WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS movie poster | ©2020 Saban Films

WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS movie poster | ©2020 Saban Films

Rating: R
Stars: Alexandra Daddario, Amy Forsyth, Keean Johnson, Maddie Hasson, Johnny Knoxville, Logan Miller, Austin Swift, Allison McAtee
Writer: Alan Trezza
Director: Marc Meyers
Distributor: Saban Films
Release Date: (VOD and Digital) April 10, 2020

At the risk of being spoilery, but to save viewers seeking something specific from not receiving it, let’s state up front that WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS is not supernatural. Nothing gets summoned. That said, there’s plenty of gore and craziness. There is also what seems to be a bent toward black comedy that exists here more in theory than in fact.

We are in 1988 Indiana. The year seems to have been chosen because director Alan Trezza and director Marc Meyers, along with most of their characters, have an intense fondness for that era’s heavy metal, and all the posturing that comes with it.

TV news alerts us to the fact that eighteen murders have been committed in the region. The crimes are attributed to a Satanic cult. Popular pastor John Henry Butler (Johnny Knoxville) blames it all on the culture, specifically rock music.

Forceful Alexis (Alexandra Daddario), slightly flaky Val (Maddie Hasson), and cautious Beverly (Amy Forsyth) are on their way to a heavy metal concert. In the venue parking lot, they meet Ivan (Austin Swift), Mark (Keean Johnson), and Kovacs (Logan Miller), three boys of about the same age who enjoy the band. After the show, there’s some banter and everybody agrees to get together back at Alexis’s dad’s house.

The setup takes almost half an hour. By now, we’re ready for the menace, whatever it is, to make itself known (except maybe for audience members who really enjoy discussion of which musicians made which bands great, and which didn’t matter). Revelations and violence ensue.

WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS movie poster | ©2020 Saban Films

WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS movie poster | ©2020 Saban Films

On the plus side, the cast is very game, with everyone displaying energy, versatility, and conviction, no matter how wild the ride gets. The filmmakers also get points for a commitment to natural lighting and, usually, realistically portraying how injuries slow someone down.

The flip side of the realistic lighting is that it’s hard to see an extended stretch of action. The tone is consistent, but not especially engrossing. There’s a political slant (yes, mega-churches count as a political topic), but it’s hard to imagine anyone in the likely viewership taking offense. The intent here seems to be satirical, but the humor, while not offensive, is at once tentative and over-familiar. We get the punchlines, but they contribute texture more than amusement.

There is also an explanation so vague for one character’s participation that we wait in vain for a plot twist to make sense of it. The performer makes the role work anyway, doing yeoman work of filling in some blanks.

WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS uses its carefully-budgeted resources well. There are aspects of it that don’t work, but for people stuck at home who need a new slasher movie, it should suffice.

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