We Summon the Darkness (2019)
★ / ★★★★
The stupidity and lack of attention to detail in “We Summon the Darkness” are on full display in one scene. If you have eyes, it is impossible to overlook. In the kitchen, members of a religious cult attempt to smoke out their victims who are hiding in the pantry where light can be seen from under the door. Inside the pantry, we see a young man with a deep cut on his arm bleeding to death while leaning against the door in order to prevent cultists from getting in. A pool of blood collects where he sits. Back to the kitchen: no blood—not even a hint of it—is seeping through from the other side. Not a figure or a shadow can be seen desperately moving about. Eventually the frightened hunted use rags to seal the crevice. Still, light from under the door flows uninterrupted. It is clear that this sequence needed to be reshot and yet director Marc Meyers submitted a work so substandard, it is actually insulting. I’ve seen student films with significantly less budget that are executed and put together better than this scene.
You know when a movie tries so hard to hide its twist that it becomes glaringly obvious what that is mere ten minutes into the picture? Such is the case here. If you have an IQ above 50, it will come to no surprise that Alexis (Alexandra Daddario), Val (Maddie Hasson), and Bev (Amy Forsyth) have a strong connection to the recent killings being covered on the news. Screenwriter Alan Trezza puts all his chips on this so-called left turn that the exposition ends up dragging on for nearly half the picture. It is brazen. But it is also interminable. These young women have nothing interesting to do or say—nor do their prey: three friends, formerly in a band together, attending a heavy metal concert (Keean Johnson, Logan Miller, Austin Swift). Set in 1988, exchanges lean on naming heavy metal bands. If I wanted a list, I’d go on Wikipedia.
And so slashing and killings begin. With the exception of one kill involving fire, the rest is standard violence and gore. Even during its darkly comic moments, I never cracked a single smile or smirk. I did, however, catch my eyes rolling twice or thrice. I asked, “Why are these characters making the worst decisions?” and “Why do they trip so often?” about five times. Each. Its faux edge can be recognized by even the most near-sighted. There is nothing surprising or creative in terms of chases and (finally) going for the jugular. Naturally, a gun must be employed and—surprise, surprise—characters claw and scratch at one another as it is thrown across the room. At this point, there is about thirty minutes yet to be endured.
The material wishes to comment upon religious zealotry. Here, the villains—followers of God—are convinced they must kill and make it look as though satanic cults are responsible. By instilling fear, amplified by the media, the unconverted will feel the need to follow God. (The story takes place in rural Indiana.) On paper, it may sound appealing, but I didn’t find this satiric angle to be fresh in terms of execution. I think it is because the filmmakers fail to balance horror, thriller, and dark comedy so that the elements work in synergy. This is a classic example of how hard it really is to make an effective satire. Sure, there is a message—an obvious one but it’s there. But does it provide insight? The answer is no. Yes, there is a difference.
Performances are all right. Of note, however, are Daddario, who takes on a role that’s different for her, and Johnson, who possesses an interesting face and a gentleness that makes you want to get to know what his character is all about. I liked that Daddario’s Alexis is so over-the-top while Johnson’s Mark is more relaxed. Yet both are equal in energy. I felt as though their take on their characters are just right for the material. But the rest of the work is a miscalculation, a drivel, a death march to the finish line.