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‘Summoners’ review: Witchy tale more about people than magic

An intimate witch story.

Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.

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Summoners is about a former witch who has moved on with her life. Making its World Premiere at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, the movie is about Jessica Whitman (Christine Nyland, who is also one of the writers) who feels compelled to return to her hometown after a decade. She soon learns her old friend Alana (McLean Peterson, Jessica Jones) has brought her back to help perform a dark spell.

The premise is a familiar one that is not exclusive to horror. A person who wants to leave their evil past is dragged back into it after being asked a favor that is impossible for them to refuse. Summoners has high stakes, but is a more personal story. Instead of a fast paced tale filled with magical battles, the focus is more on acceptance and moving forward.

It is a good idea in theory that may end up taking too long to bring all its moving parts together. The bond between Jessica and Alana is never built as being as strong as Summoners requires. This is partially because Jessica has been gone for a decade, but even after the two rekindle their friendship, it never seems like they were just more than passing acquaintances. Considering where the story goes – especially the ending – it is very noticeable.

Which is not to say that Summoners does not try. There are hints that Alana is jealous that her friend got to move on with her life and the issue she is dealing with is certainly a serious one. The finale is when things work best; Jessica makes a decision that changes both their lives. It is disappointing that her choice does not connect with the rest of the film.

'Summoners' review: Witchy tale more about people than magic

Magic does not play as big a part as one would expect. When Jessica and Alana first go to the altar they played at as kids, it seems like it was something they did more for fun than anything else. Initially, their treatment of witchcraft is akin to kids playing with the Ouija board or trying to summon Bloody Mary, and who has not done that? Magic is treated with more reverence as Summoners progresses, however.

As the movie closes, all of the dangling plot threads are tied up. (A difficult task considering how many are introduced.) The gravity of everything that has been touched on bears fruit in the final moments. It is only then that it becomes clear why magic ends up being a relatively small part of the movie. Ultimately, Summoners is a witch movie that wants to tell a more intimate story.

The Brooklyn Horror Film Festival takes place though October 20

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