EVIL Metal vs EVILER Zealot! “We Summon the Darkness” reviewed! (Lionsgate / Digital Screener)


Set in the Midwest of the late 1980’s when a satanic cult has killed upwards of 18 people, slain in groups of threes, across the United States, three good girlfriends set forth on a road trip to a heavy metal concert. The girls bump into and befriend three aspiring musicians and fellow metal heads at the venue, inviting them to beers and some company while rocking out to killer show. The after show party moves to one of the girl’s father’s pastoral home for some late night boozing around the firepit, reminiscing about their favorite bands, and whatever else the dark night has in store for them, but the night of hedonism turns quickly into a night of terror when that satanic cult comes calling for three more souls. Some of the group isn’t truthful about their intentions and dead bodies pile up as the ritual killings aim to continue to spread.

Harking back to that killer trope oddity, a setup very keen in the 1980s, of a mysterious killer hiding behind a friendly façade, “We Summon the Darkness” is a modern day remembrance of such a subgenre in the slasher-survival field set along the drab bible belt of Indiana landscape, though, in actually, filmed in Winnipeg, Canada. At the helm is “My Friend DahmerMy Friend DahmerMy Friend Dahmer” director Marc Meyers from a script by Alan Trezza, who is the creative mind behind the short and feature film versions of another Alexandra Daddario comedy horror, “Burying the ExBurying the ExBurying the Ex,” that co-starred the late Anton Yelchin. May he rest in peace. Meyers moves his hand from the somber and inquisitive mutilations to murder of the Jeffrey Dahmer biopic origins story to the fanatical whims of pious psychopaths, daggering the crux of the issue into the misperceptions of stigmatic cultures and beliefs while at the same time being an extension of the dark comedy tone that worked charmingly with the tale of zombified ex-girlfriend hellbent on revenge. “We Summon the Darkness” is a product from a conglomerate of production companies, highlighting The Fyzz Facility,= (“47 Meters Down: Uncaged47 Meters Down: Uncaged47 Meters Down: Uncaged”), Grey Hawk Productions, Nightshade Entertainment, MEP Capital, and Common Enemy as well as Daddario, herself, pitching in into the producer pool that isn’t her first rodeo in that role.

If you haven’t guessed already, Alexandra Daddario (“Burying the Ex,” “True Detective”) stars as Alexis Butler, one of the three metalhead girlfriends cruising to the show, and sequestering herself the ringleader of the road tripping trio as a level headed, parental type with an edge to keep her ostentatious blond friend, Val, played to the fine tune of being uninhibited crazy well by Maddie Hasson, and the timidly sharp Beverly, a role docile to the point of uncertainty and shepherd well by “Hell Fest’s” Amy Forsyth. The three very attractive concert goers bump into another trio of friends, more haplessly hazardous, if not hopeless, band mates who try their hardest to be as metal as they can be, even if that meals throwing a chocolate milkshake out of the window of their speeding van onto the gals’ Jeep. Austin Swift, Logan Miller (“Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse”), and Keenan Johnson (“Alita: Battle Angel”) make up the group caught red handed in a stroke of coincidence that the girls find them at the very same concert. As much as the two groups mirror each other in personalities, matching up almost perfectly in the varying degrees of state, one group holds a darker secret that could cost the other their very lives. That level-headedness Daddario portrays onto Alexis’ mindset becomes ravaged with wild fires in her eyes and her laid back amount of patience becomes threadbare frazzled when the bodies start to drop in a satanic twist of murder and mayhem, frenzied with extreme ideology founded on multiple levels of greed. Daddario wears crazed well in a very different side to her usually starry eyed and elegant approaches, making all the others seem abhorrently normal in comparison. “We Summon the Darkness” rounds out with Allison McAtee, Tanner Beard, Harry Nelken, and that “Jackass” Johnny Knoxville as Pastor John Henry Butler.

