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Film / We Summon the Darkness

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It's going to be one hell of a party.
We Summon the Darkness is a 2019 horror/thriller film directed by Marc Myers, written by Alan Trezza, and starring Alexandra Daddario, Keean Johnson, Maddie Hasson, Amy Forsyth, Logan Miller, Austin Swift, and Johnny Knoxville. It premiered at Fantastic Fest on September 21, 2019 before being released on demand by Saban Films on April 10, 2020.

Set in Indiana, 1988, Alexis (Daddario), Val (Hasson), and Bev (Forsyth) are three friends who head to a heavy metal concert during the Satanic Panic. They pick up three guys, Mark (Keean Johnson), Kovacs (Miller), and Ivan (Austin Swift), and bring them back to Alexis's father's house for a night of fun that soon takes a dark turn for everyone involved.

This film contains the following tropes:

  • '80s Hair: Given a very light touch, given the subject matter.
    • Alexis sports a hint of crimping, and Val dowses a lock of hair in hair spray, but all three girls' hairstyles look pretty modern. Compare the vast clouds of hair worn by actual metal concert-goers in the 1980s. Val's use of flammable hairspray does become a plot point, though.
    • Of the guys, Mark and Ivan have short and very tame mullets that are hard to even notice. Kovacs just looks timelessly shaggy.
  • Abusive Dad: Pastor Butler to Alexis, whom he brainwashed. He later tries to strangle her to death for messing up his plan.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Alexis quotes Isaiah 66:16 as she prepares to use a makeshift flamethrower against Mark and Kovacs.
  • Ax-Crazy: Alexis and Val turn out to be quite unhinged, in killing anything in their path.
  • Big Bad: Pastor John Henry Butler is the one who brainwashed Alexis, who in turn likely brainwashed Val and tried to do the same to Bev.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Bev knocks Pastor Butler back when he's trying to choke Alexis.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Mark and Bev escape with a big chunk of cash, and Alexis and Val are dead, but Pastor Butler is able to continue deceiving people into accepting Jesus by claiming that Alexis was responsible for everything without his knowledge.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: All three girls explain their evil plan to their victims, then leave their two remaining victims alone for a while to have a conversation, trusting that their victims won't be able to escape their bonds while unsupervised. They do.
  • Chainsaw Good: Bev wields an outboard motor through the third act of the film.
  • Closed Circle: The action begins once everyone arrives at the house, and it stays there until the end.
  • Corrupt Church: Pastor Butler, who is pocketing his parishioners' donations to spend on his luxurious lifestyle, including multiple mansions.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: Alexis turns out to be the daughter of Pastor John Henry Butler and a proud follower of his scheme to deceive people into embracing Christianity.
  • Destination Defenestration: Bev throws Alexis out a bedroom window during their climactic fight.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Alexis drives, dictates what gets played on the stereo, and orders the others around during their trip to the concert, establishing her as the leader.
    • Val makes crass jokes, smokes, and says she hasn't washed in two days, establishing her as the wild one.
    • Bev is reluctant to share a drink with the other girls, showing that she has more scruples than the others.
  • False Flag Operation: Butler's congregation make their murders look like the work of a made-up Satanic cult.
  • Foreshadowing: A few points foreshadow the revelation that the girls are only pretending to be metalheads and are actually murderous Christian fanatics of Pastor Butler:
    • Val and Alexis discuss the idea that make-up is modern "war paint."
    • The gas station clerk, in spite of being a fan of Pastor Butler and his anti-metal rhetoric, says that the trio of metalheads "seem like nice girls."
    • When the girls are in the car, they spend most of the trip not listening to music but do briefly listen to a news report on the Satanic cult.
    • When the guys first meet the girls, they ask them about the first concert they went to. Alexis fumbles for an answer before Bev provides it.
    • When discussing recent events in metal music around the firepit, Alexis's statements must be corrected by others.
    • Alexis becomes especially outraged when Mark calls John Henry Butler an "asshole preacher." Turns out, he's her father.
    • Mark is wearing a pentagram. Notably, it is not upside down, which is more closely associated with Satanism. Being right side up, it is a symbol of protection from evil. This indicates that not only is he a decent person, but also that heavy metal isn't Satanic or evil and neither are heavy metal fans.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Alexandra Daddario and Maddie Hasson clearly had a ball and chew quite a lot of scenery as the villains.
  • Frame-Up: Butler does this to Alexis at the end in order, claiming that she was responsible for everything in order to deflect blame from himself.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The scene cuts to black and a scream plays when Alexis is run over.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Mark shatters two wine bottles and puts duct tape around the necks to use as stabbing weapons. He stabs Bev, but it doesn't do much damage, luckily for him.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: The film starts out with a group of regular female metalheads picking up some strange guys at a concert during a serial killing spree. The second half is about the girls trapping the guys in a mansion and trying to kill them as part of the "Satanic" killing spree.
