Why Every Metalhead Should Support We Summon the Darkness

  • Axl Rosenberg

It’s difficult to discuss We Summon the Darkness, the new metal-centric horror film from director Marc Meyers (My Friend Dahmer) and screenwriter Alan Trezza (Burying the Ex), without giving away a significant end of Act I plot twist (do yourself a favor and don’t watch the trailer). It’s a development that plays with the viewer’s expectations, the narrative equivalent of telegraphing that it’s gonna punch you with its right hand so that you defend your face before kicking you in the balls instead.

So instead of telling you too much about the movie, I am instead going to discuss why it represents a significant development in metal culture, and why you, as a metalhead, should absolutely throw your support behind it.

I can give you the basic premise without giving too much away. It’s Indiana in 1988. A group of young men and women are going to see a (fictional) metal band, Soldiers of Satan. The show is being protested by conservative Christians led by a television pastor (played by Jackass star Johnny Knoxville, giving an atypically subdued, but ultimately still droll, performance).

And that’s it. That’s all you need to, or should, know about the plot before you watch the movie.

What makes We Summon the Darkness so substantial to metal culture is this:

99% of the portrayals of metalheads in popular culture use metal as a kind of shorthand for idiocy and/or villainy. And, hey, to a degree, that’s understandable. Metal aims to alienate the mainstream, and often does so by reveling in so-called “evil” imagery. Furthermore, yes, there is a LOT of partying going on in the metal world. Alcohol, weed, and harder drugs are often prevalent. So it’s understandable why, from afar, so many people look at the metal scene and think “Those people are all neanderthals.”

But we, as metalheads, know that those kinds of broad generalizations are bullshit. Loving songs about murder and fucking and Satan and reveling in a good time and refusing to conform to community standards of how one is meant to look don’t make one “bad.” The metal community does not want for intelligent people who care their fellow human.

Still, time and time again, metal is used as a signifier for the unsavory. We see it used casually in movies like It, where the sociopathic town bully proudly wears an Anthrax shirt, or Funny Games, where the pair of killers’ music of choice is grindcore. We see it in the parade of imbecilic metal buddies throughout pop culture, like Beavis and Butt-Head and Bill and Ted. We even see it in films where the heroes are meant to be metalheads, like Airheads, the title of which is literally a term for “stupid dumb idiots.” Shit, the new animated children’s flick Trolls World Tour features a dictatorial metalhead as its primary antagonist, so that people can start to teach their kids to demonize metal culture at the youngest possible age.

For a time, it seems like We Summon the Darkness may be headed in this same direction. But nothing could be further from the truth. Not only do the filmmakers casually display their metal bona fides when the young friends debate whether or not Metallica should have fired Dave Mustaine, mourn the loss of Randy Rhoads, reminisce about their first time seeing Dio in concert, and foreshadow one character’s grisly fate with a clever Def Leppard reference… but the story actively paints metalheads as the good guys. The audience is rooting for the metalheads to win. The villain listens to Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven Is a Place on Earth.” Seriously.

It’s kind of that simple: it’s truly refreshing to see a film where metal isn’t disparaged or belittled. And, holy crap, it’s a GOOD movie no less! How long have so many of us waited for something like this???

We Summon the Darkness may not be perfect — one character’s arc is a little on the obvious side, and a running gag about another character’s small bladder wears out its welcome kinda quickly — but it’s definitely fun and entertaining as hell and worth the rental price and the ninety minutes of your life you’ll give up to watch it. The world — and us metal fans — need more movies like it.

We Summon the Darkness is available now on all the usual digital streaming platforms.

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