From the moment I first heard about Summon the Spirit, I knew I had to check this movie out. The trailer promised an intriguing cult/monster mashup, and as a big fan of both of those subgenres, I figured this would be right up my alley. I requested a screener as soon as I could, and after getting the chance to watch the movie, I’m happy to report that it does not disappoint.
Summoning the Spirit was directed and co-written by John Garcia, and it stars Krystal Millie Valdes, Ernesto Reyes, Jesse Tayeh, Isabelle Muthiah, Robin Magdhalen, and Sean Sisson. The film follows a married couple named Carla and Dean who buy a house in a remote forest to escape the big city, and soon after they move in, they discover that a bizarre cult lives in the area as well.
At first, the cult members come across as super weird, but they seem pretty harmless. However, as the movie goes on, we learn that their leader claims to have a spiritual connection with the Sasquatch that lives in the forest, and it becomes clear that this group is much more dangerous than they let on.
Like I said, Summoning the Spirit delivers on the promise of its trailer, but it’s not exactly what I was expecting. For most of the film’s runtime, the Bigfoot merely lurks in the background, and when we do get to see the creature, it’s usually just moving through the woods.
Sure, there are a couple of attack scenes, but they’re really brief, so on the whole, this movie is a very slow burn. You have to be patient, but if you stick it out till the end, you’ll get the monster mayhem you were waiting for. The Sasquatch finally takes center stage in the last 15 minutes or so, and let me tell you, it’s utterly brutal. This thing rips through its victims with absolutely no mercy, so if you’re looking for gory kills, you’ll definitely walk away satisfied.
But aside from those final minutes, Summoning the Spirit is surprisingly light on the monster action. Instead, it’s more about the human characters, and thankfully, they’re all pretty intriguing. Let’s start with the main couple, Carla and Dean. They’re played excellently by Krystal Millie Valdes and Ernesto Reyes, so I bought into them right away.
In particular, these actors do a really good job of making Carla and Dean’s love tangible. I felt like they truly cared for each other, and that made them both pretty endearing. What’s more, soon after the movie starts, Carla has a miscarriage, and Krystal Millie Valdes and Ernesto Reyes do a pretty convincing job of portraying their characters’ grief as well. I was genuinely sad about their loss, and that made my connection with them even stronger.
Next, let’s move on to the cult members. When we first meet them, we don’t see the entire group together. Rather, Carla and Dean each encounter one of their members seperately, and right from the get-go, it’s clear that something isn’t quite right with these people.
For instance, the first one we meet is a guy named Arlo (played excellently by Jesse Tayeh), and when he starts talking to Dean, the first thing he says is that he loves him. Sure, that’s a nice sentiment, but that’s not how people normally start conversations with strangers. It’s just bizarre. And to make matters worse, Arlo also has the uncomfortable air of calmness and peace we often associate with cult members, so even though he tries to make it seem like he wouldn’t hurt a fly, you just know there’s something much more sinister lurking beneath the surface.
Then, when we finally see the entire group together, they become even weirder. In fact, the entire first half of Summoning the Spirit is basically just Carla and Dean getting to know these people and learning how odd they really are, and it’s pretty intriguing. It made me curious to find out what their deal was, so my eyes remained glued to the screen as I waited to find out.
All that being said, I have to acknowledge that this film isn’t quite perfect. The second half of the story starts to feel a bit directionless and arbitrary, so it’s not quite as engaging as the first half. To take just one example, we learn that Dean had an affair with a woman named Laura some time ago, and at one point in the movie, it seems like this illicit relationship is going to come back to haunt him in a big way.
And it kind of does, but it’s entirely unnecessary. Summoning the Spirit just uses this new plot development to push Carla into the cult’s seemingly welcoming arms, but the movie could’ve very easily accomplished that same goal with the story elements that were already there. This whole thing ends up being somewhat of a rabbit hole to nowhere, so it killed a bit of my interest in the characters and their story.
But the film never lost me entirely, and the big monster finale completely made up for everything the second half did poorly. So by the time the credits began to roll, I was a very happy man. Like I said, I’m a big fan of cults and monsters, and Summoning the Spirit absolutely nails both of those subgenres. It’s a fascinating ride with great characters, an intriguing and mysterious cult, and some excellent creature mayhem, so despite a few missteps, I still highly recommend that you give this film a watch.
Summoning the Spirit is set to hit VOD and DVD on August 8.