CS Interview: Maddie Hasson, Marc Meyers on We Summon the Darkness
The time is finally here for the arrival of the fun horror-comedy We Summon the Darkness and ComingSoon.net got the chance to chat with star Maddie Hasson (Malignant) and director Marc Meyers (My Friend Dahmer) to get to the heart of the ’80s-set thriller. Click here to rent or buy We Summon the Darkness right now!
The film follows a group of friends heading to a heavy metal concert in the Midwest. Along the way, they meet a trio of seemingly fun-loving guys and eventually head off to a secluded country home for an afterparty. What should be a night of fun and youthful debauchery may instead take a dark, deadly turn. With killers on the loose, can anyone be trusted?
Daddario leads a cast that also includes Keaan Johnson (Alita: Battle Angel), Hasson, Logan Miller (Escape Room), Amy Forsyth (Hell Fest), Austin Swift (Live By Night), Allison McAtee (The Haves and the Have Nots) and Johnny Knoxville (Action Point).
We Summon The Darkness is directed by Meyers on a script from Alan Trezza (Burying the Ex). Andrew Kotliar, Elizabeth Zavoyskiy, Joshua Sason, Rebecca Schaper, Lee Broda, Mike Donovan, Eytan Rockaway and Robert Girard are serving as executive producers, with Jody Girgenti as co-producer.
Robert Jones, James Harris and Mark Lane (The Strangers: Prey at Night, Three Seconds) of The Fyzz produced and financed the project alongside Magna Entertainment, with Kyle Tekiela (Mudbound) and Jarod Einsohn of Common Enemy, Christian Armogida of Nightshade Entertainment and Thomas E van Dell of Iconic Media One producing.
While joking that her interest in taking on the project was of “wanting to work,” Hasson found that the script was “really fun” and that the film seemed plenty exciting to be a part of, especially given her love for the director’s previous work.
“I loved Marc Meyers, I was familiar with his work before, I had seen My Friend Dahmer and I loved it and I did a really deep dive into Jeffrey Dahmer after that because I found it so interesting and I thought he did that movie so well,” Hasson said. “So I was very excited at the prospect of working with him.”
In building his cast around Daddario, who is also a producer on the project, Meyers described the casting process as “kind of a journey” and that he was able to get who he “thought would be the perfect actors for this movie, all these actors were meant to be in this film.”
“When you’re trying to get the pieces together and there’s a window of space where you’re trying to make an independent film happen, you’re hoping that the actors are available and that they remain available,” Meyers said. “So the original commitment was fortunately that Alexandra wanted to do the movie with me and she was introduced to me through the producers and we kind of immediately bonded over the project and were determined to stay linked together to make this film together. As we got closer I was able to have the opportunity to surround her with other actors and actresses that I knew would be great across from her, that were also just really strong actors. Then when it came to the guys, I’ve always wanted to work with Logan Miller, I had met him a few years prior, Keean Johnson I was introduced to through the process of casting, as well as Austin Swift, and when Johnny Knoxville was interested in that role, that was an easy yes, but a lot of the casting was done when we were already in pre-production because the hard thing with an indie movie many times is just getting the whole thing started. The producers and I had a lot of faith that we would pull it off, so we kept planning it, even though we didn’t have the whole cast before pre-production.”
With a deft balance between the horror, thriller and comedy genres, Meyers found that a lot of it came from the script, which “had enough inherent humor in it that I felt the more authentic I made it” the easier the humor would flow onto the screen amidst the chaos. The director also loved getting to go back in time yet again on a film, finding that a period piece “helps you focus your decisions” on what is “the right way to tell the story through its production design and wardrobe.”
“In that mayhem I thought there was a lot of comedy, so one thing I did do when I first read the script was just fundamentally take that sort of self aware, wink-wink commentary the audience,” Meyers described. “The kind of flavor that was understandable that was in the original script, but what I really wanted to do was to watch these characters as a time capsule in the late ‘80s and go through this crazy adventure. The successes and failures along the way will allow for some really fun, bloody humor. Sometimes with contemporary movies you have to really decide what level of fashion and what they are. Even looking to the cult documentary, Heavy Metal Parking Lot, as a model of what the kids were potentially wearing, so a lot of my collaborators, my wardrobe, my production designer, myself, we all remembered the ‘80s and so we were all pulling on our personal experience and our memories. That allows us to have a fun going down memory lane of pulling the things we remember, like pulling the right kind of vehicles, the jean jackets, the leather jackets, the hairdos, the bad mullet haircuts, the beers that they would drink, the way you would listen to music on a ghetto blaster in the backyard. It’s really fun to sort of step into that kind of world and fortunately we also filmed it in Canada, where there’s parts of the ‘80s that are still there, including the exterior of that house.”
Meyers found directing all of the cast a smooth effort, with everybody being “always on the same page” and that given the movie takes place over one night, production required filming over the “course of many days and out of sequence” and that needing the “high level of intensity at every given moment” forced them to never find a lull in their tight schedules.
“Everyone was already very amped and so with that kind of urgency as almost a creative gun to our heads, we were just all ready to dive into these crazy moments and be as loud and as wild and as fast as we could,” Meyers said. “If it’s a fun movie and I’m having fun making it, I think everybody sort of goes along with that.”
Hasson looked back at those nights of shooting as “wild fun,” with her and her co-stars getting to do “a lot of improv together,” something she “never really got the opportunity to do” and it helped her bond with Daddario and Forsyth.
“I think partly because we were all running on fumes because the whole movie was shot at night, so we would wake up at 4 p.m. and we would work until 5 a.m., we were all just basically trying to keep each other awake. So there’s a lot of yelling and swearing and laughing, a lot of Red Bull, it bonds you real quick,” Hasson laughed.
Hasson broke out with her performance on the short-lived Bones spin-off The Finder and has since gone on to star in the indie dramas I Saw the Light and Novitiate but had yet to explore the horror genre prior to coming into We Summon the Darkness and found her experience to be “so fun.”
“I felt the whole time like it was a comedy, so I was sort of coming off of doing something that was really dark and sad all the time and I was just having a really good time in being covered in blood and smoking fake cigarettes and laughing with these two women that I was just like madly in love with,” Hasson described. “Plus with eating Twinkies and drinking Red Bulls, I don’t think I really thought of it as being a horror, I was just having the time of my life staying up until 4 a.m. I’ve never had so much fun shooting a movie.”
Looking back at shooting the film in a rushed time frame, Meyers found that the challenges it raised were “really the fun of it all,” getting to “work your way through the shooting schedule” and looking to “find the movie within the footage” in the editing room.
“As a filmmaker to not give away anything in the movie itself so that those twists pay off and that we are just a step ahead of the audience so that it is just as fun for the viewer was important,” Meyers said. “You can’t always control how the messaging reaches people through a trailer and reviews, but I have noticed the reviews after Fantastic Fest were all respectful to not give away any spoilers, because it didn’t want to ruin it for audience members. That balancing act between eeriness, suspense and maintaining the fun all these heavy metal characters intend on having that night until shit goes bad, that took a lot of time to find that just right in the editing room. We got all the challenges we could in shooting this movie in 16 wild days of filming.”
We Summon the Darkness is currently available on VOD and digital platforms!