It’s 1988, and three friends are on a road trip to attend a heavy metal concert in Indiana. Alexis (Alexandra Daddario) is the driver and the most serious one of the group, and sitting next to her is wild one Val (Maddie Hasson). In the back seat is Beverly (Amy Forsyth), the newest member of the group, and the meekest and least experienced in every way. While driving, the girls hear a news report on the radio that a murderous satanic cult has struck again, with the number of victims now up to 18. Three more youths were recently found stabbed to death, their walls covered in blood and satanic symbols. The reporter interviews Pastor John Henry Butler (Johnny Knoxville), who denounces the actions of the satanic cult responsible for the murders, calling for thoughts and prayers for the deceased.
While waiting in the parking lot before the show, the girls meet and end up hitting it off with three aspiring musicians—front man Kovacs (Logan Miller), drummer Mark (Keean Johnson), and bassist/vocalist Ivan (Austin Swift). After the show, the girls invite the guys back to Alexis’ country home for an after-party. The night starts off great, and looks promising for some love connections, but things quickly take a dark turn. The concert-goers soon find themselves in a deadly game of cat and mouse. However, the killer’s plans don’t go quite as smoothly as planned. Things quickly escalate out of control, with each attempt to rectify the situation only making things even worse, leaving the house in madcap chaos.
We Summon the Darkness starts off as more of a traditional horror film. The filmmakers do a great job of playing with traditional horror tropes, building the tension in the first act. The audience is constantly on edge, looking for when things are going to take a turn, and for what danger awaits these young women. Later, the film becomes much more of a madcap horror/comedy, following an inept killer desperately trying to fix a murder plot gone wrong. The film is set in the 1980s but this doesn’t feel forced or over-emphasized, instead it is done subtly through the film’s soundtrack, the production design of the house, and in some of the clothing and hair styles. Another advantage of setting the film in the 1980s is that it is a much simpler time when people don’t have the internet or cell phones that can easily be used to obtain help when in a desperate, deadly situation.
Overall I quite enjoyed this film, especially once it leans into the over-the-top insanity of it all. The filmmakers do a great job of twisting and subverting expectations, playing with what you thought you knew about horror films. Some of it does get a bit ridiculous—there is one very unconventional weapon that gets deployed, and some characters feel like The Terminator, popping back up after receiving what should have been mortal wounds—however, the film is a lot of fun if you just sit back and enjoy the absurd wild ride. Each of the characters has his or her own unique personality and quirks, and it is great to see all of these come together. The actors have such great chemistry, and I enjoyed them all, but the one that really stood out to me was Maddie Hasson, who just embraces the wild, crazy nature of Val, and is constantly chewing the scenery in a really fun way. There is this great running gag that Val has a constantly-weak bladder, and she is always in need of a quick pit stop. There were a couple small parts of the film that didn’t quite work for me. In the commentary, the writer mentions paying homage to the documentary Heavy Metal Parking Lot, and in a scene early on when the girls and guys meet in the parking lot, there’s this very detailed back-and-forth about which concerts they’ve been to and which bands are their favorite. This felt like fan service to metal-heads, but more like an endless stream of gibberish to someone like me who knows nothing about this kind of music. That said, the film does have some fun surprises, and is thoroughly entertaining as the situation become a bloody, chaotic and hilarious mess.
Due to the current COVID lockdown restrictions, Lionsgate wasn’t able to ship the physical release for review, but they did provide a digital copy. Lionsgate does not participate in Movies Anywhere, so I checked out the release via Apple TV since that service offers all of the same bonus material as the Blu-ray. (I don’t believe any of the other digital retailers include the bonus material.) The supplemental material consists of an audio commentary by the director and writer, and a 16-minute behind-the-scenes featurette with the cast and filmmakers, both of which were quite entertaining.
While I’ve included the trailer below, this is a movie I would recommend going into without any spoilers—the trailer gives away a little too much information about the film.
Specs may vary by digital provider. Digital code can be redeemed at Apple TV, Vudu, Google Play or Fandango Now.
- 1080p / Widescreen 2.39:1
- Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1
- Subtitles: English SDH
- NOT Movies Anywhere compatible
- Audio Commentary with Director Marc Meyers and Writer Alan Trezza (1:31:02)
Director Marc Meyers and writer/executive producer Alan Trezza provide an interesting and informative commentary, talking about the various films and pop culture that inspired moments in the film and story, the twist in the first act, the shooting locations, the cast, and more. They share many fun behind-the-scenes stories and lots of trivia about the production.
- Envisioning Darkness (16:07)
A look at the making of the film with the cast and crew. The filmmakers talk about how they were inspired by the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, when parents judged kids by way they dressed and the music they listened to, and how that still feels relevant today. The cast and crew also discuss the special effects and pyrotechnics, the audition process and casting the roles, and getting to work with Johnny Knoxville. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with screenwriter Alan Trezza, director Marc Meyers, actress/ producer Alexandra Daddario (“Alexis”), and stars Logan Miller (“Kovacs”), Keean Johnson (“Mark”) and Maddie Hasson (“Val”).
- Trailer (1:43)
Availability of bonus material varies by provider. This review was done via Apple TV, which offers all the bonus material.
We Summon the Darkness starts off as a traditional horror movie before turning into more of a fun/campy thriller with lots of physical humor and witty dialogue. The cast is great, and bring a lot of fun and naturalness to their roles. Lionsgate’s digital release looks and sounds great and includes a small but entertaining selection of bonus material (when using Apple TV as the provider—other services may not offer the bonus material). This is a fun horror/comedy that is worth checking out, but I would advise against watching the trailer as it is a bit spoilery.