We Summon the Darkness: Jamie Kirkpatrick talks ’80s horror and more

We chatted with film editor Jamie Kirkpatrick about the ’80s horror inspiration found in We Summon the Darkness and much more!

We Summon the Darkness is a fantastic new satanic thriller with dark comedy elements that stars Alexandra Daddario and Johnny Knoxville. Hidden Remote was lucky enough to chat with the film’s editor, Jamie Kirkpatrick on the movie’s 80s horror film inspiration, his reasons for feeling drawn to the script, how he approaches editing a comedy versus a horror film, and much more!

Hidden Remote: What interested you about this particular film?

Jamie Kirkpatrick: I grew up an only child in Indiana. We had an independently owned video store across the street from my house, and I used to rent movies there so often that the owner eventually let me rent as many films as I wanted in a day.

I always kind of liked horror films, and the summer before eighth grade, I made it my mission to watch every horror film they had.  When I first read the script for We Summon the Darkness, it immediately reminded me of those ’80s teen horror films that I grew up with. I was really excited to dive into that genre and play in that creative sandbox a little.

HR: The style between We Summon the Darkness is very different from My Friend Dahmer, how did you approach this movie versus that one?

JK: It’s true, they are very different movies. My Friend Dahmer is a contemplative character study about the making of a monster. One of the challenges of that film was the fact that the “end” wasn’t a secret: our main character goes on to kill multiple people.

We worked really hard in that film to make sure that the narrative moved forward in a way where, by the end, Jeff picking up his first victim is a tragic inevitability.

On We Summon, it was almost the opposite challenge. The audience is told there’s a killer on the loose in the first five minutes. The question becomes, who is it, and which of our characters are in danger?

The challenge, editorially, is to not let the audience get ahead of you by giving too many hints or “winks” about where the story is going. This could be anything from a line reading that’s a little too intentional to lingering too long on a cutaway of a prop that might become important later.

HR: We Summon the Darkness changes course about a third of the way into the film, what was it like working with the first part of the movie versus the rest of it?

JK: One Day 1 of shooting, director Marc Meyers told me he wanted the film to feel like a roller coaster. Having edited his previous two films, I completely understood the metaphor: like a roller coaster, it should start with a leisurely climb to the top, where you have time to look around and see the scenery with the breeze in your hair.

This is the first half-hour or so of the film – meeting our characters, learning their (seeming) motivations, and setting the plot into motion.

This is the first half-hour or so of the film – meeting our characters, learning their (seeming) motivations and setting the plot into motion. The rest of the movie is the part of the roller coaster when you get to the top, and you begin to realize that you’ve been lulled into a false sense of security, and you’re about to fall.

Then comes the drop and for the rest of the ride, it’s a non-stop series of terrifying loops and hairpin turns. After the change, of course, it was all about keeping the audience on their toes and never giving them a chance to relax.

HR: There are a lot of gory moments in the movie. How do you decide how graphic a moment should be? Does it come down to a certain amount of bloodshed to maintain the rating?

JK: The moments of violence were well thought out, even in the script stage, so we knew we weren’t going to shy away from the gorier moments. It’s something the true genre fans expect, and it’s something, as filmmakers, you want to deliver on if you’re making a horror film.

Plus, I thought the folks at Blood Brothers, who did the special effects, did a great job, so I wanted to honor that work as much as possible. I can’t really speak to the rating, as I had already moved on to another film by then, but Marc and his second editor left all the gore in, so I don’t think it was ever a problem.

HR: Was anything in the film’s story inspired by real-life events?

JK: The general atmosphere of paranoia around satanic cults murdering innocent teenagers absolutely is based on what is known as the Satanic Panic of the mid to late 1980s. For several years there were constant news reports of satanic cults kidnapping kids and things like that.

I’m in my 40s, and anyone my age remembers watching the Geraldo Rivera TV special “Devil Worship: Exposing Satan’s Underground.” You can watch it on YouTube, and it’s absolutely bonkers! There really were some instances of murders that were linked to the occult, and it scared the s–t out of a lot of parents back then.

We Summon the Darkness

Photo: Johnny Knoxville in We Summon the Darkness – Courtesy Saban Films

HR: Is it more challenging to edit a horror movie that is also a comedy? Does that make it trickier to find the right beats?

JK: That’s a great question. It’s always a delicate dance when there are competing tones in a film. That said, I thought of the humor in this film as complementing the horror, not competing with it. It’s a dark comedy, which is one of my favorite genres of film. I thought our cast – and not just our leads but our supporting roles as well — did an incredible job creating characters with real flaws and foibles.

When those flaws and foibles reveal themselves in terrifying situations, it’s funny. There were several moments where Marc worked hard on set to get those beats right, and I just did my best to highlight them.

HR: What do you think will surprise people most about this movie?

JK: While I’m eager to see how younger audiences react to this film, I’m really excited for people around my age to see it; people who grew up in the 80s and not only lived through the Satanic Panic but also went to see these sorts of films in the theater. A thumbs up from that community would be personally very gratifying.

HR: Do you have any dream project you would like to work on someday?

JK: For me, the attraction to something is always less about the specific project as it is about the filmmakers involved. There are many directors I would jump at the chance to work with as an editor. A few I’m really excited about right now include Denis Villeneuve, Rian Johnson, Julia Ducournau, and Fede Álvarez.

Right now, I’m taking advantage of being stuck at home and working on the script for my own dream project. It’s the true story of an undefeated girls’ softball team from Staten Island in the late 80s and the two amazing women who coached them at a time when female coaches were unheard of.

Are you planning to watch We Summon the Darkness when it is released? Are you a fan of horror movies? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

We Summon the Darkness will be released on-demand on April 10.