[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.

2.5/5
-Kyle A. Goethe

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

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Director: Jonathan Liebesman

Cast: Megan Fox, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszak, Noel Fisher, Will Arnett, Danny Woodburn, William Fichter, Johnny Knoxville, Tony Shalhoub

Screenplay: John Applebaum, Andre Nemec, Evan Daugherty

101 mins.  Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence.

 

 

The Ninja Turtles are back! Go Ninja Go Ninja Go!, and while they may not be the same Teenage Mutants that we knew from previous installments, and they may not be as good yet, fans who are willing to jump in and evolve with the franchise will find some thrills here.

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This year’s TMNT sees our fabled turtles meeting up with April O’Neil (Megan Fox, Transformers, This is 40) and her partner Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett, TV’s Bojack Horseman, The Lego Movie) to stop an evil corporate tycoon (William Fichter, The Dark Knight, Elysium) allied with the vicious Shredder from unleashing a fatal toxin the general public. Pretty normal fare, I know that, and it isn’t all winners, so let’s break it down.

Megan Fox is just terrible. She is the worst April O’Neil I have ever seen, and it isn’t particularly difficult as far as roles go. Luckily she has some solid help from the always wonderful Will Arnett as Vernon, the video guy that wants in April’s jumpsuit. Arnett is the absolute saving grace performer here, as he gives nods to his other likable roles (did anybody else see him make the parmesan mustard sandwich from Arrested Development?) and provides us with exactly what this picture sometimes lacked: levity.

My only other major character qualm is in the form of the ruthless Shredder, a very underdeveloped monstrosity who serves only as the “final boss” of this video game of a film. In the inevitable sequel, I want more Shredder. I want to know Shredder like I did in the live-action 90s predecessor.

The turtles are much more developed individuals, and I can see the similarities between this incarnation and the 2003 animated series. I like that we see some more fleshed out characters, the animosity and rivalry between Leonardo and Raphael, the often giggle-able Michelangelo, and the kooky and odd machine-freak Donatello.

The major win here is the effects. I know watching the trailer made my stomach churn as I imagined really badly animated turtles, but thankfully, some solid fixing up before the release made this an extravaganza.

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Well, this incarnation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles wasn’t perfect by any means, but I would disagree with former Turtle performer Robbie Rist, who at one time claimed that Michael Bay was sodomizing the characters (please South Park, do not dig too deeply into this). I think that these are turtles with room to grow and develop further, and to be honest, I didn’t really find them cringe-worthy (a fear I had previously held). This movie is fun. I already hear rumblings of a sequel and I hope that the creative team is willing to take time to listen to the feedback they received for this initial outing and use it to make the second installment worthy of the TMNT moniker. For now though, I had a lot of fun at the theater, and if you see this film willing to actually give it a go, I think you will be presently surprised.

 

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Did you enjoy some ninja pizza or did your enjoyment vanish quickly without trace? Let me know!

 

For my review of Jonathan Liebesman’s Darkness Falls, click here.

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