The Spool / Fantastic Fest 2019
Fantastic Fest: “We Summon The Darkness” Is A Devilish Horror Comedy
The '80s-set film about Satanists targeting music groupies is a delight of heavy metal horror comedy.
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This ’80s-set film about Satanists targeting music groupies is a delight.

What do you get if you cross heavy metal, satanic panic and a dose of homicidal insanity? That would be We Summon The Darkness, a clever horror-comedy from writer Alan Trezza and director Marc Meyers.

The late 80s-set film follows two different trios en route to a heavy metal concert. In the ladies car, there’s ringleader Alexis (Alexandra Daddario), she of the tiny bladder, Val (Maddie Hasson) and new girl Beverly (Amy Forsyth). After the girls stop at a gas station for essential supplies, they nearly drive off the road when the boys – sincere drummer Mark (Keean Johnson), idiot Kovacs (Logan Miller), and hulking Ivan (Austin Swift) – mistakenly throw a milkshake onto their windshield.

The near-fatal accident prompts a meet-cute at the venue as the groups size each other up. There’s a visible flirtation between Bev and Mark, while Alexis and Bev seem more bemused by the boys’ general buffoonery. Still, they enjoy the concert together and decide to keep the night going at Alexis’ house, a short drive away.

These events comprise We Summon The Darkness’ first act and while there’s an inherent lack of action or scares, Trezza does a great job of establishing each character and their relationship while hinting at events to come. On both the TV in the gas station and on the radio, there are news reports about a series of satanic murders, as well as condemnation of heavy metal by religious pastor John Henry Butler (Johnny Knoxville).

The result is a subtle, underlining tension for the audience. Obviously one of the trios is involved in the murders and the other group are potential victims. The only question is: which is which?

The answer is answered almost immediately when the group arrives at Alexis’ house and the violence and bloodletting begins. From that point on, the set pieces are gory and frequent, all the way up to the finale. Alas, much of the goodwill established by the frequent subversion or playing into expectations in the first two acts gives way to a series of exceedingly predictable events. This is disappointing considering that the first 2/3 of the film is so strong and confident.

Thankfully so much of the film is an absolute joy, particularly the strong female performances. Daddario also an executive producer) is simply perfect as brash, bossy Alexis – she’s a bit of a sarcastic mean girl and Daddario nails the character’s charisma, wry humor, and facial reactions.

Hasson is also great as Alexis’ right-hand woman: We Summon The Darkness has plenty of 80s period fun at her expense, particularly her perfectly hairspray’d coif. As the vamp of the group, Val is fun, flirty and brings a great deal of energy to her line readings.

Forsyth has arguably the most challenging role because she’s the straight woman of the group. Beverly is clearly uncomfortable and out of her depth in comparison to the other two, so her character is a little more reserved and withdrawn. Forsyth finds both the strength and the vulnerability in the performance, despite being saddled with arguably the film’s least exciting character.

The boys pale in comparison, in part because they adhere more strongly to stock character types and in part because their female counterparts simply outshine them. Still, the inability to know exactly who to root for when the violence begins only works because all of these characters are inherently likable in different ways. Despite the homicidal intentions of half of the cast, it’s easy to imagine partying with them.

Even when the threat of death and violence is at its peak, the comedy is pervasive throughout.

This contributes to the mix of comedy and horror that We Summon The Darkness is so adept at balancing. Even when the threat of death and violence is at its peak, the comedy is pervasive throughout. For example, one character resorts to wielding a weed whacker as a weapon or, more broadly, the killers’ escalating frustration as the number of unintended victims piles up as more and more people wander unknowingly into the massacre.

We Summon The Darkness is delightfully madcap, zany and enjoyable, with exceptionally memorable and entertaining characters, particularly Daddario and Hasson. Despite a third act fumble that renders the climax disappointingly conventional, this satanic, heavy metal horror-comedy is everything that audiences never knew they wanted.

We Summon The Darkness does not currently have a North American release date.