By: Kayla Caldwell
WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS is a strange, twisted thrill ride that you won’t want to end. Director Marc Meyers takes the well-known (and ridiculous) satanic panic concept, and completely turns it on its head. You think you know what’s coming, but, trust me, you don’t.
First of all, Johnny effing Knoxville is in it, and he plays a religious zealot? Now, I’m not saying I was ever a diehard Jack*ss fan, but still - seeing Knoxville as Pastor John Henry Butler is a trip. As a pastor during the satanic panic, Butler, of course, denounces the evils of rock music.
And as young people in the 80s, Alexis (Alexandra Daddario), Val (Maddie Hasson), and Bev (Amy Forsyth) could not care less. No pastor is going to stop them from going to rock shows. So the movie begins with the three of them on the road, dressed in their edgiest best.
Val is over-the-top, dramatic, and absolutely delightful. She has to pee just about every five minutes, and will find a moment to relieve herself no matter what is going on. And I really do mean no matter what. Was that foreshadowing enough?
She and Alex are clearly bigger personalities than Bev, who is a bit more quiet and reserved. She’s new to this trio. She comes across as a bit skittish, especially after noticing a newspaper with a story about one of the recent gruesome satanic killings. However, Alex cavalierly brushes it off, telling her, “This is supposed to scare other people, not us.” You know that’s going to come back later.
The girls conveniently run into a group of three guys heading into the show. Their conversation is actually really accurate to the time period, what with the film taking place in 1988. It’s really cool to see a movie so dedicated to setting the scene. It made it even easier to get sucked into the plot.
Anyway, the guys are kind of dorky, but attractive enough to humor, save for Mark (Keean Johnson), who really grew on me. (Sad news is: he’s younger than my little sister. Crush revoked.) Another fun fact: joke-cracking Ivan is Austin Swift, AKA Taylor Swift’s brother. (Yes, that Taylor Swift.)
He, Mark, and Kovacs kind of get on their nerves at first, but Alex says, “they’re kind of perfect.” She’s obviously up to something — but not quite yet. Take in the reassuring normalcy of young people dancing at a concert, because things are about to get weird.
The girls invite the guys back to Alex’s place, and, of course, they say yes. The house is, of course, a sprawling mansion with a massive backyard. This is where Bev really starts to get nervous. Meyers slowly turns up the anticipation in this part of the movie until it’s almost too much to bear. And it is delicious. Things really come to a head during a rousing game of “Never Have I Ever,” which gives me flashbacks to having to play that game about a million times during pledging.
I’ll try my best not to spoil anything here, because it truly is such a fun ride. However, I will say that the delivery in this next scene is something special. WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS is so delightfully unhinged. I have never liked Alexandra Daddario more.
At one point she says, “It doesn’t matter if it’s true, it only matters if they believe it,” - and if that isn't a great summary of life in America right now, then I don’t know what is.
WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS feels like it takes inspiration from cult classics like The Craft and Trick ‘r Treat. The second I finished this movie, I immediately had to text my friend (who also had a screener) that it is SO FUN, and I genuinely couldn’t wait to hear if he agreed. It’s the kind of movie that you talk about walking back to your car from the theater… and the whole ride home.
If you are bored out of your mind in quarantine, and the only thing left to do is rent WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS, then I’m telling you, you still have something to look forward to.
WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS is available for your quarantine viewing pleasure, now!