Salem Horror Fest is headed into its second weekend and I had the pleasure of attending weekend one. This was my second trip for this festival and Kay Lynch planned a spectacular lineup and my visit was magical. I caught a couple of classics on the big screen, met Tony Todd and Linnea Quigley, and saw eight new films. That can’t be right. So, let’s get into it.
First up, Summoners. I consider this to be the defining film of my weekend in Salem. Jessica (Christine Nyland) returns home after a decade and she’s left more than just witchcraft in her past. Leaving behind what she feels are childhood things, she’s neglected a close friendship with Alana (McLean Peterson) and real magic, and a strained relationship with her father (Larry Fessenden) after her mother’s passing. It’s obvious that something was supernaturally calling Jessica home when Alana comes to her for help in making some serious magic.
Directed by Terence Krey and co-written by Krey and Nyland, Summoners is exactly what I needed in a modern tale of witchcraft and relationships. Magic is certainly something we might call to for an easy fix. It’s deeply character driven. The cast is small and superb. Nyland and Peterson had me feeling every bit of their pasts, their hurt, and their love for one another. Fessenden didn’t have many lines but was exactly what this grieving and lonely father should be, a loving man of few words.
I had the Charmed and Practical Magic vibes, and this film was still so refreshing and full of pleasant surprises. Never cheesy or looking for cheap scares, we’re aware that magic has its consequences and there’s always horror attached. You don’t read the latin or cast spells in the darkness and expect happy endings. Jessica and Alana have a lot to work through that they’ve been avoiding so when Alana asks for her magical favor, Jessica complies.
I could easily see these two being the stars of a Summoners series. Writing their magic as a good, real part of these women was a brilliant choice. They were caring, sad, lonely, and hurt in a way that was as if time had stood still. Coming together at this time may have been predestined because who doesn’t need a friend when they’re at their darkest?
The pacing was pleasantly even and the mood was tense. I may not have been blown away by anything in particular, but I was fully immersed and the production was excellent. I’ll watch it again for the beauty and magic.