We Summon the Darkness Review: A Satanic Panic Adventure With Humor and Heavy Metal That Lacks Bite

Some things just go together effortlessly, like Robert Englund and Freddy Krueger, George Romero and zombies, and heavy metal and Satan. Back in the '80s, the rise of heavy metal and horror movies inspired a fear in America that cults were making sacrifices in honor of Satan, a period in time which is referred to as the "Satanic Panic," inciting widespread paranoia akin to the Salem Witch Trials of the 17th century. Director Marc Meyers' new film, We Summon the Darkness, capitalizes on these fears to deliver an engaging adventure full of unexpected twists, big hair, heavy metal, and Satanic sacrifices, which is ultimately a horror-comedy that keeps audiences engaged but fails to be that funny or scary.

Alexis (Alexandra Daddario), Val (Maddie Hasson), and Bev (Amy Forsyth) embark on a road trip to catch one of their favorite heavy metal acts, despite hearing various news reports about supposed Satanic sacrifices in nearby areas. The trio meets a group of fellow metalheads and invites them to a party after the concert, and when the alcohol starts to flow, shocking reveals are made about everyone's intentions that ignite a nightmarish game of cat and mouse.

While we don't want to give away any of the film's unexpected twists and turns, the film's biggest strength is the ways in which it takes preconceived notions and genre tropes and turns them on their heads. The formula of the film might feel similar to countless other throwbacks to the Satanic Panic of the '80s, but writer Alan Trezza's script makes some simple tweaks to that structure to deliver a film that feels entirely fresh. The overall arc of the film doesn't offer anything entirely surprising, but Trezza's small tweaks manage to elevate the story above many forgettable films that cover similar territory.

Much like the twists in the script help elevate the film, so does Daddario's performance, which is truly what makes the film worth watching. The actress manages to flip between frighteningly frantic and chaotically comedic from one scene to the next, as she does most of the film's heavy lifting. This should come as no surprise to genre fans, having proven how she can heighten a horror film with her roles in Texas Chainsaw 3D or We Have Always Lived in the Castle, though it's also thanks to her seemingly genuine connections with Hasson and Forsyth, as the scenes they share together are the most endearing. While some horror fans might want to get to the carnage as quickly as possible, some of the strongest scenes in We Summon the Darkness are the opening scenes that establish the friendship between the female leads.

The entire concept of the film could have easily delved into parody or stereotype, yet the cast and crew manage to walk the fine line of delivering earnest characters with genuine chemistry while never mocking any of the various elements depicted in its narrative. The conversations held about Black Sabbath and Slayer could have easily descended into parody, though these discussions and characters all sound authentic, which is yet another way the film stands out from its peers.

While there are many things We Summon the Darkness does better than its contemporaries, there's not much that it does to make it really stand out. The comedy is somewhat quirky, but nothing will really elicit more than a chuckle, and while the violence refrains from being cartoonish, there's not much about the plot that feels actually scary or any carnage that might delight those hoping for a blood-soaked adventure. The film largely feels like it plays it safe as to avoid giving audiences something predictable, but in doing so, it fails to deliver us anything exceptionally memorable.

As an entry into the genre of throwback Satanic Panic slashers, a few narrative twists and engaging characters, carried largely by Daddario, help make We Summon the Darkness a standout installment, but that restraint makes it relatively unremarkable on all other fronts.

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Rating: 3 out of 5

We Summon the Darkness lands on VOD and Digital HD on April 10th.

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