Thursday, April 09, 2020

We Summon the Darkness: Leave it Unbidden

In the 1980s, people still believed the word “evil” had tangible meaning. These days, people are embarrassed by the concept and increasingly resentful when anyone points out its manifestations. Hence, the mass murderers committed by the likes of Richard Ramirez and the Matamoros cult are dismissed with the pejorative term: “satanic panic.” This film takes matters a step further, using “satanic panic” to cast jujitsu-like shade on conventional Christianity in Marc Meyers’ We Summon the Darkness, which releases this Friday on VOD platforms.

Frankly, this film’s worst sin in its slow-as-molasses start. After nearly half-an-hour, the major characters are still farting around in the parking lot after a head-banging heavy metal concert. Metalheads Alexis, Val, and their new friend Bev invite three losers to come back and party with them, even though they could easily pick-up much better-looking guys, thereby making us instantly suspicious. Needless to say, it is not the women viewers should be worried for, but they are only using the trappings of Satanism, in what could be called a false flag operation.

Granted, Chelsea Stardust’s Satanic Panic got a little scoldy in its class warfare finger-wagging, but it was still consistently funny and enormously energetic. In contrast, Meyers and screenwriter Alan Trezza focus on literally demonizing Evangelical Christianity, to the exclusion of nearly everything else. Only the bloody over-the-top mayhem of the final twenty minutes makes any inroads towards redemption—so to speak.

To give credit where it is due, Alexandra Daddario gets impressively deranged playing the trio’s queen bee, Alexis (a character that should probably be a good fifteen years younger than she is—in the 1980s-Michael J. Fox tradition). Maddie Hasson also has some memorably unhinged moments as Val, the one with the weak bladder. However, the rest of the cast is rather colorless and nondescript. Problematically, that also includes Johnny Knoxville as the sinister TV evangelist (is there any other kind in this film’s world?), Pastor John Henry Butler.

Imagine remaking The Exorcist, but making it all a hoax perpetrated by an attention-seeking Father Karras. Then ask yourself why anyone would do such a thing. Summon is not so very different from that troubling hypothetical film. It trivializes the concept of evil and undercuts the moral standing of the Christian denominations most determined to stand against it. The truth is most of us horror movie fans believe in this stuff on some level. That’s why we watch so compulsively, but this film tells us we a stupid to do so. Fine, good luck with the VOD release. Not Recommended, We Summon the Darkness will not be in theaters this Friday (4/10).