Double Review: “We Summon the Darkness” and “Satanic Panic”

What better way is there to follow up Easter than with a satanic horror double bill? So that’s exactly what I did watching We Summon the Darkness (available on VOD as of Friday, Apr. 10) and Satanic Panic, which dropped on Shudder back on Thursday, Mar. 19. Not all satanic horror movies are created equal as I quickly discovered during this double bill. I greatly preferred one of these pictures to the other.

We Summon the Darkness takes place in July 1988 in Indiana. Eighteen people have been murdered by a satanic cult nationwide. We’re focused on three young ladies – Alexis (Alexandra Daddario), Val (Maddie Hasson) and Bev (Amy Forsyth) – who are attending a barnstorming metal show. In the parking lot they meet three young men – Mark (Keean Johnson of Alita: Battle Angel and HBO’s Euphoria), Kovacs (Logan Miller from Love, Simon and Escape Room) and Ivan (Austin Swift, younger brother of pop superstar Taylor). The sextuplet proceed to toke up, shotgun a buncha beers and enjoy the concert together. Afterwards they take the party to Alexis’ family’s secluded, palatial mansion and all hell breaks loose. Jackass frontman Johnny Knoxville also factors in as a deep-pocketed pastor.

We Summon the Darkness really makes a meal of its ‘80s pastiche. The period details seem pretty spot-on – I especially enjoyed the era-appropriate Twinkies boxes that kept popping up as the girls are incessantly noshing on the snack cakes. The film is directed by Marc Meyers (My Friend Dahmer, which I never saw, but heard was good) and written by Alan Trezza (scribe of previous Daddario-starrer Burying the Ex – this movie’s much better than that one). The devil is in the details here – a recurring joke about one character always having to pee actually pays dividends, the ‘80s synth score evokes horror flicks of yore and the metal references dropped read as authentic (I’m assuming Trezza is a metalhead.). We Summon the Darkness doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but what it does it does well and sports enough twists and turns to keep audiences engaged.

Satanic Panic, which was produced by horror rag Fangoria (certainly a staple of my early-to-mid adolescence), is a big ole wet fart of a film. The picture focuses upon Sam (Hayley Griffith), a pizza delivery driver working her first night on the gig. She takes a call to deliver pies outside of their service area. As the delivery is in an affluent area, she figures she’ll score a fat tip. Not only is she stiffed, her moped runs out of gas. Pissed and seeking assistance, Sam enters the villa without invitation. She happens upon the beginnings of a satanic ritual being overseen by Danica Ross (Rebecca Romijn). The Satanists are portrayed by a random hodgepodge of actors – comedic actress Arden Myrin, writer/director/producer/cinematographer Michael Polish, Rob Zombie player Jeff Daniel Phillips and Hollywood royalty/horror staple Jordan Ladd (granddaughter of Alan Ladd, daughter of Cheryl Ladd and star of Cabin Fever, Club Dread and Death Proof). The Satanists are in need of a virgin to complete their ritual. Luckily for them, Sam is one. Sam must team with Danica’s dejected daughter, Judi (Ruby Modine, daughter of actor Matthew Modine) in order to survive the night. Popping up in supporting roles are a tighty-whitey and bad haircut-rocking Jerry O’Connell (probably done as a favor to his better half, Romijn), indie horror “It Boy” AJ Bowen as Sam’s concupiscent co-worker and Birdemic: Shock and Terror starlet Whitney Moore sporting a ginormous jackhammer dildo.

Satanic Panic is the feature debut of director Chelsea Stardust (What a name!) and it shows. I worry her hair dye seeped into her brain and effected the final product. It’s a cardinal sin for a horror comedy to be neither funny nor scary. There are no laughs or jolts to be had here. What’s worse, for a movie produced by Fangoria the gore’s a bore too.

We Summon the Darkness – 3.5/5, Satanic Panic – 1/5

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