Salem Horror Fest Review: ‘Summoners’

Usually when someone shows up unexpectedly, there’s a reason for it. The first mystery Terence Krey’s Summoners raises, then, is why Jess (Christine Nyland) has decided to come home now, after ten years, to stay with her dad (Larry Fessenden). The answer when it comes, though, isn’t that Jess is running away from something or that she has a specific reason for being back. The answer is much more magical and starts to come to light after an unplanned reunion with her high school best friend, Alana (McLean Peterson).

Alana and Jess used to practice magic together, but whereas Alana still casts, Jess gave up witchcraft years ago. Now it’s up to Jess to decide whether she’s willing to try again for old time’s sake (or at least Alana’s).

One of the things that’s great about this movie is how magic just exists in this world. Not everyone’s aware of it but Jess didn’t give up witchcraft because she convinced herself it was child’s play, like how the adults in The Polar Express can’t hear the bells anymore because they stopped believing in magic. The spells are just as real now as they were then, but so are the risks, and the spell Alana wants to cast is particularly dangerous.

The real key to Summoners success, though, is how down to earth and believable the relationships are. There’s a comfortableness to how the actors interact with each other that makes their performances not feel like performances. Peterson isn’t in the film too much but his scenes with Nyland are so laid back and unforced, while Nyland and Peterson make it very easy to become invested in Jess and Alana’s friendship.

Less is definitely more in this movie. The less the spells are explained, the more slapped together and fragile they come across. Occasionally the film flirts with offering jump scares or showing brief glimpses of the thing Alana and Jess are trying to summon (since the film is called “summoners” it felt safe to reveal that much), but they’re the weakest points in the movie (that and a wardrobe mistake involving an injured character wearing a white t-shirt that should’ve revealed their wounds) and (luckily) not extensive. Shaun Hettinger’s music is also wonderful for emphasizing the otherworldly aspect of magic over a more traditional, tension-building, horror score. For all that magic has very real consequences, it’s still magic. It’s meant to be joyful, too.

As a side note, if there are any fans of Image Comics’ Black Magick reading this review I feel like there could be a real crossover audience. Summoners doesn’t have the same police angle, but Alana and Jess reminded me a lot of Rowan and Alex and both Black Magick and Summoners share a similar approach to grounded, real-world magic.

Directed by Terence Krey
Written by Terence Krey and Christine Nyland

Salem Horror Fest ran from April 20th to April 30th.

Usually when someone shows up unexpectedly, there’s a reason for it. The first mystery Terence Krey’s Summoners raises, then, isCOMICONRead More

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