Despite Daddario’s rising stardom and luminous performance, “We Summon the Darkness” falls hard into a mosh pit of despair. The concept is sound and promising, but the execution couldn’t rise to the occasion with limited secretion of the murderous evil that has spread like a pandemic across the nation that’s has sorely downgraded and diluting the nature of the news and media’s role in beyond hammering in the deaths. When story turns dark, the effect feels whiffed and not as jarring as hoped as little is then diagramed to help assist the viewer grasp just what these satanic cultist wish to accomplish. Also, Trezza’s script is highly predictable as the twist is unfolded fairly early on even before the catalyst transition to a darker tone, spoiling the unveil with too many gnomic sidebar conversations and a slew of obvious character tells that don’t exactly shield the truth of their true wolf in spiked studded, black jacketed, metal band patched sheep’s attire. Also, the film pulled too many punches, teetering on the balancing beam whether it’s an edgy killer comedy or a killer comedy with that’s soft around the belly area. Plus, I’m still trying to figure out why a walk-in pantry has a lock on the inside…?

Metal posers rule while the victims haplessly mewl in this Marc Meyers’ film, “We Summon the Darkness,” hitting retain and digital shelves this week on DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital courtesy of Lionsgate and Saban Films. Since the screener provided was a digital streamer, the video and audio aspects will not be covered; however, the Blu-ray specs will feature a 1080p High Definition, 16X9 (2.39:1) widescreen presentation with an English 5.1 Dolby True HD mix while the DVD is presented in the same aspect ratio and will sport an English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio. Both releases with have optional English, Spanish, and English SDH subtitles. Special features will include a featurette entitled “Envisioning Darkness” and an audio commentary with director Marc Meyers and writer Alan Trezza. “We Summon the Darkness’s” cheekiness is fresh for an 80’s maniac homage armored with solid performances by Alexandra Daddario and an uncharacteristically stoic Johnny Knoxville as a devout pastor against metal music, but seizes up, derails off the tracks, and fizzles to a reduced version of the greater version it could have been.

“We Summon the Darkness” out now on Blu-ray / DVD/ Digital! Click the cover!

Beware EVIL’s Lair! “Rust” reviewed! (Wild Eye Releasing / DVD)


Hotel Fear is a dilapidated shell of a once thriving horror attraction with labyrinths chockful of replica grisly terrors. Isolated in a rural area outside Las Vegas, Hotel Fear becomes the meetup place for best friends Heather and Morgan who drive to the forlorn theme park to unite with a couple of male friends. However, Hotel Fear houses a notorious urban legend that includes the deranged killer, Travis McLennan, a barbaric, cannibalistic madman who abducts young women for his pleasure. When Morgan is captured and Heather barely escapes with her life, it’s up to a battered and traumatized Heather to return with the police to rescue Morgan from the merciless grips of Travis McLennan.

Can “Rust” be the next much-admired slasher franchise this side of the last ten decade? That’s what will be discussed when analyzing Joe Lujan’s written and directed “Rust,” a survival-slasher surrounding a mute-masked killer named Travis McLennan, birthed by a nefarious anecdotal urban legend of a unhinged boy who murdered his parents and wears his father’s face. Lujan, whose become something of a low-budget horror factory filmmaker with short and feature film credits including “It Followed Me,” “Atelophobia,” and their respective sequels, helms what could be the director’s bread and butter legacy that crosses “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” with some aspects from a Rob Zombie filmmaking handbook. What makes “Rust” unique, or at least in the Wild Eye Releasing DVD, is the feature is comprised of two short films, “Rust” and “Rust 2,” spliced together to make a full length film that would ignite the fervor for third entry, “Rust 3” in 2020 currently in post-production, and all produced by Lujan’s production company, Carcass Films.

