Let us prey
We Summon the Darkness is a wickedly funny and delicious piece of genre cinema. It’s a horror film that doesn’t necessarily aim to scare or terrorise us but to take us on a gnarly rollercoaster ride along with its doomed characters.
This satanic panic-induced romp opens with three girls driving to a heavy metal concert. Alexis (Alexandra Daddario), Val (Maddie Hasson) and Bev (Amy Forsyth) are ridiculously cool, attractive and up for some fun, perhaps even light-hearted revenge after three boys throw a milkshake at their windshield. The girls later ambush the boys by throwing some firecrackers through the open window of their parked van. They all make pretty cute couples and so journey to Alexis’ dad’s rather large house for some late-night drinking and sexy fun. However, ritualistic murders have been occurring lately, could either the boys or the girls be behind them?
While We Summon the Darkness is never quite as clever as it seems to believe, its surprising narrative is still a riot to watch and presents an adequate amount of gore for the fans of the genre. Director Marc Meyers has plenty of shocking twists up his sleeve, but the film is at its best early on when it focusses on the dynamic between the two groups. Meyers plays with the obviousness of it all, clearly aware of the audience’s cries of “There must be more to this?!” The set-up, girls versus boys, is full of devilish potential, but not much is made of it apart from the early sexual tension. More emphasis is put on religion, but unfortunately even on that front, it isn’t quite as meaty as it could be.
Thankfully, all the characters are a joy to spend 90 minutes with. The girls are all well-written, even if they later on become a little too stereotypically hysterical, but Daddario, Hasson and Forsyth make the most of them. Especially Daddario who is a pleasure to observe; this marks a rare occasion where she isn’t playing a helpless damsel in distress or an object of the male gaze. Her role here is filled with pure adrenaline and she makes up for any lacking depth with plenty of charisma and conviction.
Logan Miller, playing Kovacs, makes for an adorable douchebag, something Miller has proven to be his signature role now. There is something fragile about his masculinity; while it’s a little vile, a little gross, it’s also completely harmless, or at least easily crushed. Miller plays his part with plenty of heart and heaps of pizzazz, but has to make way for Keean Johnson’s Mark, the more traditionally ‘pretty boy’ with a sensitive side. Although the characters are all fine and actors do a great job, there’s no real sense of threat once Meyers reveals (almost) all his cards. The early guessing game proves to be much more fun than anything that follows.
While Meyers’ direction is solid throughout, the film is unfortunately a little stale when it comes to the visuals. It’s not quite gory enough and the cinematography is fine at best, but never really ascends to anything more. Perhaps a little more flair, a bit more oomph would make for a more memorable film. That being said, the 90-minute-film has become a rarity and surprises arrive at a steady pace to keep the audience interested.
Despite all the criticisms, this is a bloody good time. It’s perfectly paced, blissfully entertaining and the performances are top notch, although one could have wished for some more Johnny Knoxville, who plays a pastor preaching the word of God in these godless times. The film also gets extra points for a particularly fun song drop in its last act. At its best, We Summon the Darkness is delightfully unhinged and provides great laughs and a couple of great kills.
We Summon the Darkness is available on VOD from April 20 and on DVD May 11.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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