  • Hypocrite: In spite of being Christian fanatics, Alexis and Val drink, smoke, and shout "God damn it!"
  • Improvised Weapon: Bev grabs an outboard motor for a boat and uses it like a chainsaw.
  • I Never: The girls and the guys play this. It takes a sinister turn when it turns out Alexis spiked the guys' drinks with a tranquilizer.
  • It Began with a Twist of Fate: One of the guy throws a milkshake out a window in the highway that happens to hit the windshield of the girls' car. This leads to Alexis choosing them as victims for the fake ritual killing and all the events that follow from that.
  • Just a Flesh Wound:
    • Bev gets stabbed in the back with a shattered wine bottle, but never seems to actually be injured when she stands up, presumably because the leather jacket absorbed most of it.
    • Mark gets shot and doesn't think he can even make it to the car by the time the whole ordeal is over. But a few hours later, he's still in the car with Bev and seemingly doing OK in spite of receiving no medical attention.
  • Karma Houdini: In the end, Pastor Butler remains in a position to continue his "holy" work after Alexis is killed trying to stop Bev and Mark from escaping.
  • Killed Offscreen: Strangely, both villains who die do so off-screen (Val runs away and burns to death and Alexis is only implied to be run over by the Jeep), while all of their victims are killed on screen in graphic detail.
  • Knight Templar: Pastor Butler, Alexis, and Val. Butler has Alexis and Val kill unsuspecting people so new outlets will blame the murders on Satanic cults and people will turn to Butler's congregation for salvation. Butler even states "I'm the wrath of God" after he shoots an injured Kovacs.
  • Last-Name Basis: Kovacs is always referred to as Kovacs.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Alexis and Mark both wear studded leather jackets to the concert. Mark eventually lets Bev wear his jacket, which becomes a plot point when he stabs her in the back with a shattered wine bottle. It doesn't penetrate deep, presumably because the jacket took the brunt of it.
  • Made of Iron: Alexis survives a fall from a second-story window. However, she clearly doesn't survive a head-on collision with a truck.
  • Male Gaze: The camera eats up the three metalhead girls, even though it's the guys who strip down to their underwear.
  • Not Quite Dead:
    • After getting shot, Kovacs drags himself inside to provide one final warning.
    • After falling out of a window, Alexis is still alive, though she does little but stumble into the road and get run over afterward.
  • Police Are Useless: The cop who arrives does not call for backup and tries to arrest the wrong people before getting killed with his own gun.
  • Present-Day Past: The $100 bill on the front of the stack that Bev picks up is the large-portrait design introduced in 1996. Strangely, the bill on top of the stack she leaves in the tray is period-appropriate to 1988.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Bev gives one to Alexis and Val about what they're doing.
  • Running Gag: Val constantly has to urinate. After first stating her need to pee on the way to the concert, her friends tell her to stop drinking so much soda. When they depart from the gas station, she's drinking from an enormous cup of soda. There's never really a final joke to the gag, but it does affect the plot when Val joins Alexis and Bev in the bathroom so she can pee, allowing the surviving men to escape while they're alone.
  • Satanic Panic: Set during the Satanic Panic and discusses it in great detail, revolving around a fear that heavy metal musicians were sacrificing young women to Satan. But it is ultimately true to the "panic" part as it turns out to be a hoax perpetuated by a preacher and his daughter, who stage fake "Satanic" murders in order to scare people into converting to Christianity.
  • Sinister Minister: Pastor Butler is the mastermind behind the murders, plus he's pocketing money from his parishioners to build more houses for himself. He also shoots a grievously-wounded Kovacs, declaring "I'm the wrath of God" after he does so, and shoots Mark when he's strangling Alexis.
  • The Snack Is More Interesting: Pastor Butler snacks on a beer and cookie while people are fighting for their lives in his house.
  • Sweet Tooth: In spite of all being very slender, the villains are obsessed with sweets. Alexis and Val are constantly eating Twinkies and Ding Dongs, and Val is chastised for drinking so much soda. Pastor Butler also snacks on a cookie as soon as he gets home.
  • Title Drop: The satanic cult's name is the film's title.
  • Token Good Teammate: Bev is the least evil of the villains and the only one to show hesitation over killing. She eventually pulls a Heel–Face Turn upon realizing that Pastor Butler is fleecing his flock.
  • Ungrateful Bitch: After Bev saves her life when her father is trying to choke her, Alexis repays her by immediately trying to kill her.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Pastor Butler passes himself off a spiritual leader, when he's really a murderous cult leader who is stealing from his own cult.
  • Wham Line: "Never have I ever drugged someone's drink." Followed by all three girls drinking.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Mark hits Alexis and then Val with a tray while fleeing from the girls. Of course, he does have to.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Pastor Butler decides to strangle Alexis to death after she bungles the murders.