'We Summon the Darkness' Finds the Fun In Satanic Panic

The road to hell has rarely been this entertaining.

We Summon The Darkness

If you lived through the 80s you probably recall how Satan was everywhere. Families huddled in fear inside their suburban shelters while the devil’s followers killed and diddled kids with abandon, and there wasn’t a damn thing people could do about it aside from watch more talk shows on the topic. Devil worshipers were always present in horror, but the real world gave them a big bump in the 80s and beyond, and while some tackle the phenomenon with terror and tension others take a lighter route. We Summon the Darkness is one of the latter that looks back on the decade and the phenomenon with both bloodshed and big laughs.

Three friends — Alexis (Alexandra Daddario), Val (Maddie Hasson), and Bev (Amy Forsyth) — head to a heavy metal rock concert, and amid their banter and talk about Twinkies, makeup, and small bladders sits news of Satanic killings targeting metal fans. The news cautions listeners, a popular TV preacher (Johnny Knoxville) suggests it’s a battle against evil, and a gas station attendant warns the trio to be careful, but the confidence of youth is legendary. The girls meet up with three young guys — Mark (Keean Johnson), Kovacs (Logan Miller), and Ivan (Austin Swift) — looking to keep the party going even after the show ends, and in an effort to control their surroundings Alexis invites them back to her parents’ house. They won’t all live to see the sunrise.

We Summon the Darkness is a horror/comedy that punctuates a fun sense of humor with some brutal kills, and it captures beautifully the absurdity of society’s not brief enough detour into “satanic panic.” It’s a funny, energetic, and bloody good time for genre fans with enough compelling turns, charismatic performances, and violent thrills to make it a new favorite. The story plays around some with convention, but even knowing those turns in advance can’t damper the fun.

Alan Trezza‘s script sees him returning to the horror/comedy well, but where the pieces of Burying the Ex (2014) were far greater than the whole, the balance here is spot on with its story, dialogue, and characters all working together to bring the goods. Marc Meyers shows a deft directorial hand with those tonal shifts, and while his previous films (My Friend Dahmer, 2017; Human Capital, 2019) tread far more serious ground he feels clearly at home with the comedy. Fun verbal exchanges bounce around physical antics, and the cast is fully on board.

They’re a big draw here and an equally big part of why it all works, and that starts with Daddario. She’s always a welcome presence on the screen, but where she’s too often shortchanged with the role of girlfriend, daughter, “hot” girl and so on, here she’s given a character she can really sink her teeth into. And even better? She delivers. Alexis is a bad-ass spitfire and leader whose energy and enthusiasm are contagious as she fights tooth and nail (and knife and gun and fire…), and the others follow by example. Hasson is equally delightful offering up a range of expressions to the unfolding horrors that leave viewers laughing in shock with her. Everyone is having a good time, and it shows, and that includes Knoxville who plays severely against type with his dour evangelical pastor.

It’s a brightly lit horror movie, one that never leans too heavily into efforts to remind viewers that it’s set in the 80s, and it uses both fashion and the soundtrack wisely. Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven Is a Place on Earth” works as a suitably ironic cue as characters fight over the quaint idea whether or not they’re going to heaven or hell, and as it echoes through the house it makes for an equally effective mood piece. There’s not an abundance of it, but the bloodletting is its own sly call back to the 80s with a welcome reliance on practical effects.

We Summon the Darkness is great fun and never skimps on either the humor or the the horror. People will go through quite a bit to survive, and some will work even harder to ensure others don’t, but regardless which side of the coin you find yourself on it’s better to go out with a smile.

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