Tag Archives: D

WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS

Producers: Mark Lane, Robert Jones, James Harris, Kyle Tekiela, Jarod Einsohn, Christian Armogida, Alexandra Daddario and Thomas E. Van Dell  Director: Marc Meyers   Screenplay: Alan Trezza   Cast: Alexandra Daddario, Keean Johnson, Maddie Hasson, Amy Forsyth, Logan Miller, Austin Swift, Johnny Knoxville, Allison McAtee, Tanner Beard and Harry Nelken   Distributor: Saban Films

Grade:  D

It’s hard to pull off a horror comedy—a fact Marc Meyers decisively proves with this raucous misfire.  Meyers exhibited uncommon sensitivity dealing with a potentially disastrous subject in “My Friend Dahmer,” and though he stumbled somewhat with the recent “Human Capital” remake, here his undoubted talent fails him completely.  “We Summon the Darkness” is a crude, clumsy disaster.

The picture begins with a protracted sequence in which three girlfriends—bossy Alexis (Alexandra Daddario), ditzy blonde Val (Maddie Hasson) and straightlaced Beverly (Amy Forsyth) bicker and bond as they drive down an Indiana highway.  The year is 1988, and they’re headed for a big heavy metal bash at a local roadhouse. 

As they proceed, they’re infuriated when a milkshake is thrown from a passing van, winding up on their windshield.  When they get to the roadhouse, they spy the van in the parking lot, and take revenge on the three guys inside—nice guy Mark (Keean Johnson), doofus Kovacs (Logan Miller) and bulldozer Ivan (Austin Swift) with a firecracker.

But animosity is quickly replaced by camaraderie, so much that the girls invite the guys back to Alexis’ place, a big estate where they all repair to the back yard for drinks and other fun, including a game of “Never Have I Ever….”

What happens next won’t be revealed here, but it all happens against the background of a murder spree with Satanic overtones that’s terrifying the country.  Among those accusing lax standards in the country—and rock music in particular—for the killings is the Reverend John Henry Butler (Johnny Knoxville), a fire-and-brimstone preacher using the crisis on the airwaves to enhance his own reputation.

“We Summon The Darkness” aims to be edgy as well as scary and funny, but it misses all three targets.  After an introductory half-hour in which very little of consequence happens, the last hour offers a good deal of blood and gore, mixing in gags like a weed-whacker deployed as a weapon.  But almost none of it hits home.  Meyers stages it all at a frantic pace, but the frenzy can’t conceal the desperation. 

Nor does the cast provide much compensation.  Daddario and Johnson are the best-known actors on hand, but she’s forced to play so broadly that it’s embarrassing—though she’s outdone by Hasson in that department—while he’s simply bland.  The others are no better.  But they shouldn’t be blamed too much: the trouble lies in the lameness of Alan Trezza’s script, with its heavy-handed swipes on religious fanaticism, not in their efforts to put it across.

The picture is technically cheesy, from Kathy McCoy’s production design to Tarin Anderson’s cinematography.  The editing by Jamie Kirkpatrick and Joe Murphy stutters, lurching from one inane episode to another, and Timothy Mark Williams’ score all too obvious. Of course, perhaps their intention was to make the movie look and sound like a crummy eighties drive-in flick.  If so, they’ve succeeded all too well.

In this case all Meyers manages to summon is an exasperated yawn.  

BLOODSHOT

Producers: Neal H. Moritz, Toby Jaffe, Dinesh Shamdasani and Vin Diesel   Director: David S. F. Wilson   Screenplay: Jeff Wadlow and Eric Heisserer   Cast: Vin Diesel, Eiza González, Guy Pearce, Sam Heughan. Toby Kebbell, Lamorne Morris, Siddharth Dhananjay, Talulah Riley, Alex Hernandez, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson and Tamer Burjaq  Distributor: Sony Entertainment/Columbia Pictures

Grade:  D+

“The Six Million Dollar Man” gets a multi-billion dollars upgrade and a nasty twist in this bombastic action movie adapted from Valiant’s comic-book series, which started in 1992.   “Bloodshot” is big, loud, and extraordinarily silly.

