In the 1980s, Satan lurked around every corner. He was behind your kid’s D&D game, their heavy metal records and their insistence on not being generally boring. In this new battleground, every suburban parent was a warrior against the forces of evil. Their main enemy? People who wanted to get drunk and listen to Judas Priest. It is this conflict that is at the heart of Marc Meyers‘ We Summon The Darkness.
Three metalhead best friends Val (Maddie Hasson), Beverly (Amy Forsyth), and Alexis (Alexandra Daddario) are on a road trip, with a Sons of Satan concert in their sights. At the concert, they meet a group of like-minded guys, and once the music is over, they all head back to Alexis’ parents’ house for a nightcap (or several). An evening of drinking and greasy teenage romance seems to be on the cards. However, a satanic group has been brutally offing teens all over the country, and the party could be about to end in bloodshed.
The script by Alan Trezza is excellent, and the dialogue in the opening scenes is not only functional but compelling. Establishing scenes are rarely a highlight, as it’s a brave director who makes horror fans wait for their fill of violence. Here the characters are magnetic enough to make us enjoy spending time with them, even when they aren’t fighting for their lives.
There’s a believable depth to the two friendship groups. Quips, in-jokes and shared anecdotes all have a grounded feel that leaves the audience in no doubt that these characters are thick as thieves. The boys are the kind of likeable metalhead burnouts that you’d find in 1986’s Heavy Metal Parking Lot – grotty adolescents with a kind of goofy charisma. The girls are fiercely independent and energetically rebellious. As we progress, the film begins to hint at tensions within the groups, which are also handled realistically.
In the third act, the film falls into more familiar, manic territory. It’s campy, violent fun but it’s not unintelligent. There are enough twists and turns to keep the action arresting, and Meyers never overdoes it with the violence or the whackiness, expertly walking a comedic tightrope. Johnny Knoxville plays out of type as an evangelical preacher, but he manages to bring a righteously sinister aspect to the role despite limited screen time.
Meyers and Trezza never rely solely on stereotyping or nostalgia hits for their laughs, which is very welcome in a film of this kind. There’s a distinctive kind of joy that comes from something being better than it needs to be. We Summon The Darkness could simply have provided big ’80s hair, a spattering of blood and a few heavy metal puns and been a decent throwaway horror. Instead, it went beyond the call of duty, delivering an electrifying tale of murder, a gaggle of likeable and well-realised characters and a fully fleshed-out world.