Typically, popular slasher will center mostly around the chased protagonists that naturally produces an ominous villain, examples would be Alice in “Friday the 13th,” Laurie Strobe in “Halloween,” Nancy Thompson in “A Nightmare on Elm Street, but “Rust” shares the focal responsibilities between protagonist duo of Heather and Morgan and an antagonist duo of Travis McLennan and his Stockholm syndrome sex slave, Valkyrie. Not only do we wonder about the bloody-cladded rooms of Hotel Hell with Heather and Morgan, but also see some dynamics and curiosities from their stalker. “Hot Tub Party Massacre’s” Corey Taylor and “Afflict’s” Taylor Kilgore become the besties Heather and Morgan and are staple actors in Lujan’s ensemble cache he’s collaborated extensively throughout his career. As an exposed midriff Kilgore loses out on Morgan’s weak character development that’s nothing more than an elevated whimper, Corey Taylor by default lifts up to be a quasi-strong female lead, but neither actress steps into that final girl role and are extremely overshadowed by Morlon Greenwood’s towering-might that converts to being the black-hearted killer Travis McLennan. The Jamaican born, former NFL linebacker has that “See No Evil,” Kane-like violence that bears an austere ravager who would make anybody crap their pants when going into full-throttle chase mode with machete in hand. Lindsey Cruz (“Meathook Massacre 4”), Raul Limon (“The Immortal Wars”), Isaac Rhino (“Blood Runs Thick”), Meek Ruiz, Paul Tumpson, Nycolle Buss, Lordis DePiazza, Brittany Enos, and Brittany Hoza round out the cast.

So, does “Rust” make for good silver screen slashery? One would need to snake between the rough McLennan backstory that doesn’t clearly sink in, the whimsical premise of a teen meet-up and wander through an abandoned horror theme attraction, and the hollow characters to declare that “Rust” doesn’t make the cut across the throat. Finding reasons to be concerned for characters was at a great time nil because of their bland design with nothing to strive or live for in a complete and total arc-less folly of development. Perhaps the purest form of a slasher is in Travis McLennan’s brutality which warrants some positive lighting as a more machine than man killer, wearing a fleshy mask skinned from his father, as he hoards young women for his unknown kicks, but whether the funds weren’t in the budget or an artistic preference was applied, all the kills were mostly done off-screen and implied. There were a couple of knife blows to the head and the neck areas that barely had discernible quality that subjected no veering of the eyes or garnished any dread into the full brunt of the kill blow. Lujan pens an obscured rape scene that has more oomph than the killing itself. We’ve seen box store horror films with scream attractions before, such as like “Hell Fest,” and even some enticing independent ventures, such as “Talon Falls,” both of which have filled the need for urban myth, meta-horror – horror actually happening in a horror theme park – but most of these films don’t pan out as expected and “Rust” simply falls into that latter unfortunate category.

Right on the coattails of a third film comes “Rust” onto DVD home video courtesy of Wild Eye Releasing that’s presented not rated and in a full frame 16:9 aspect ratio that’s varies in quality being two shorts combined into one. “Rust” first half suffers from an extremely low bitrate so much so that you can see pinpoint each frame. The coloring is faded beyond the brown on a Las Vegas desert and, at times, difficult to discern exactly what’s happening mise-en-scene, especially in the darker scenes as you can see in the screencaps. The second half fairs better with a higher bitrate, smoother frame transitions, and a cleaner, less muddle twitching inside the frame. The English language dual channel stereo sound mix also splits the difference, most notably with a shield and muffled dialogue track being drowned out by ambient and the Eric Dryer’s score, a score that’s possibly a highlight in “Rust’s” legacy. Again, audio regains some control over the levels, providing more efficient range and depth but still can’t overcome of the powerful score. Bonus features include an interview with Joe Lujan about the fabrication from beginning to end of “Rust,” the original Rust 1 and 2 shorts, and Wild Eye Releasing trailers. One bonus I was vying for was the Eric Dryer score, but no such luck. “Rust” might be more of tetanus hazard than a budding slasher ripe for the viewing, but director Joe Lujan has the potential if the filmmaker can chug foward gaining experience along the way and, perhaps, recap his Travis McLennan nightmare on a bigger, badder scale with a sharper machete.

“Rust” is included with Prime Video!

 

“Rust available on DVD”