The Movie Waffler New to Shudder - WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS | The Movie Waffler


we summon the darkness review
In 1988, three young women take a trip to a heavy metal concert amid a wave of satanic killings.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Marc Meyers

Starring: Alexandra Daddario, Keean Johnson, Maddie Hasson, Amy Forsyth, Logan Miller, Austin Swift, Johnny Knoxville

we summon the darkness poster

Marc Meyers' 1988 set shocker We Summon the Darkness is one of those movies whose success and/or failure hinges heavily on a point where it pulls the rug out from under its audience. Given how early in the narrative this twist is unveiled, not to mention how it's revealed in the official trailer, I'm not going to shy away from discussing its implications. So if you plan on watching We Summon the Darkness, I suggest you hold off reading this review until after your viewing.

Meyers' previous film, My Friend Dahmer, was a study of the teen years of infamous serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer. Outwardly, with his science nerd demeanour, Dahmer had the appearance of the type of young man society usually dismisses as "harmless". In the period Dahmer carried out his reign of terror - the late '70s to early '80s - a newly conservative America, fuelled by the rise of Evangelical Christianity and the Moral Majority, was too busy scapegoating Heavy Metal fans as the nation endured a tabloid fuelled 'Satanic Panic'. This aggressive, ear-splitting musical genre was blamed on everything from ritualistic child murders to teen suicides. Metal fans were wrongfully imprisoned for crimes they didn't commit, simply because they owned records that referenced Satan, and bands were made to defend their records in court. While all of this was occurring, the Catholic church was getting away with the greatest spate of sexual abuse of our times.

we summon the darkness review

We Summon the Darkness seeks to give some retroactive justice to the weird kids whose lives were ruined by hypocritical Christians during this era. It's centred on three young female metal fans - Alexis (Alexandra Daddario), Val (Maddie Hasson) and Beverly (Amy Forsyth) - who pile into a car and take a trip to a metal concert (a car radio informs us that the locale has been plagued by a series of apparently Satanic killings). On the way, a chocolate milkshake is hurled at their windscreen by a passing van, which they catch up to in the parking lot of the concert venue. After a vengeful trick involving fireworks, the three girls befriend the van's occupants, a similar male trio of metal aficionados - Mark (Keean Johnson), Kovacs (Logan Miller) and Ivan (Austin Swift).

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After the gig, the girls invite the boys back to Alexis's father's house, an offer the lads understandably waste no time in accepting. It's here that We Summon the Darkness plays its true hand, as the girls drug the boys and tie them up in a room bedecked with Satanic graffiti. Ah, so Alexis and her mates are the evil Satanists who have been plying their bloody trade? Nope. Alexis and co. are actually members of a Christian fundamentalist church led by popular media figure Pastor John Henry Butler (Johnny Knoxville). They've been carrying out killings with all the trappings of Satanism as a ploy to drum up business for their Church, and given the size of Butler's home, business is booming. Can the boys escape before becoming the latest victims of these loons?

we summon the darkness review

Meyers and screenwriter Alan Trezza have found an efficient way to comment on the hypocrisy of judging people by their appearance when the real threats usually come from wolves in sheep's clothing. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, you have to admit that Christianity is responsible for a lot more evil in the world than Satanism, which has rarely risen above a niche cult beloved by people who enjoy playing dress-up.

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The trouble is that Meyers and Trezza never quite follow through with this idea once the reveal has been made. If the girls have simply been playing the part of their idea of Metal fans, why don't their personalities change after they drop their facade? Wouldn't it have been more effective and illustrative of their true nature if the girls put away the whiskey they had been necking, ditched the leather jackets and wiped away the makeup, reappearing in the conservative attire you might assume they usually opt for?

we summon the darkness review

The second half of We Summon the Darkness is a mildly effective siege thriller, though it suffers from a lack of invention in how its cat and mouse games play out. A large chunk of the action involves our switcherooed male heroes hiding in a storage room as the now demented Alexis and her underlings attempt to smoke them out, and Meyers fails to exploit the geographical potential of the sprawling house his film is confined to.

The behaviour of the female villains may not make much sense once their nefarious scheme is revealed, but Daddario and Hasson in particular are having so much fun with their psychotic Metal Manson girls that such misgivings are partly erased. Cast against type, Daddario is a revelation, finally given a role that asks more of her than simply providing eye candy. A shame then that the movie never quite makes the most of what should be a unique and fascinating antagonist.

We Summon the Darkness is on Shudder UK now.