Courtesy of Saban Films
Ring pops, cheesy rock tunes, and Judd Nelson references are sprinkled throughout the retro-slasher throwback “We Summon The Darkness,” director Marc Meyers 1980s-set satanic thriller. Hard to believe a film that features Johnny Knoxville as an televangelist preacher who claims to be God himself would stutter out of gas 45 minutes into the picture, leaving the final stretch botched and repetitive. Part of that is because Meyer reveals the movie’s biggest twist 30 minutes in, leaving the film nowhere to go but down, aimlessly limping towards a conventional finale that’s filled with loopholes galore. (For reference, a character runs around the house looking for a getaway car when one is sitting, unattended, in the driveway - but I guess we don’t actually expect logic in these movies do we?)
Alexis (Alexandra Daddario) and her squad (Maddie Hasson and Amy Forsyth) - doused in heavy lip gloss and eyeliner - are attending a heavy metal concert, where they link up with a group of boys (Keean Johnson, Logan Miller, and Austin Swift) and decide to ditch the scene and head back to an after party. Except, and here’s the hook, it’s an ole’ bait and switch, meant to lure the sinning fellas into the lions den of satanic rituals. Prior to this, we hear on the radio the aftermath of a gruesome scene detailing a cult that’s making its way through Indiana, slaughtering dozens of folks, and staged to look like it was a suicidal bloodbath. Come to find out, there are no Satanists. Only Alexis and her posse of evildoers who claim to be doing the Lord’s work and ridding the world of debauchery (hence why they target heavy metal concerts). The goal is to draw people to their congregation and deepen Pastor John Henry Butler’s (Knoxville) pockets.
In most cases, viewers will likely write off some of the early red flags about the girls true intentions (myself included) and so it was, initially, a welcome surprise when their motives were actually revealed, but from there the cat-and-mouse tactic becomes a stretch, especially as “We Summon The Darkness” is limited to one location for the duration of the film. Granted, other one-location flicks in the vein of “You’re Next” or “The Strangers” have managed to conjure spooks in lesser settings, “Darkness” spends most of the time relying on unsuspecting victims to fill the gaps, and it only goes so far.
The boys eventually escape the clutches of the girl trio and spend a majority of the film locked in a closet, which is far more engaging than the last act that’s shrouded in darkness and barely visible. Most of these antics play out with little to no invention, and the whole parable on females being the predators is an intriguing plot hook, except they aren’t given any depth beyond the first two scenes, that by the time we get to finale, the blood soaked gratuitousness expected of the film never feels earned.
We Summon The Darkness will be available to rent from various On-Demand platforms starting Friday April 10th