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July 05, 2022

The Summoned


Mark Meir - 2022
XYZ Films

The Summoned begins as a psychological horror film during its initial setup. Four people receive invitations to the remote lodge of a celebrity therapist, Dr. Frost. Three of the invitees are successful - entrepreneur Joe Agrippa, the actress Tara, and singer-song writer Lyn. Out of place is Lyn’s boyfriend, Elijah, a car mechanic by trade, but also an aspiring musician. While there is nothing in the screenplay to indicate race, the Elijah is portrayed by a black actor provides an immediate marking of the character as an outsider to the materially successful trio. Dr. Frost’s therapy weekends consist of acknowledging what he calls sins, not specifically in religious terms, but closer to challenges to conventional social attitudes.

Elijah has nightmarish dreams, or could they be premonitions, of his own death or the death of others. One of the recurring images is of Elijah digging a grave. He is constantly kept unbalanced by the suggestion that Lyn is secretly having sex with Joe, with Tara’s attempts at seduction, Dr. Frost’s idiosyncrasies, and the periodic appearance of a what appears to be a mentally unbalanced squatter on Frost’s property. The general narrative outline is admittedly not original. Fans of older horror films could probably name at least a couple of similar films just from memory. Certainly Meir and screenwriter Yuri Baranovsky could well have gone in different directions regarding the relationships of the characters and their motivations. Although the film succeeds on its own terms, it might have perhaps been better had there been less time spent on exposition and explanations, making the story and its conclusion more ambiguous.

Mark Meir mostly uses a limited palate of desaturated colors. The initial shots appear to be sepia toned. Filmed in Texas, the main color for both the exterior and interior shots is brown. Frost’s property is near a forest of bare trees. Also nearby is an informal cemetery marked with pagan crosses made of twigs. The ground is so arid that it is uncanny that there is any kind of life, even in Frost’s lodge. Meir should be credited for his intelligent use of limited resources, a cast of five with two smaller supporting roles, and essentially one location. While the horror aspects are very restrained, it is some of the twists to the story that keeps it intriguing. There is a mordant sense of humor when the true nature of the characters is revealed. And definitely stick around for the final post credit scene.

The Summoned will be available on VOD platforms beginning July 7.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at July 5, 2022 06:59 AM