★★★ out of ★★★★★
Two friends rekindle their friendship through a shared interest in witchcraft, which may not have been the wisest of decisions.
Directed by Terence Krey
Filmmakers Terence Krey and Christine Nyland, who have previously collaborated on An Unquiet Grave and Distress Signals, lighten up a bit on the genre elements of those two films for their new feature Summoners, which focuses more on the relationship between two longtime friends who practice witchcraft than it does on occult aspects. There are supernatural and horror elements, to be sure, but drama is the main concern here. Jess Whitman (Nyland, who cowrote the screenplay with Krey) has returned home after a decade-long absence to visit her father (Larry Fessenden). She bumps into old friend Alana (McLean Peterson), who has gone through some troubled times in the past 10 years. Alana talks the initially reluctant Jess into practicing magic again, which Alana never gave up on, with Jess stating that she herself “grew out of it.” The pair perform a sin-eating ritual and things go awry. Nyland and Peterson give top-notch performances, the character arcs are quite satisfying, and the dialogue is realistic. Krey helms Summoners solidly, showing a deft hand at both the dramatic storylines that involve family and attempting to make amends, and the supernatural elements.
Mother, May I?
★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
A couple who must have never seen a horror movie before return home to a deceased, estranged parent’s house, resulting in an unusual and effective psychological/possession fear-fare mash-up.
Directed by Laurence Vannicelli
Emmett’s (Kyle Gallner) mother has recently died and he has abandonment issues stemming from young childhood. He and his fiancée Anya (Holland Roden) arrive at the mother’s house, which she surprisingly left to him and which he wants to seel as quickly as possible. Anya’s mother is a well-known therapist, and Anya and Emmett participate — less willingly on Emmet’s part — in reverse role-play mini-sessions that are supposed to help him deal with his emotional issues. This leads to tense, brusque conversations between the two, but that is just the start of the couple’s problems when Anya takes on the mannerisms of the deceased woman, from style of dress to how she smoked cigarettes to speech patterns and beyond. Writer-director Laurence Vannicelli has crafted a possession horror film of a different kind, one fraught with anxiety and psychological mystery. Gallner and Roden give a virtual acting clinic, especially Roden, who is tasked with displaying a myriad of emotions for virtually two characters — or is it two? Although supernatural elements are on display throughout the film, Vannicelli’s mind-twister slow burns its way to a truly horrific act. The dialogue between Emmett and Anya is often highly uncomfortable, as is the emotional strain on characters throughout the film.
Reviews by Joseph Perry
Summoners and Mother, May I? screened as part of Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, which took place from October 13th–20th, 2022. For more information, visit https://brooklynhorrorfest.com/.