Review by Sean Boelman
The best thing about genre festivals is always getting to discover new and exciting talents in genre filmmaking, and The Summoned’s Mark Meir is one of the most promising to come out of this year’s Overlook Film Festival. Wickedly funny, this is the type of throwback midnight movie that would be well-enjoyed with friends and a few drinks.
The film follows two high-profile couples who are on a secluded self-help retreat, only to be forced into some terrifying dilemmas when their dark secrets begin to bubble to the surface. For what is essentially a chamber piece, the movie feels pretty expansive with what it does, resulting in a genuinely fun watch, even if it isn’t all that “scary” (not that it’s supposed to be).
For much of the first hour, you’re not really sure where this story is going — but in an intriguing way, not an aimless one. It’s easy to tell that something sinister is afoot, but what that will be is less obvious. Once the film does reveal its hand, the twist feels earned and the movie kicks into overdrive, delivering a final act that is fun as hell.
In his script, Yuri Baranovsky explores ideas like superstition, generational trauma, and the cost of fame. Admittedly, it’s a lot to juggle in one film — especially one that is shorter than ninety minutes — but how Baranovsky incorporates folklore into the movie and themes is fantastic and makes the film feel refreshing.
The four main characters of the movie are each a bit on the archetypal side, but it works given the tone that the film is aiming for, it works. This is a campy, throwback picture, down to its very overt messaging. And having these central characters all play into these folkloric types works extremely well.
J. Quinton Johnson plays the lead of the movie, and he is just destined to become a breakout star. His roles in Everybody Wants Some!! and Last Flag Flying already showed that he has talent, but this shows that he is leading man material. Salvador Chacon and Angela Gulner are also standouts.
From a technical level, the film does a good job of playing into that retro midnight movie feel without feeling overly nostalgic. For this to be Mark Meir’s first directorial effort, he has a surprising grasp on his own personal style, making something that feels entirely deliberate in its approach.
The Summoned is a fun little midnight movie that is undoubtedly going to pick up a good base of fans on the festival circuit. It’s an intriguing feature debut that signals the arrival of several exciting talents to the genre scene.
The Summoned debuted at the 2022 Overlook Film Festival, which runs June 2-5.