Indiana, 1988: hot-to-trot rock chick gal pals Alexis (Alexandra Daddario), Val (Maddie Hasson) and Beverly (Amy Forsyth) are on a road trip heading to a heavy metal show, blissfully ignoring the radio warning about satanic cult in the midst of a local killing spree. When a stray milkshake strikes their van’s windshield, the girls find the perpetrators at the concert. They turn out to be Mark (Keean Johnson), Ivan (Austin Swift) and Kovacs (Logan Miller), three affable aspiring musicians who, after enduring a retaliatory prank from the girls, flirt their way to an invite back to Alexis’ house for a night of drunken fun and games that take a sinister turn...
Co-produced by star Alexandra Daddario, We Summon the Darkness has a retro-Eighties thrash metal aesthetic that, despite early attempts at thematic depth in Alan Trezza's script, ultimately amounts to little more than name-checking classic bands and referencing Brat Pack stars. Marc Meyers' initially promising horror comedy starts out like a million other vintage genre items with three vacuous good time girls in tight jeans seemingly adrift in the inhospitable Midwest where an old store clerk warns them to take care out there and the vast skies seem to portend doom.
Meyers opts for a slow burn that while closer to Seventies rather than Eighties horror builds some interest in the characters before the film plays its hand. Once that twist is sprung the film detours all too briefly into an interesting ideological debate pitting religious fundamentalist dogma against the heavy metal fans’ self-image as rebels against bigotry and conformity. However the film’s satire is arguably blunted by its refusal to present religious fervour as anything but one-dimensional along with a caricatured treatment of women that reeks of the adolescent mindset behind Eighties hair metal. When it comes to poking fun at fundamentalists, Kevin Smith tackled such themes with more conviction in Red State (2011).
After that one initially potent moment of unease, We Summon the Darkness swiftly abandons all pretense at seriousness and settles into an average comedic splatter romp. One neither intense enough to rattle the nerves as a suspense thriller nor witty enough to work as dark comedy. The film cries out for a Sam Raimi-like adrenalin shot of high style to paper over the simplicity of its plot yet Meyers keeps things strangely sedate throughout with a midsection that is practically a stage-play. To the point where when Johnny Knoxville pops by with a late in the game cameo he proves as weirdly low-energy as the rest of the film. At least the rest of the cast look like their having fun. Daddario makes splendid use of those bewitching eyes while co-star-on-the-rise Maddie Hasson matches her step for step with an equally beguiling and hyper-manic turn. Even so the film is so lethargic and by numbers how it drew so much talent is a mystery.