 2018’s Summer of ‘84, it never fully captures that authentic 1980s’ vibe.

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None of this is a total detriment to what Meyers and Trezza are attempting to achieve, but the underlying issue remains that this movie experience is built upon a screenplay that could have used some tightening, more hyperbole, and a great expansion of its dramatic extremes. In the film’s first act, we are somewhat entertained by the banter between the ladies as they explore the topics of makeup as warpaint for sex, joke that all the intellectuals quote Bop, and suck on Ring Pops. While the concert itself is nothing flashy or enthralling, the surprise twist that comes early on is intriguing.

In the second act, our mostly flat characters are puttering around the house, fighting to survive—but there’s never really much action. By the third act, it’s just more of the same: blood-covered, mostly flat characters making mayhem in a garishly wallpapered home—now with a few additional characters tossed in for spice. And while this may sound unappetizing, as far as film’s go, We Summon the Darkness is never downright awful, it’s just a bit disappointing.

Take, for example, the fact that Knoxville portrays a televangelist preacher. Hysterical, right? Nope. Instead, Knoxville taps into a more stern-faced, sinister and self-serving attitude to help drive home the underlying theme of hypocrisy within religious institutions (namely Christianity). He does his job and delivers a vile character, but it somehow feels a waste of a talent who can be completely over-the-top and is known for being just that. Insane Preacher Knoxville spouting maniacal quotes from the Bible? Yes, please!

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It’s this lack of hyperbole that leaves We Summon the Darkness feeling a little blase. Of course, there are positive notes about the film, including a wonderful soundtrack that features tracks such as Mercyful Fate’s “Black Funeral,” T’Pau’s “Heart and Soul,” and a perfectly-timed cover of Belinda Carlisle’s 1987 hit, “Heaven Is A Place On Earth.” Its cast, particularly Daddario, Hasson, and Forsyth, do an excellent job with the material they are given. Forsyth, especially, shows range as her character evolves across the movie’s run time. Denied this material, Daddario and Hasson instead deliver amusing antics, particularly their butt-smacking AquaNet flamethrower routine.

All things considered, We Summon the Darkness falls directly into the middle of the Horror-Thriller pack. It’s a film that starts out a fun romp through ‘80s hair band references, shifts into a murderous commentary on the hypocrisy of religion, and ultimately ends as a generic moviegoing experience that splashes some blood, displays some crazy, but never seems to fully attain what it could have had it let go of all of its inhibitions.

Simply put, more melodrama and ridiculousness could have made this a true gem. But as it stands, Cryptic Rock gives We Summon the Darkness 3.5 of 5 stars.

Saban Films

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