HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS (2020)

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WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS (2020)

Horror/comedy takes place in 1988 with three hot friends, Alexis (Alexandra Daddario from Bereavement), Val (Maddie Hasson) and Beverly (Amy Forsyth from Hell fest) traveling to a heavy metal concert at a time where there is a series of murders being committed, allegedly by a satanic cult. There they meet three guys, Ivan (Austin Swift), Kovacs (Logan Miller from Plus One) and Mark (Keean Johnson from Alita: Battle Angel) and the six bond. After the concert, they return to Alexis’ father’s remote house to party. As this is a horror film, one of these trios is not what they seem.

We Summon The Darkness is directed by Marc Meyers from a script by Alan Trezza. Sadly, it doesn’t have nearly as much fun with it’s premise, as it let’s the proverbial cat out of the bag less than halfway through. This sets up a stalemate situation with the survivors of one group trying to hold off the others. It’s not nearly as fun as if they had kept it a mystery as to which group were killers and which were victims, for a while longer. The middle of the film finds it’s momentum stopped dead as a siege situation is set-up, with two survivors locked inside a pantry. Of course a comedy of errors threatens to unravel the plans of the killers, leading to more bodies piling up. The tone is a bit uneven, as it can’t decide whether it wants to be a straight-up horror film, or is it supposed to be more of a comedy. The tone is fairly light at times, but it then switches to straight up horror, especially in the last act and there is a lot of blood spilled and graphic violence throughout. Again, the makers never seem to decide on a consistent tone and that keeps the audience at a bit of a distance. Plus, it’s not funny enough or scary/intense enough to be fully successful at either genre and it doesn’t mix them as deftly as it needs to. To describe the cast and characters in detail would be to give surprises away, so suffice to say the cast are all good and perform their parts well. Eventually things do pick-up, as a not surprising change of heart leads to evened odds and an all-out battle for survival in the final third. The climax is effective, if not predictable. Reminds one of last year’s Satanic Panic, another satanist themed horror/comedy that also had trouble settling on a consistent tone and didn’t take full advantage of it’s premise. 

This isn’t a great movie and could have been a lot better. It’s not terrible, just doesn’t have as nearly as much fun with it’s premise as it could have. The middle of the flick stagnates, thought it does pick up for a bloody cat and mouse climax. It is also tonally challenged, as it can’t decide between comedy and straight-up horror or at least mixed them more successfully. Could have been a lot better, but could have been a lot worse. Basically a missed opportunity to have a lot of fun. Also stars Johnny Knoxville as a TV preacher, who turns out to be close to one of the six characters and Allison McAtee and Tanner Beard as an ex-stepmom and police officer, respectively, both in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Flick is available to stream on Amazon Prime.

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) outboard motors.

 

 

 

 

 

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REVIEW: ALITA-BATTLE ANGEL (2019)

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ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL (2019)

The summer movie season has started early and it has started with a bang! Alita: Battle Angel is a film adaptation of the Gunnm Manga series created by Yukito Kishiro. It’s produced by James Cameron and directed by Sin City’s Robert Rodriguez. The story has cyborg physician Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) finding the remains of a still active cyborg in a junk heap. Made to resemble a teenage girl, the doctor restores his discovery using a cybernetic body meant for his invalid daughter, who is now dead. He names her Alita after his little girl and soon the two bond as Alita (Rosa Salazar) tries to figure out who she is. Along the way Alita falls for street hustler Hugo (Keean Johnson) and becomes interested in the violent game of Motorball. Alita also finds she is no normal machine and there are sinister forces who want her technology for their own nefarious purposes…and they will hurt anyone to get it. A girl becomes a warrior, as Alita must now protect those she loves from harm.

The plot synopsis above is a simplification as Alita has a bit of a complex story, as many Manga do. It’s adapted to script by James Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis and exceptionally well directed by Rodriguez, in what may be his best film so far. Despite being plot heavy, Rodriguez takes his time with the story, first introducing us to Alita and letting us learn about who she is as she does. It allows us to become endeared to her, so when treachery sets in and the action really gets going, we are emotionally invested in the characters. And that’s one of the pleasant surprises about Alita: Battle Angel, it has a strong emotional center thanks especially to a very strong performance by lead Rosa Salazar as Alita. The actress really gets the emotions of the character through in the motion capture and vocal performance, so we really see the CGI character as a three dimensional one. We feel for her all the way and the film has a “human” center despite being filled with CGI characters and epic battles. On the popcorn level the film also delivers. The SPFX are spectacular, as is the design of the world of the 26th century, Alita herself and her cyborg costars. The action is fast and furious and while having a lot of elements, the plot is far from hard to follow. The flick is surprisingly violent for a movie that could be marketed strictly to teens, but it makes it adult enough for the older crowd to enjoy and adds intensity to the proceedings. Sure there is some corny dialogue and some cliché moments, but Rodriguez uses those elements to the film’s advantage, as it is an old-fashioned superhero story at heart…and heart is something this flick has a lot of.

The cast really play the material well. As said, Rosa Salazar is very good at embodying Alita with a strong character through body language and voice performance. She gives the cyborg teen a lot of charm, intensity, as well as, a sense of wonder and a touch of naivety. Salazar is a star in the making. Waltz is very endearing as the kindly Dr. Ido, who has some secrets of his own. He plays the father figure well, but with a quiet strength. Keean Johnson is also endearing as the rogue-ish Hugo, the boy Alita falls for. He also has some secrets, too, but he remains likable despite Hugo’s sometimes shady activities. The film also features Jennifer Connelly as Ido’s ex-wife, who works for the film’s primary villain, Motorball tycoon Vector (Mahershala Ali) and there is a surprise cameo, that won’t be spoiled here, as the man pulling Vector’s strings, Nova. There are also appearances by Ed Skrein, Jeff Fahey, Michelle Rodriguez and Jackie Earl Haley as various CGI cyborg characters. A very effective cast.

Overall, this flick was a blast and a really good time that gives a very early start to the summer movie season. It’s a fun popcorn flick, yet one with a more layered story to get us involved in and adds some dramatic weight and intensity to the FX and action. It has a star making performance from it’s leading lady, Rosa Salazar and has more heart than you’d expect from a cyborg. Highly recommended.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) Battle Angels.

 

 

 

 

 

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