We Summon the Darkness
Review by Craig Draheim
Director: Marc Meyers
Writer: Alan Trezza
Starring: Alexandra Daddario, Keean Johnson, Maddie Hasson, Amy Forsyth, Johnny Knoxville
Another throwback to the nostalgic 80s where heavy metal/punk was finding its voice, horror/sci-fi was cool, and oh wait, religious and political (one and the same) leaders created a false hysteria of “Satan worshippers” to detract from the real issues that plagued the era. This is one of those moments where my fingers keep typing out a rant to discuss the hypocrisy of the time, but instead I am exercising great restraint. However, the movie uses the myth of radical satanism to its advantage, creating a twisted tale around said hypocrisy. The story follows Alexis (Daddario), Val (Hasson), and Beverly (Forsyth), who are traveling to a heavy metal concert in the heartland of the United States. During the same time a series of “satanic” murders have plagued the news, which has allowed for the success of televangelist, John Henry Butler (Knoxville). As the trio attend the show, they meet three metalheads that are following the band across the U.S., where one of them, Mark (Johnson), is moving to pursue music. Due to flirtations between the two groups, Alexis invites the men to join them at her father’s mansion to party. Unfortunately for the men, the trio aren’t fans of metal but rather part of John Henry Butler’s religious cult that is staging the satanic murders to bring more people to their congregation. What follows is a series of follies as committing the murders proves to be harder than anticipated with the men escaping, the cops being called, and Beverly dealing with the morality of their actions. Some of what is mentioned above could be seen as spoilers, but the reveal is all part of the story’s setup and would prove difficult to discuss a lot of the film without that knowledge. We Summon the Darkness is a rock & roll riot that showcases the hypocritical evils of the time rather than Satan being the villain. I was there for every second of it, because despite that simple shift, it feels fresh in this Satanic-Panic subgenre.
What I will bring up is the issue with the trailer that I read many comments on after my viewing of the movie. While the reveal is evident within the trailer, it is presented as the cliché of these women trying to resurrect Satan (or some other demon). I prefer what it actually is, but I understand why people felt it was misrepresented. They even make sure to mention the reasoning behind wearing the pentagram or upside cross as it’s a form of rebellion against oppressors rather than the aligning with evil. If you want to know more about this subject matter and purpose behind these acts of protest watch the incredible documentary, Hail Satan?. WSD is extraordinarily executed, from script to production to even the score but will find itself falling into two camps, those that have a good time with it as a reversal on the home invasion and satanic subgenres, and those that don’t. What cannot be denied, though the whole major cast is able to step out of their comfort zones or their type-casting, Daddario kills it. My knowledge of her work has been as the independent, straight-man character, yet also the love interest or damsel in distress, playing a supporting role to Woody Harrelson, Dwayne Johnson, Anton Yelchin, or some other male counterpart. But this proves her ability to command a leading role, channeling some Nicolas Cage-level intensity. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews I normally, if I can, try to give it a day to digest what I’ve watched. This allows for me to have more clarity, but sadly 95% of the time lessens my enthusiasm on the work. We Summon the Darkness is not the case. I plan on renting it tonight as I wrap up this review so my wife can watch it. Without sounding like a broken record it’s just fun and my kind of satanic-panic movie. 4 ½ out of 5