We Summon the Darkness is a horror thriller directed by Marc Meyers, based on the Satanic Panic of the 1980s and the hysteria around heavy metal music. The film follows three metalhead friends as they travel to a heavy metal concert, where a series of gruesome murders begin to happen.
Set in 1988, the moral majority and evangelicals considered heavy metal music to be a portal for Satan’s wrath, and there were widespread fears and beliefs that it led teens astray. The film opens with TV preacher Pastor John Henry Butler, played by Johnny Knoxville, denouncing heavy metal on television. The headline of a newspaper shows “Teens slain in latest satanic killing!” hinting at the murders to come. With its combination of metal, murder, and moral panic, We Summon the Darkness seems ripe for a Rob Zombie film.
We Summon the Darkness is written by Alan Trezza (Burying the Ex) and directed by Marc Meyers (My Friend Dahmer). The film features likable, fully realized characters in a believable world. The relationship between Alexandra Daddario and Maddie Hasson’s characters shows a deep bond and their performances are incredibly compelling. We have to watch the whole film with them because both performances are so engaging.
While not as clever as it thinks it is, We Summon the Darkness still delivers an entertaining surprise of a story and enough gore to please genre fans. Director Marc Meyers has several surprises in store, but the early scenes examining the relationship between the two groups are the most compelling. Meyers knows the audience will be shouting “There’s got to be more to this!” at the sheer obviousness of it all, so he plays with those expectations. Despite the potentially sinister setup of girls vs. boys, not much comes of it beyond initial sexual tension. Religion gets more focus, though even this isn’t as substantial as it could be.
The female empowerment of the first half starts to unravel as you realize you’ve wandered into a backwoods slasher film. Furthermore, while Knoxville is clearly meant to appear as a sinister presence as the pastor, he’s largely part of the film’s portrayal of shady Christian hysterics. Overall, “We Summon the Darkness” is a thrilling ride well worth taking, even if it may be the first film I’ve seen since the Coronavirus hit that could have really used an audience in theaters.
In an era oversaturated with the likes of Stranger Things, American Horror Story, The Void, It Follows, and The Guest, We Summon the Darkness successfully combines familiar elements with genuine surprises. While very different in tone from Marc Meyers’s My Friend Dahmer, his direction helps the film overcome some cliched scenes. Several story beats have been used before but confident direction and compelling performances make them feel fresh. It’s hard to riff on genre conventions without feeling stale but We Summon the Darkness mostly pulls it off. Could some twists have been revealed later? Sure. But that doesn’t stop this from being a bloody good time at the movies.
We Summon the Darkness comes to Streaming on April 10, 2020.