Marc Meyers’ latest horror/thriller, We Summon the Darkness is now available on all VOD platforms and serving up a bloody good time, with a side of rock and roll. On the way to a heavy metal concert, Alexis (Alexandra Daddario) and two girlfriends hear a news report of a local murder believed to be tied to a series of satanic killings. After the show, the girls invite three guys to join them at an estate owned by Alexis’s father, a fire-and-brimstone preacher (Johnny Knoxville). What starts as a party suddenly turns dark and deadly in this devilishly entertaining thriller.
Jamie Kirkpatrick served as the film’s lead editor and is dishing below about everything from the death scenes, to the sequence that was most difficult to edit. Read Kirkpatrick’s exclusive Q&A here:
Wicked Horror: Was there a sequence in We Summon the Darkness that was particularly difficult to edit?
Jamie Kirkpatrick: One scene that was tricky to put together is what Marc referred to as the Heavy Metal Parking Lot, when the girls and the guys are first introduced and are kind of feeling each other out. It was technically tricky simply because of how much footage was shot. This scene had two camera’s rolling at all times. All six of our lead characters are in it (and speak), there were multiple long takes and the actors tended to ad-lib within the structure of the scene. Couple that with all the extras and background actors and the result, at least for an editor first looking at dailies, can be a continuity nightmare. Continuity is never my primary concern, but sometimes I’d have this amazing bit of performance that I wanted to use, only to realize that the drunken meta- head who stumbles by had already stumbled by thirty seconds earlier. So then the trick is to kind of reverse engineer the scene so I’m fixing the continuity with the extra while at the same time not losing the great bit of performance. I had to do a lot of passes on this scene, but in the end I’m really pleased with how it came out.
Wicked Horror: This is Marc Meyers’s follow-up to My Friend Dahmer, which you also worked on. Does Marc have a style that he likes to keep with all his films? Or was his approach, editing-wise, to We Summon the Darkness a lot different than My Friend Dahmer?
Jamie Kirkpatrick: Marc does have certain stylistic approaches that he gravitates toward; one of them being long uninterrupted takes. It gives the actors a chance to find their rhythm in a scene and I think it results in really grounded performances in his films. He shot We Summon in the same way when he could. Obviously when you’re dealing with action or stunts, it’s necessary to rely on more traditional coverage. He did tell me at the start of the project that he wanted me to think of the film as a roller coaster, which really helped me structure the pacing of this film – it starts off with a slow and peaceful climb before we plunge headlong into all the mayhem.
Wicked Horror: Do you have a favorite scene in We Summon the Darkness?
Jamie Kirkpatrick: My favorite scene is the bonfire scene about thirty minutes into the film. I probably spent more time crafting that scene than any other in my career, for the same reasons I mentioned before about the parking lot scene. But the bonfire scene is also about revelations, both for the characters and the audience. The film takes a major turn at the end of that scene and it was really challenging to make sure everything from the line readings to the reaction shots to the rhythm of the cutting were serving the goal of getting the audience to that moment where hopefully they’re going, “Wait. What??”
Wicked Horror: Was there a scene that didn’t make it into the film you really enjoyed?
Jamie Kirkpatrick: Believe it or not, we didn’t have a single scene that we cut out and that’s extremely unusual. The credit for that really goes to Allan Trezza (the screenwriter) and Marc for getting the script as lean as possible. There were plenty of places where we condensed things or trimmed but every scene in the script is on screen in some form or other.
Wicked Horror: Did you begin work on this film after it was already completed or did you start working on scenes after they were shot?
Jamie Kirkpatrick: I usually start the same day as principal photography. In this case, as they were shooting in Winnipeg Canada, and my assistant and I were in New York, we started a couple of days later so we would have some footage ready for us to edit. As far as I’m concerned there’s no other way to do it. The editor is often the only person watching every second of every take of dailies. As we’ve always done, Marc and I will talk on the phone any time there’s an issue with the footage. Sometimes a director knows that they have certain pickup shots they need to get at the end of the shoot and often I’m able to let them know if they’re really necessary and that can save the production time and money.
Wicked Horror: What are you most proud of with We Summon the Darkness?
Jamie Kirkpatrick: It’s just really gratifying to see that it’s being embraced and resonating with the horror community. They are a particularly discerning audience, so we knew going in that we needed to deliver on certain things or we were going to hear about it. Horror isn’t a genre I’ve worked in much, but as a child of the 80s and a fan of those iconic films, I realized working on this that those films are part of my creative DNA. I take a lot of pride in being able to work across genres so I’m especially proud that We Summon is doing well and being well received.
Wicked Horror: We read that you are a big fan of 80s horror. When looking at those films now, as a professional editor, do you notice anything different about them, then when you used to watch them as a kid?
Jamie Kirkpatrick: That’s a really good question. Obviously now, as a professional editor, I know how the sausage is made. But I also take a certain amount of pride in not letting that knowledge of the craft lessen the enjoyment I got (or terror I felt) from those movies, even when I see them now. There are so many examples of moments in film that scared the shit of me as a kid that now I might think of as quaint or cheesy. Ironically though, most of those scary moments centered around practical special effects. (Kevin Bacon getting the arrow through the throat in Friday the 13th, the guy with the defibrillators punching right through the dude’s chest and getting his hands bitten off in The Thing or the guy peeling his face off in the mirror in Poltergeist, to name just a few that scarred me.) Marc and I spoke about just this thing when he was prepping We Summon; how important practical effects were because they have a more visceral effect on the audience. And I have to say that the folks at Blood Brothers who did our practical special effects really delivered.
Wicked Horror: Do you have any guidelines you follow for death scenes?
Jamie Kirkpatrick: See?? Like I said before, discerning! It’s a great question, but no. At the end of the day, it’s about character and emotion. I don’t want to give anything away, but there’s a scene where one of our main characters is killed and then later, a secondary character is killed in a similar way. But those two scenes are handled totally differently. In the first, I really wanted the audience to be shocked by the violence and to feel the emotion surrounding this lead character’s death. We treated it as a pivotal moment in the film. But when the secondary character is killed, we have no emotional connection to them and the scene is played more like black comedy. It all depends on character.
Wicked Horror: What would be your dream horror project to work on?
Jamie Kirkpatrick: It’s funny. I don’t go out of my way to look for projects in the horror genre, but there is one and it’s a no brainer for me, even though it’s not traditional horror: The Long Walk by Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King). I’m a life-long King fan but that story particularly affected me when I discovered it in middle school. I’ve been waiting for someone to make that movie since I was 13 and I even wrote a short film script of it in film school (it’s terrible). I was really bummed out that Frank Darabont never made it, but when I heard that Andre Ovredal (The Autopsy of Jane Doe) was on board to direct I got really excited. If they announce that film is going — once we get back to making movies again — I’m going to really annoy my agent.
We Summon the Darkness is also available to pre-order on DVD from Amazon with a release date of May 11.