If the greatest horror movies are tests of viewer endurance, the lesser ones are often, to varying degrees, tests of patience.
It’s actually pretty understandable that very few films in the genre can occupy that former category while so many end up in the latter. Simply put, it’s really hard to maintain and steadily build intensity, dread, and revulsion throughout an entire feature-length movie; it’s maybe even harder to have enough scary things in your bag of tricks that you can methodically dole them out over an hour-and-a-half.
And yet, despite those odds, some movies do it. Other movies are 1st Summoning.
It’s probably worth cutting to the chase, here: this film, which comes to us from director Raymond Wood, has a handful of worthwhile scares, it takes its otherwise familiar premise into a few interesting and unexpected places, and it boasts a memorable wallop of an ending.
“A found-footage horror film about a group of aspiring filmmakers who tangle with supernatural forces…”
Sadly, though, most of that good stuff (like the ending, obviously) happens in the last third of the movie, and there’s not a whole lot on the way there to keep viewers engaged. With that in mind, you can take this review in one of two ways: for glass-half-empty types, it’s maybe a suggestion not to bother, but for the more optimistically inclined horror fans, it’s a pep talk – hang in there (said the proverbial motivational-poster kitten), because good things come to those who wait.
A found-footage horror film about a group of aspiring filmmakers who tangle with supernatural forces (those familiar with the genre can go ahead and throw the words “yet another” in there), 1st Summoning concerns an abandoned factory built on land long rumored to be the site of Satanic rituals. There’s a neat, sort of Stephen King-y vibe suggested by the concept of a blue-collar locale beset by ancient evils, but the filmmakers don’t seem terribly concerned with exploring any potentially juicy subtext that might be inherent in it.
Instead, what we get is a lot of fairly standard bickering from four fairly standard horror-movie twenty-somethings. Mark (Teddy Cole) is the project’s mastermind, an award-winning documentarian who’s stubbornly determined to explore the factory and conjure something otherworldly on film; Leslie (Hayley Lovitt), his girlfriend, is a photographer by trade, supportive of Mark’s vision but (understandably) not fully on board with messing around in devil-summoning. There’s also Ryan (Brook Todd), the most apprehensive and rational of the group, and Ace (Ace Harney), who smokes weed, wears loud shorts, and seems to be the only one in possession of something resembling a sense of humor.