REVIEW: The Summoner
– By Stephen Harper
After sitting through director James Secker’s twenty minute short film The Summoner I realized how torn I’d become with features and shorts such as this. Let me explain…
The Summoner is a retro inspired horror that harps back to the movies of the early 80’s and likes to add imagery of nostalgia, accompanied by referencing classic horror films such as The Evil Dead.
Now don’t get me wrong, I grew up in the eighties and love all the old classics, and even dig all the new interpretations such as Turbo Kid and Pigskin that are heavily inspired by that time, but if you’re going to make a throwback movie with nods to the past it has to fit specifically into two categories: either fully serious homage or spoof. Unfortunately, I felt The Summoner found it difficult to establish exactly what it wanted to be.
In the infamous words of MC Hammer let’s “break it down”. The plot focuses on Summoner, a loner whose wife has died and now he lives his life a lone wolf. He either sits alone popping tablets and drinking throughout the night, all Mel Gibson-ish from Lethal Weapon, or working out in his basement and basically training for when he gets a distress call from people who need demons banishing from their homes – like a cross between Evil Dead and The Equalizer. This side of the film I liked a lot. It’s totally bonkers, but felt like numerous great 90’s action films from the Cannon Group. Once Summoner gets a call and turns up at a possessed house, all turns into 80’s inspired horror with face painted demons or zombies being booted and necks swiveled. Summoner’s character even flips between 90’s action star to 80’s horror, which I felt was slightly confusing. I totally understand filmmakers loving the 80’s and 90’s genres as I love them too, but what didn’t help the piece was the switching in style. The referencing was a little too heavy. Take away the soundtrack (which was awesome, by the way), I think the film could have stood on its own without it.
Criticism aside I do commend the filmmakers for the idea and pacing. It really did pack a lot into its 20 minute running time. Adam McNab was also fantastic as the title character. He has stature and charisma and reminded me of Bruce Campbell’s Ash character with Sean Bean’s voice. There were some nice scenes and nice little retro nods. Obviously with a bigger budget the setting could have been switched from daytime to night which would have helped the overall atmosphere, but once again I commend the filmmakers for pressing ahead.
I’d love to see the director given a bigger budget for his vision with the same cast and crew, as I believe he has all the foundations and ingredients in place.