I’m not the only cultural commentator to have noticed that the current Best Picture favourite for the Oscars is Sonic the Hedgehog, yet being in lockdown won’t satisfy the public’s desire to see something new every week, even if the cinema is at home. With most A movies indefinitely postponed, it’s time for the B movie to step up to the plate, and Marc Meyers’ comedy/horror/thriller should do the job of filling the weekend gap for those of us adults not enraptured by animated or online trolls. Brisk, well-assembled, and treading a careful line between thrills and horror, We Summon the Darkness is a satisfying showcase for some hot young talent that never goes over the score with the gore.
‘We Summon the Darkness’ are the words scrawled over the walls in the aftermath of a massacre; there’s a series of Satanic killings that have wiped out a few of the unwary. Can Alexis (Alexandra Daddario) and her friends avoid being the centre of the carnage? The girls turns up at a heavy metal concert after striking up a relationship with some boisterous fellow metal-heads (Logan Miller, Austin Swift, Keean Johnson) in the venue car-park, but the girls don’t do the right thing when they invite the boys back to Alexis’ step-mother’s luxurious house. And an early reveal suggests that Pastor John Henry Butler (Johnny Knoxville) is going to have some involvement in the carnage.
There’s a supernatural theme to be sure, but Alan Trezza’s script keeps things grounded; the first half hour of the film plays engagingly with audience expectations before springing a few good twists. Amy Forsyth and Maddie Hasson both make an impression as Alexis’s friends, and the big draw here is Daddario. She made an impression opposite The Rock in San Andreas, but also proved her chops as an actress in 2018’s We Have Always Lived In The Castle. This isn’t a step up from that elegant Shirley Jackson adaptation, but it’s a smart sideways move that shows that she’s got plenty of gas in her tank when it comes to playing a character with hidden depths; when the going gets tough, Alexis gets going. And Knoxville belies his comedy reputation with an unexpectedly haunting, Karloff-ian presence in his brief but effective scenes,
The term B-movie isn’t a criticism in my book; some of my favourite films belong in that category. It connotes a lack of pretention, a desire to entertain, and a sense of genre awareness, and like 2019’s Ready or Not, We Summon the Darkness passes muster on all counts. And like Ready or Not, it’s the kind of horror that, while certainly nasty-AF when it needs to be, plays within the rules in the way that should satisfy mainstream audiences. Horror fans should lap it up, but casual viewers should also get the adrenalin shot of Satanic Panic that makes for the right kind of weekend viewing mayhem.
Signature Entertainment & FrightFest Presents presents We Summon The Darkness in the US on digital from today, April 10th (U.S. link below) and in the UK on Digital HD April 20th and DVD 11th May 2020.