Summoners Review: A Witchy Indie With Practical Magic DNA [Brooklyn Horror Fest]

Terence Krey's "Summoners" is an indie slice of "Practical Magic" pie, telling a heartfelt story about timeless friendship through spellcasting. It's a lighter horror tale that isn't beholden to stereotypical scares, showing the more compassionate side of genre filmmaking. Krey sticks closer to titles like "Hellbender" when executing what wicked curses this way come, without feeling like witchcraft fans are left in the cold. "Summoners" focuses on storytelling and character arcs above all, which accentuates what impractical magic might take place as characters learn there's no cure for life's most unpredictable swings.

Co-writer Christine Nyland stars as Jess Whitman, a Massachusetts resident who returns home after her mother's death. Jess seems apprehensive when father Doug (Larry Fessenden) suggests visiting his wife's grave, always avoiding the conversation. Instead, Jess reconnects with former bestie Alana Wheeler (McLean Peterson) as they relive their local glory days — which eventually brings up their "casting" abilities. Alana reignites Jess' desire to use witchery and reminds the responsible grownup who fled town on a scholarship of her mesmerizing skills. Together, the two can rediscover the supernatural bond they once shared — only if Jess gives herself to the magic once more.

It's important to remember that "Summoners" isn't trying to scare audiences stiff — the "Practical Magic" vibe rings harmoniously. Nyland and co-star McLean Peterson test the boundaries of sisterhood as longtime conjurers who rekindle that zeal for the imaginative. There's plenty of talk about stoking passionate fires as Jess returns to Alana with a blander imposition, and Alana reminds Jess of the blissfulness that comes from illusion-based conjures. As they sip discount tequila while approaching their teenage summoning grounds, the stage is set — and that whimsical practicing becomes a tonal anchor.

A lighter horror tale

What transpires has more teeth than pacifier softness. "Summoners" may introduce itself with unfrosted Pop-Tarts jokes and girl-gang midnight worship, but there's evil aplenty. Krey collaborates with Nyland to cobble a screenplay not just about overcoming creative draughts with special powers. A larger message about everlasting bonds and caring for those we love empowers emotional cores. That reverberates as Alana and Jess confront metaphorical and literal demons accidentally unleashed by blood magic enacted under false pretenses, but Krey never abandons emotionality for cheap thrills. "Summoners" succeeds because it's a warm tale about Jess and Alana coming together rather than another generic blueprint about characters falling apart. It's a lovely sentiment highlighting why sweeter movies being plain-old nice can become such a rewarding experience.

"Summoners" is understated as an independent witch flick that sparsely uses levitation effects and deepened vein colorization, but Krey commands his production with emphasis. Nyland and Peterson are standouts who navigate the dangers of ill-advised magic, while Larry Fessenden plays an adorable surviving father, and Madeline Grey DeFreece adds a neighborly presence who complicates Jess' drama upon returning home. "Summoners" ponders the gray area of cheating spouses when love comes into question while middle-aged spellcasters regain their mojo, focusing more on human elements which sell a richly characteristic narrative that values second chances and asks viewers to never close themselves off to unbelievable wonders.

Terence Krey keys into the more wholesome side of horror subgenres by confronting grief with unbelievable powers only to find there's never an easy fix to life's unpredictable nature. Don't expect anything extravagant about midnight lemon curd bakes or twilight prances around stone altars — yet both leading actresses inject tremendous meaning into their exceptional actions. Angelica roots and ashy wine concoctions play equal importance as witches regain their strength, unlocking a recipe that warms the insides like a rejuvenating broth. Sometimes horror movies can be about besties who find salvation through sympathetic do-overs, even when demonic presences get involved who don't overtake the companionship theme that remains paramount.

/Film Review: 7 out of 10