[31 Days of Horror Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan] Day 18 – We Summon the Darkness (2019)

Director: Marc Meyers
Cast: Alexandra Daddario, Keean Johnson, Maddie Hasson, Logan Miller, Amy Forsyth, Austin Swift, Johnny Knoxville
Screenplay: Alan Trezza
91 mins. Rated R for bloody violence, pervasive language, some drug use and sexual references.

Satanic Panic in horror has been a slow-moving trend in horror for a few years now. Not satanic panic in the traditional sense, but the type of horror that commits to a satirical view of the insanity faced by the public in the 80s. We Summon the Darkness is one of those films, and it looked like a lot of fun. Yeah, it sure LOOKED that way.

Alexis (Alexandra Daddario, Baywatch, TV’s The White Lotus) and her two friends are road-tripping to see a favorite heavy metal band, fully aware that there’s been a string of satanic killings going around the area recently, and bodies are piling up. Once they arrive, they make friends with another group of three, led by Ivan (Austin Swift, Cover Versions, Breaking the Whales), and Alexis invites them to hang out at her dad’s house. What starts as a fun night evolves quickly into a dangerous and unpredictable night that will test each of their survival skills.

We Summon the Darkness is a movie of wants and missed opportunities. It wants so desperately to enter into that canon of stylistic, sassy, and conceptual single-location horror movies like Ready or Not and You’re Next. It aims for this realm and completely misses it. There are a number of reasons why this happens, but let’s start with what works.

Alexandra Daddario is a solid and effective lead in the film. This is an actress that has some serious talent, but she’s consistently overlooked because people are so focused on her looks, but I’ve continued to see an steady climb in her acting abilities, and she’s fun and engaging as Alexis. While she may not be written in the best way, Daddario puts her all into it.

Most of the other performances work well enough for what the film is, but I’d like to focus on Logan Miller (Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions) as Kovacks, a member of the group of guys that Alexis meets at the concert. Miller is seemingly placed in unlikable roles throughout his young career, and he’s really good at them, but he works pretty well in most of his performances. I remember being swayed by him in Escape Room, and he adds layers to a character that maybe should be more forgettable.

The reveals that come up in this movie are so overwrought and easily guessable that it takes a lot of the excitement out of the movie. Five minutes in and you could guess just about every major plot point. I did, and I was pretty much right about all of it. That’s the problem that plagues We Summon the Darkness: the predictability kills it. That’s a tough thing to work around, and it looks like director Marc Meyers (My Friend Dahmer, All My Life) and screenwriter Alan Trezza (Burying the Ex) were unable to overcome that issue. With that issue comes the cardinal sin of horror: boredom. This movie just kind of bored me, and while it isn’t an experience-killing boredom, I don’t ever see myself watching this movie again.

There are also a few production goofs that, on their own, wouldn’t have mattered, but with the amount of issues in the film, they really took me out. Issues like a movie set in 1988 using newer paper money designs or the Bluetooth light in the girls’ car. These seem like small issues but each time they came up, I was pushed back out of the limited focus that the movie had on me. Everyone has an amount of investment they can afford to lose before they lose focus on the movie, and this one pummeled me just enough to lose me often.

We Summon the Darkness could work for some people, but I’m convinced that many of them have not seen better movies that do what this film can do but better. It wants to be subversive, and it’s mildly entertaining purely for its performances, but it could’ve been so much more. It should’ve been so much more.

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 11 – Hell Fest (2018)

Director: Gregory Plotkin

Cast: Amy Forsyth, Reign Edwards, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Tony Todd

Screenplay: Seth M. Sherwood, Blair Butler, Akela Cooper

89 mins. Rated R for horror violence, and language including some sexual references.


Damn, this movie made me want to visit a haunt real bad.

In Hell Fest, Natalie (Amy Forsyth, A Christmas Horror Story, TV’s Channel Zero) returns to her former apartment to find that her best friend Brooke (Reign Edwards, 35 and Ticking, TV’s The Bold and the Beautiful) has rented out her old room to Taylor (Bex Taylor-Klaus, The Last Witch Hunter, TV’s Voltron), an old classmate who did not get along well with Natalie. Brooke won’t let Natalie sulk about it for long, though, because tonight is all about Hell Fest, a traveling horror theme park set up during the Halloween season. What they do not expect, though, is that a masked killer has entered Hell Fest this year, and he plans on taking out his murderous rage on Natalie and her friends.

Hell Fest was a fun time, but it didn’t feel like it met its unique setting with a unique style. The Hell Fest setting is rather cool, but at times, it made the film feel very repetitive. As the haunts progress into more and more terrifying, I didn’t feel like the haunts actually became scarier. They became a little too distracting.

The performances fluctuated between serviceable and awful. Edwards delivers some truly terrible lines. The only performance that I truly enjoyed was the quick near-cameo performance of Tony Todd (Candyman, Death House) as The Barker of Hell Fest. Todd knows how to get the most from his limited screen time, and he isn’t utilized greatly, but he is a lot of fun.

The design of the killer in the film was made by Tony Gardner’s company, which also created the masks for Scream and Happy Death Day. The killer is rather unnerving, as is his limited background.

Director Gregory Plotkin (Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension) worked very well with atmosphere and visual appeal in the film. He does ride a line between cheesy and frightening with the world he has created.

Hell Fest is a fun time and could make for an interesting franchise, but the first film stumbles pretty often. The performances don’t really work, the pacing is a little off, and the film feels repetitive. The look of the killer and the atmosphere surrounding him make for an enjoyable experience, but a flawed one nonetheless.



-Kyle A. Goethe

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