If you like horror movies and 1980s heavy metal rock music, chances are you’ll enjoy WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS (2020), a new horror movie now available on Netflix about three young women on their way to a heavy metal rock concert in 1988 Indiana, in an area where young people have been brutally murdered by members of a satanic cult.
That’s right. As the three women travel to the concert, the body count has reached eighteen. But that doesn’t deter these three friends, Alexis (Alexandra Daddario), Val (Maddie Hasson), and Beverly (Amy Forsyth) from going, as they are not about to let a little thing like satanic cult murders get in their way of some fun. They know how to take care of themselves.
In the parking lot outside the concert, they meet three young musicians, Mark (Keean Johnson), Kovacs (Logan Miller), and Ivan (Austin Swift), and since they hit it off and get along so well, after the concert Alexis invites them all back to her dad’s secluded home, since he’s away for the weekend.
What follows is not quite what you expect. Yes, it involves the satanic cult, but there’s a twist here, which is both good and bad. It’s good because it pivots the plot and gives this one a completely different feel. But it also gets in the way of it being as horrific and as frightening as it could have been. The longer it goes on, the more far-fetched it becomes.
But overall I enjoyed WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS very much. It just wasn’t as chilling as I expected it to be.
I really liked the screenplay by Alan Trezza. The dialogue is excellent, realistic and humorous in lots of places. The girls’ conversation in the opening sequence while they’re driving to the concert is flat out hilarious.
The first half of this movie which sets up the horror elements is very good, and then once the story pivots, with its twist, it does run into a little trouble. At first, the twist is refreshing and innovative, but then things become more outlandish almost to the point of campiness, when early on it looked like this one was going to be a gritty hard-hitting thriller. And that’s largely because the cult isn’t anywhere near as disturbing as initially advertised.
As a result, as enjoyable as WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS is, it’s really not very scary.
Director Marc Meyers does an excellent job with the set-up, and he does capture the essence of the 1980s somewhat. The music is there, the hair styles, but not a whole lot else. And while there are violent scenes during the movie’s second half, they’re just not very intense. Again, the film goes for camp rather than shock.
The cast is good. All six of the main actors make impressions. While I enjoyed both Alexandra Daddario and Maddie Hasson in their roles, I thought Amy Forsyth gave the best performance in the movie, as her character Beverly had a bit more depth than the others. She’s a runaway, new to this group of friends, and so throughout the ordeal she has more issues she’s dealing with.
Likewise, both Logan Miller and Austin Swift were enjoyable in their roles, and I thought Keean Johnson stood out most as Mark. He had the dark, brooding, persona going for him, and later when things get crazy, he’s the guy who steps up the most.
Johnny Knoxville plays John Henry Butler, a preacher who is constantly on the airwaves speaking against the evils of rock music and the satanic cult.
As silly as this movie eventually becomes, its subtext which speaks to the dangers of politicized religion and how often the most vocal of religious leaders are themselves worse than the threats of which they speak was not lost on me. In this day and age so much hate and misinformation is spewed in the name of religion.
Could WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS have been better? Sure. It could have been brutally frightening, a la GREEN ROOM (2015), or it could have gone full blown STRANGER THINGS (2016-present) and really nailed the 1980s. Or it could have been a high camp gore fest in an homage to THE EVIL DEAD ( 1981). It does none of these things.
But it is well-acted, well-written, and well-directed, and it makes for an enjoyable 90 minutes of diverting horror fun. It does get convoluted towards the end, and it’s never as in-your-face-disturbing as it needs to be, but overall it’s a polished piece of horror cinema, and it even has something to say about the overreach of religion.
It’s flawed, but WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS still works.
So go ahead. Summon the darkness!