The trouble with “big twist” thrillers is that you’ve got to have a lot more than twist going for you. Otherwise, the rest of the movie just feels perfunctory.
“We Summon the Darkness” is a Satanic murder cult tale that might have worked as a horror comedy. I mean, Johnny Knoxville‘s in it. And horror fans are known for laughing at inventively-staged slaughter.
But the emphasis is on formula and tedium in this “Weren’t things great in ’88?” bust.
Three heavy metal chicks, played by Alexandra Daddario, Maddie Hasson and Amy Forsyth, are road tripping through Indiana to a 1988 concert when they run into three svan bros (Logan Miller, Keean Johnson, Austin Swift) at the show.
It’s been established that the girls “can fend for ourselves,” that there’s a “Satanic murder cult” on the loose, that a TV preacher (Knoxville) is always inveighing against heavy metal in his sermons, and that these three stoners the girls have just met are boors.
But as they all banter about Ozzy and the death of Randy Rhoads, “hair metal” and how Metallica just isn’t the same “since Dave Mustaine was fired,” a bond is formed, a “Let’s party” vibe established.
And then? “You guys wanna play a GAME?” “Never Have I Ever” it is. That’s when it all goes down.
Daddario, the hardest working woman in show business, gives fair value as a leather vixen of the Big Hair era, and Hasson (TV’s “Mr. Mercedes”) makes a convincing Madonna-wannabe.
Nobody else in the cast stands out, even when the script sets them up to be.
The draw here, the element of the project that probably attracted Daddario, Knoxville, Johnson (“Alita: Battle Angel”) and the rest, was director Marc Meyers, of “My Friend Dahmer” and this month’s all-star drama “Human Capital.”
But “Darkness” plays like a quick paycheck picture in the Meyers canon. It sort of mopes along, a flatfooted formula film that never picks up the pace, amps up the action or finds the potential fun in the subject matter.
Every plot element is a way-past-expiration trope of the genre, with no new spin to make it fresh or new. Young people packed in a Jeep Cherokee for the obligatory stop at the creepy rural convenience store? The house party in a remote locale where no one can hear the screams or gunshots?
It’s not awful, not “so bad it’s good,” either. Take away the “twist,” which you’ve guessed and which anybody seeing the trailer or even the poster could figure out, and “We Summon the Darkness” only summons tedium.
MPAA Rating: R for bloody violence, pervasive language, some drug use and sexual references
Cast: Alexandra Daddario, Maddie Hasson, Amy Forsyth, Logan Miller, Keean Johnson, Austin Swift and Johnny Knoxville.
Credits: Directed by Marc Meyers, script by Alan Treza . A Saban Entertainment release.