Hello again ghosts and ghouls! If you know me, you know that I’m a big fan of Satanic ritual films. I’ve been on the lookout for films like SHE WHO MUST BURN, which I reviewed for Nightmarish Conjurings awhile back. It’s stuck with me ever since, and ritual films are slowly moving up my ranks of my favorite horror subgenres.
Something about Satanic ritual has always been interesting to me, as it is modest and shows respect not only for the religion itself, but for the person performing the ritual. The way Satanic ritual is performed in film is much more dramatic than the rituals I have tried to understand (however correct me if I’m wrong! I would love to actually speak to someone who performs these rituals!). Honestly, in a way, they are almost disrespectful to people that perform them themselves. Regardless, I always enjoy watching these films as a non-religious person because it allows me to immerse myself in a culture that I really know nothing about, and always find interesting.
With that being said, when I found out THE SUMMONING was a film based on Satanic ritual, I jumped on it immediately. I like to consider myself one of the bigger fans of body horror and occult horror…so I try to steal the opportunities where I can get them. I went in open-minded, and boy I should have trusted my gut.
The film is an hour and 20, so mildly short, but it’s also an independent film, so the length is pretty standard. Now, I’m a tough critic to please, as you all know, but this film was bad. Bad acting, bad storyline, no character development, nothing. I’ll explain.
THE SUMMONING tells the story of a group of college students trying to get to a raging party in the woods when their car breaks down. You’ve heard this before, right? Yeah, me too. Of course, two of the six decide to stay behind and wait in the car. Guess what? They die. Surprise! The other four try to walk to the party, through the woods, to get help. Your assumptions about how that will end is most likely 100% correct.
What I think was most disappointing about this film is the fact that it claims to be a horror/occult themed film, but nothing really happens. In the last 15 minutes, you’re kind of exposed to some inkling of a sacrifice (if that’s what you want to call it), complete with horrible VFX.
I desperately tried to take into account that this is an independent film with what was most likely a small budget. This is just an assumption, so if they had a larger budget than I expect, what were you guys thinking? Even with the thought that this was a low-budget independent film in mind, it did not make up for the fact that the storyline was predictable, the character development was non-existent, and there was nothing likable about any of the characters because the acting was so bad, that it felt like they all forgot their lines and made it up as they went. I really think that if the cast had been better, this film would have been a little more tolerable.
Now, am I being a little bit harsh? Possibly. But after watching a film like SHE WHO MUST BURN and feeling so uncomfortable afterwards that I wanted to shower, I expected something a little more from another independent, religiously-charged film…which it wasn’t. Should you have any affiliation with the Satanic church, this film is just offensive in all of the worst ways.
Let’s talk about the visual effects for a quick second here: it looks like I made it. It looks like I went into standard film-editing software on my computer and added in fire and things swirling around in the air. I would have been happier if they had used some practical effects so that at least I could say they tried, but this looked like a college film school film gone wrong.
The only saving grace was Amy LoCicero who plays Shelley, the “love interest” of the lead character, who is such a bland, typical asshole in college that it made my head spin. LoCicero had emotion, and was the only believable character in the whole film.
As much as I want to say I could find something else redeeming about this film, I really, truly can’t and I almost feel a little bad about it. But in reality, if you’re sending a film out for critics to review and that’s your product…ouch.
Sorry, ghosts and ghouls, save yourself an hour and 20.