1st Summoning is a low-budget horror movie in the found footage subgenre. It has good elements but there are huge issues with the sound. Problems with hearing dialogue properly is a common issue, but with this movie it’s something much worse!
1st Summoning is a low-budget horror movie. We always love watching indie and low-budget movies to discover the next big talent. Of course, this also means we watch a lot of movies that are a bit too rough around the edges.
We always try to focus on the good parts. And the fact that 1st Summoning is in the found footage subgenre is the perfect choice when the budget is low. The story can be pretty much everything as movies like Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project proved.
Also, with the found footage genre, you can forgive a lot of the issues around sound and lighting. However, in this particular case, it’s about a group of film students that should have a pretty good idea of working with sound. And the sound is the biggest issue with this movie for me.
Pastor Youngblood is deliciously weird
The movie really gets started for me when Pastor Youngblood is introduced. He’s portrayed by Jason MacDonald who plays Pastor Youngblood in the most brilliant way.
He looks like he’s an alien new to being in human form. Or some very weird cult member of a kind. In any case, it is very entertaining and intriguing.
The four members of the film crew aren’t that interesting simply because their drama take up too much time. For my taste, anyway.
However, I was fascinated by how much Teddy Cole (Mark) looks like the love child of Jay Mohr and Jim Belushi. Once you have this thought, you cannot unsee it! Sorry, not sorry.
The sound in 1st Summoning
Whatever good elements 1st Summoning do have, the sound is such a big drawback. And the problem with the sound in 1st Summoning is one of several issues.
First, there’s the usual problem with the sound being bad for dialogue. In the opening scene, we can hear the person being filmed much louder than the person filming. In fact, we almost can’t hear the person asking the questions. Not a good start, but this is the typical issue with a low budget and not one that needs to ruin the overall experience.
The real problem is the handling of an extremely squeaky camera. It sounds like the person filming is constantly fidgetting with the camera in various ways that produce very annoying sounds. This could be anything from the squeaky noises to crackling sounds. And it is never-ending.
Only in scenes with the camera placed on the ground or mounted on something, do we avoid these sounds. It is infuriating! To me anyway. To others, this might be delicious ear porn.
Found footage? Well, who found it?!
Whenever you do decide to work with the found footage concept, part of the story should be how this footage is found. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, but it should be mentioned. Otherwise, you’ve just used the concept as a stylistic choice without following up with the story.
The same can almost be said for including a girl on the crew of four film students. If you’re going to include a girl, then please let it be for her to have an actual personality and character. And not simply to be someone the men in the crew can fight over.
Honestly, this should not be all that difficult. And bickering about romance drama does not exactly improve on a “found footage” horror movie. But when you do want to include this, don’t have a rather long scene debating said drama.
Especially when the sound is so bad that we can hear birds singing louder than the dialogue in the scene.
Potential in the style and ideas
During most of 1st Summoning, there is a lot of talk of a facility. However, we have to get almost one hour into the movie before we actually get to the facility. Plenty happens before then, but we could have gotten there faster.
The style of 1st Summoning is a lot like that of The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity (not the first one). And it does work in many ways. The sound issues were just very distracting and this is a damn shame.
Director Raymond Wood clearly has a good vision and eye for the story which gives me hope for future projects. The screenplay was written by Chris Piner, who has worked on several of the previous movies by director Raymond Wood. If they work (a lot) on the sound and tighten the overall story then I’m sure we’ll see good things from them in the future.
1st Summoning is out in limited US theatrical release and On Demand from February 22, 2019.
Director: Raymond Wood
Writer: Chris Piner
Stars: Hayley Lovitt, Jason MacDonald, Teddy Cole, Brook Todd, Ace Harney
Four student filmmakers set out to explore an abandoned building famous for its connection with the occult, but as their journey becomes littered with strange behavior and unexplained phenomena, it becomes clear the horror they are attempting to document may already be lurking among them.