THE SUMMONED starts off ominously enough. The character introductions and background exposition fill the first fifteen minutes of the movie before beginning to bring any tension or story development into play. In most movies this plodding would be an issue, but the characters are interesting and the acting, especially from J. Quinton Johnson (Hamilton), helps get the viewer to the good parts.
The story has a good combination of HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (the Vincent Price version) and THE INVITATION vibes with interesting writing by Yuri Baranovsky. Two couples are invited to a mysterious retreat where they talk of sin and want are the discussion of the first evening around the campfire. Frederick Stuart’s turn as Dr. Frost actually brings those Vincent Price nods to the fore as the man who has summoned these people to his home. He chews a bit of scenery but somehow it works for the character.
There’s a lot of elements in this movie that shouldn’t work together but somehow do. The cinematography style is all over the place, but still tells the story well enough. The main set piece lodge location is perfect for a movie like this, but sparce in set design, which could be forgiven considering the indie budget. The pacing, while intentionally slow burn, does leave the viewer aching for something to eventually happen, and it takes almost forty-five minutes into the movie for everything to really start to click. I’m almost willing to let that go though, because they do such a good job fleshing out the characters beforehand. Again, in many ways this movie’s elements separately shouldn’t work, but come together in an interesting and creepy climax.
The writing is the strongest point of THE SUMMONED, which in an indie film should often be the case. Bolstered by strong actors and an eerie premise, this movie should be on your radar if you’re looking for a good horror/thriller to introduce someone to the genre. It’s not too gory and doesn’t rely on cheap jump scares to make it from scene to scene.
Folks looking to make their first indie horror film should take notes on what works well here. They kept the location numbers down, the cast small, and the story manageable.
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