There seems to be a slew of media set during the 1980s right now. Things like IT or Stranger Things being prominent examples. Whilst a lot of this stems from nostalgia, especially as those who grew up in or were born in the 80s are taking over film and television production, sometimes it can feel like thing are being made in that era just so movie makers can cram the backgrounds full of things from their childhood. We Summon The Darkness, on the other hand, actually seems to have a good reason to be set during the 80s, and doesn’t just cram 80s references down people’s throats.
The United States was being swept by a moral panic during the 80s, one that would go on to be known as the ‘Satanic Panic’, where some conservative and religious people blamed the moral decay of the youth on the influence of heavy metal music. This was the time when music had hidden messages that turned teenagers into worshippers of Satan, especially if you played their records backwards, if the claims of the morally outraged were to be believed. We Summon The Darkness not only uses this as a backdrop for its story, but makes it the heart of everything that happens.
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Three teenage girls, Alexis (Alexandra Daddario), Val (Maddie Hasson), and Bev (Amy Forsyth) begin the film driving to a heavy metal concert, and we get some time at the beginning of the film getting to know them. They seem like pretty normal girls, excited to go and see one of their favourite bands live. Along the way they meet a group of guys, and the six teens seem to hit it off; so much so that the girls take the guys back to Alexis’ parents house after the concert.
This is where the film takes something of a shift, however, and the girls that you were probably expecting to be the victims of the piece turn into coldblooded killers. The shift is actually quite scary, and the moment that Alexis and Val switch off their nice girl act is very creepy. They were so convincing as nice, fun-loving young women that their change to villains becomes such a dramatic moment. It really shows off the acting ability of both Daddario and Hasson, as they play two completely different people in the latter half of the film.
The girls plan to murder the three boys and make it look like a ritual killing, in order to draw more people to God and the church, should be fairly simple on the surface, yet seems to go wrong at every point. There’s almost an element of farce, as one problem happens after another to derail the scheme. Whilst these moments border on the ridiculous, the film never quite makes that step over the line into dark comedy; a move that I was expecting as Johnny Knoxville is a part of the cast.
I was expecting the film to become comedic at some point because of Knoxville, as everything I’d seen him involved in before had been humerus in some way. Both Knoxville and director Marc Meyers subverted this expectation quite nicely, and Knoxville was actually very good in a serious role.
We Summon The Darkness doesn’t really do a whole lot new with its plot, and wasn’t a film that set my world on fire, but it did have good production values, a well written script with some great dialogue and believable character interaction, and a cast that genuinely impressed. I can think of a lot worse ways to spend an hour and a half.