The premise, introduced in the first act, is that after saving a hostage from a terrorist, gung-ho special ops hero Ray Garrison (Van Diesel) goes home to his beautiful wife Gina (Talulah Riley).  During a holiday in Italy they’re attacked and captured by the goons of Martin Axe (Toby Kebbell), who demands Ray reveal the source of the information that led him to his target.  When he claims not to know, Axe tauntingly kills Gina, and then Ray too.

But that’s not the end of the movie, of course, however much one might wish it were.  Ray is resurrected through cutting-edge nanite technology pioneered by Dr. Emil Harding (Guy Pearce) as a means of creating super-soldiers.  (One might ask whether anyone deserves resurrection less than Vin Diesel, but let that pass.)  Ray’s blood has literally been replaced by millions of nano-bots that give him super-powers and the ability to regenerate after suffering damage.  His  memory is supposed to have been wiped clean, but nonetheless he has flashbacks to Gina’s death, and now with super-strength and virtual invulnerability, he goes after Axe and, in the movie’s first big chaotic set-pieces, offs him—and his convoy of defenders—in a confrontation in a Budapest traffic tunnel.

His revenge task would seem to be completed, but appearances are deceiving.  Harding is actually manipulating Ray—as well as his earlier experiments KT (Elia González), Jimmy Dalton (Sam Heughan) and Tibbs (Alex Hernandez)—for his own purposes.  His motives and the means that he and he chief technician Eric (Siddharth Dhananjay) employ to achieve them, won’t be revealed here; suffice it to say that the result sometimes recalls a much better Pearce film, “”Memento.”

There’s one other character who plays a major role in Ray’s story: another tech genius named Wilfred Wiggins (Lamorne Morris), who, along with Eric, provides what comic relief is to be found in this otherwise unremittingly dour opus.

It wouldn’t be appropriate to reveal all the contortions of the plot of “Bloodshot”—it might even be impossible, given the brusqueness with which first-time director David S. F. Wilson deals with them in his eagerness to get to another big action set-piece.  What’s surprising is that Wilson, a visual effects specialist, hasn’t managed to employ them especially dexterously here.  When the film does get around to its explosions of action, they’re so sloppily choreographed, shot (by Jacques Jouffret) and edited (by Jim May) as to be nearly incomprehensible. 

That Budapest traffic-tunnel sequence, for instance, is pretty much a complete mess, the dankness of the locale made all the more ridiculously impenetrable by the fact that it all occurs in an avalanche of flour (a truck carrying a load of it is an element of the crash). 

And when the CGI is called on to provide fizz, it usually fizzles instead.  That’s the case with the many scenes in which Ray’s body parts regenerate: it’s not a terribly good effect to begin with, but it’s repeated so many times that it becomes boring.  The nadir comes toward the close, when Ray engages in a protracted battle with Dalton and Tibbs on the sleek side of Harding’s modernistic headquarters skyscraper.  Dalton suddenly exhibits the ability to unleash all sorts of metal appendages, which we’ve not seen before.  But worse, the mixture of live-action footage and computer-generated images looks terrible, and it goes on so long that the inadequacies are made ever more evident.  The proliferation of sloppy, woozy montages accompanied by Steve Jablonsky’s booming score is also annoying.

Tom Brown’s production design, meanwhile, is a mixed affair.  Some of the interiors of Harding’s headquarters are impressive; others look dingy and cramped.  The same can be said of the digs of some of his competitors, including the one (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson) for whom Wiggins works.  Perhaps the budget wasn’t as big as one might assume.

As for the acting, things are much as you would expect. Diesel is his usual wooden self; Pearce tries to inject some personality into Harding, but it’s a losing cause—the doctor emerges as just a standard-issue villain.  Morris and Dhananjay provide more irritation than comic relief, while  González, Heughan and Hernandez are stuck in stock roles. 

It’s obvious from the coda that the makers hope that this might be the start of a lucrative franchise, perhaps even a Valiant Universe to rival Marvel’s.  In today’s Hollywood, they could be right—more’s the pity.