With theaters closed I continue to turn to streaming to get my new release fix and over the past week one film that’s been recommended to me a few times is a new horror thriller called “We Summon the Darkness”. Released by Saban Films and starring the likes of Alexandra Daddario, Johnny Knoxville, Logan Miller, Keean Johnson, Maddie Hasson and Amy Forsyth this direct-to-streaming feature from “My Friend Dahmer” director Marc Meyers promised an intriguing female-driven horror experience focusing on satanic cults and blood soaked action. The final result is indeed a bloodbath but one that may feel too familiar and too downplayed to satisfy those seeking something a little more insane. This is my review of “We Summon the Darkness”.
Going into this film I felt it had a lot of promise. There were several great names in the cast and the trailers made it look like a neat, maybe even amusing new take on the murder cult horror cliché. Before watching it I saw plenty of critics and fans praising it as a great time with fun acting and storytelling and a sharp script. I have no idea what movie they were watching because that’s not what I got from this film. “We Summon the Darkness” isn’t near as innovative, cheeky or fun as it should have been. I probably shouldn’t have expected much from a film that even in better times would have likely been a straight to streaming release. To it’s credit “We Summon the Darkness” does have some neat flair for the dramatic, but it squanders its potential with poor execution, uninspired directing and storytelling, and plot twists that the writers probably thought were more clever than they really are. Within the first 15 minutes I had the film pegged and knew exactly what to expect. Again to its credit it does start off appearing to follow a more predictable formula only to subvert expectations. I’ll admit the twist is cool and probably one of the most inspired elements of the movie, but it spoils the fun when the big reveal is telegraphed so early with little sleight of hand to hide it. It almost would have been a bigger shock to me if it stuck with the more traditional formula it appears to embrace at the start. By the time we see what’s really going on we pretty much already know so the shock isn’t there nor is the jaw dropping bombshell that really helps sell a good twist.
Even if you can forgive the obviousness of the U-turn the film inevitably takes in an effort to do its own thing the ensuing bloodbath doesn’t exactly make up for it. The justifications and motivations for the killers’ actions are not only misguided, they make no damn sense which made it extremely difficult for me to invest in any of the violence or terror of the scenario. Once the bodies start piling up you can pretty much tell who is going to bite the dust. Even if you can’t exactly predict how someone will die, they feel more like foregone conclusions when they finally do meet their end like a bad slasher film filled with expendable teenagers. The camerawork and editing do the movie no favors either. The whole experience feels wooden and choppy. Everything from the set pieces and music to the shooting style all scream low budget production. It’s the kind of movie I remember watching from the straight-to-DVD shelf at Blockbuster on a Friday night when that label meant something. Maybe that’s the point though. This isn’t the kind of movie you go to watch to be blown away or inspired. It’s the kind of thriller simply meant to entertain on the most basic level and if that was the mission that’s really all it does.
I’ll give it this, the cast feels like they’re into it which was enough to at least keep me invested throughout the thankfully short run time. Alexandra Daddario specifically feels like she’s having a ball in this movie while Maddie Hasson has a few scene stealing moments. Amy Forsyth, who earned her horror stripes in 2018’s “Hell Fest”, proves she has some genuine scream queen potential even if she is often overshadowed by her fellow leads. The male characters are much less memorable with even Johnny Knoxville feeling like he’s phoning it in as a fanatical preacher. If the plot and directing fail to suck you in as was the case for me, the performances do a lot more justice to this film and give it that fun edge that should have been injected into every aspect of the production. Sadly that only proves just how much wasted potential there is with this film. It’s a neat idea that required a better script, bigger budget and more imaginative directing to truly capitalize on everything it had going for it.
“We Summon the Darkness” won’t win over anyone looking for something more thought provoking, sophisticated or unique, but maybe that wasn’t the point. It’s meant to entertain and thrill those looking for something more fun and less serious and if that’s your endgame well maybe this movie offers enough to tide you over. I can’t say it doesn’t try to do something different I just wish it tried harder and did it better. For everything it does to subvert expectations it fails to keep the suspense high or the thrills thrilling. Thankfully the leading ladies do enough to save this movie from being a complete waste of time, but this won’t go down as any of their best work. In the end it’s a fun idea that only offers a small glimpse of the thrilling bloodbath we could have had. This isn’t a flick I would recommend personally, but I don’t think I’m the kind of person it was made to entertain. Could it have been worse? Absolutely! But it also could have been so much better and it’s that wasted potential that annoys me the most.