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.