I first heard of director/screenwriter Marc Meyers when his feature film My Friend Dahmer premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. The chilling film, which is based on the 2012 graphic novel of the same name by Derf Backderf, centered on Jeffrey Dahmer as a high school kid before he began his infamous killing sprees. The film instantly became one of my favorites of the year and cemented Meyers as a director I needed to have on my radar.
For his most recent film, WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS, Meyers decided to go for a more fun approach with the heavy metal 80s inspired thriller. The film, which centers on three best friends who attend a heavy metal show and decide to invite three aspiring musicians back to their home for an afterparty, features a slew of twists and turns that’ll keep you guessing till the very end. For the release of the film, I had the opportunity to chat with Meyers where we discussed everything from what interested him in wanting to direct this film, the importance of accuracy in regards to the heavy metal music used, as well how the film is relevant in today’s society.
What was it about Alan Trezza’s script that interested you in wanting to direct WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS?
Marc Meyers: Well for one, it was fun and I realized it was about time to just do a movie that was fun. At the same time, I had such a nice experience sharing My Friend Dahmer as it was my first experience entering the genre community and going to genre film festivals like Sitges and Fantastic Fest. I also saw the value of a movie like that playing as a new kind of film in theaters so when I read this really fun, smart, subversive screenplay that could star three gorgeous leading ladies I thought, “Oh, that’s all the ingredients of a fun movie.” My wife is my long-standing producing partner and after I read [the script] I gave it to her and I watched her, from her perspective, also laugh out loud at the ideas in it. It’s also relevant, that’s the other thing, it’s not just a horror or genre film.
One of the reasons why I think this film works so well is because of the casting, especially in regards to the three female leads. Did you have a lot of say in that and how was it working with the cast to achieve the vision of the film?
Marc Meyers: It was great! The first person to sign on is generally the lead which was Alexandra Daddario. She was friendly with some of the producers so she was someone that was suggested. Fortunately, after My Friend Dahmer, it gave these actors the confidence to sort of consider the movie and collaborate with me. As we got closer to production, I was already in pre-production up in Winnipeg, I had totally gravitated towards Maddie Hasson and also Amy Forsyth. All three of them were people that I had partnered with specifically for this movie but didn’t know them in advance but became friends with them through the process and I’m good friends with all of them still. Daddario and I made a pact with each other that we were going to see this movie through. As long as I was pushing forward to be a part of it, she was also going to make herself available for it.
The film features three main locations to tell the story: the concert scene, the bonfire scene (which I found to be a pivotal moment) and what transpires inside the house. To me, those three locations really brought together the story as a whole. What was your experience like filming those?
Marc Meyers: They were all just so much fun to do. We were shooting that bonfire scene over the course of, I believe, one night. We had to wait for it to get dark and we shot till sunrise, so we probably shot from 5 p.m. to 4 a.m. During that time, on that property between set-ups, I made sure we were playing lots of heavy metal to keep everybody awake and in the mood for this. It’s fun to put on a wardrobe or costumes like that and get to have this sort of playful dialogue. You’re in a scenario that seems like, from a boy’s point of view, a male fantasy of what we all hope would happen if we ever went to a heavy metal concert and we met three gorgeous women who would then say, “Hey, you wanna come home and party with us?” and that it could look like everyone’s going to pair up. There was a producer who walked past me at one point at around 3 a.m. and said, “This is exactly what I hoped would have happened to me when I went to my heavy metal concert in the ’80s.” (laughs). It was just kind of having that spirit of doing something that’s subversive and fun while also telling a well-told story. In regards to the concert, we found some heavy metal musicians who were in a band that played a couple of songs live to get the crowd ready and then we did all the technical things; however, we had to record it so that the music didn’t interfere with whatever they were doing and saying as the actors were dancing in the concert. We allowed the pyrotechnics to go and really tried to pump up the sort of road-show of a regional heavy metal concert flavor that I think everybody can relate to if they had in any part lived at some point during the ’80s themselves.
I’ve never been a heavy metal person but my partner is one and he mentioned how accurate the portrayal of that genre of music was.
Marc Meyers: Right, good! It’s heavy metal but not for everybody. I wasn’t a huge heavy metal fan, I don’t know the deep cuts of heavy metal like in a way that some of the producers and other people do. I do realize when I look back that yeah, I did listen to Guns & Roses and Metallica and lots of other mainstay heavy metal bands that made me really appreciate how much I enjoy everything from Led Zepplin to Greta van Fleet. The funny thing I learned about metal is that the people who really, really love metal don’t listen to any other music. A music supervisor told me that when they look at the habits on Spotify or iTunes, that if you love other kinds of music, you sample lots of other kinds of music. You might listen to mostly rock but you listen to some jazz, some classical, some folk, you’re open to pop. But the people who love metal, they generally almost only listen to metal. So we knew we were making a movie that had a very loyal core audience.
What was it like filming all the fight scenes in the house, especially in regard to using practical effects?
Marc Meyers: Any of the action sequences I made a point of making sure that the budget on the indie could provide for a storyboard artist in advance for me to collaborate with so that those ideas could be sketched out and shared with all the different departments once we got into formal pre-production. I’m very glad that we did that, it allowed me to stay on course because it gets very technical when you sort of build these fight sequences and you spend a lot of time for a very quick shot. I’m glad I did all the sort of necessary prep work but it was also my first time doing anything with real special effects, pyrotechnics, practical effects, blood, knives, stunts, and girl fighting – all of that for me was a fun, new adventure. I did feel that after My Friend Dahmer, where that movie left off with Dahmer picking up his first murder victim at the end of the movie, I felt like as a filmmaker I was right on the tip of doing something like this next adventure where things get bloody and wild. When I read the script, I was like, “Oh, this is the next place I can go as a director” and was one of the reasons I got really excited by it.
Besides how much fun this movie is, I also found it to be oddly relevant to a lot of what is going on in the world right now with our government as well as the pandemic. What are your thoughts on that?
Marc Meyers: There’s something relevant about it. I think the movie is a little bit of a middle finger to the bullshit. It’s relevant because it really talks about how we create fear to have power and to have influence over other people. I think that it’s hauntingly relevant as we look back at the Satanic Panic as it is in the era that we live in today, even in the Trump era, before the latest crazy thing with the pandemic. I will say that one thing I did do is take out the “wink-wink self-aware” aspects of the screenplay to kind of lean it more into the way I like to make a movie, which is as authentic as possible. I also like a movie that essentially shows a puppet master behind everything, that you don’t really get to discover or meet until deeper into the story. Those are some of the devices that I also thought were cool. But the comment on power and the creation of fear was something I thought was a strong commentary on society.
Lastly, was there a favorite scene you filmed or one that was particularly difficult to achieve?
Marc Meyers: I think the hardest scene to film, technically, might have been all the stuff that happens in the master bedroom. That has to do with just the various entrances, the fighting that happened in the bedroom – across the bed, the fighting between Daddario and one of her co-stars, the entrance of Johnny Knoxville, and just the way the camera had to technically move around. There was also gunfire and blood and letters on the wall and it was a tight space. I remember when we finished shooting all the stuff that was required of that bedroom, walking out of that room to sit back on my chair and one of my producers tapped me on the shoulder and told me I had slain the dragon because we had these fight moments where we had to elevate actors on apple boxes so the camera could be below the person laying on the floor – there was just lots of little pieces to build it up, brick by brick.
WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS is now available on VOD and Digital HD. For more on the film, check out our review here.