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The Summoning – a testament to clever filmmaking

If you happen to be Sri Lankan, with your feelers out for local talent or if you have a love for the cinematic arts paired with some general perusing down the YouTube rabbit hole, you’ve most certainly heard of “Eidetic” and the team behind the fantastic production – High School Junkies (HSJ).

The group’s fifth attempt at a cinematic production, a horror short film, “The Summoning” was released and went public on 31 October.

HSJ were best known for the action/thriller genre, with Eidetic and Rise Up being massive mainstream successes; and the crew were unanimous in stating that the transition, while being exciting, was a learning experience.
Speaking about how it all came about, Akash SK, the Director of the film said: “We’ve been meaning to do a close-knit project which included the four core members of HSJ.”

The core membership – Shenic Tissera, Kasun Rathnasiri, Stefania Perera, and Akash Sk – carried the four starring roles, supported by Anisha Barakathulla, a fan turned cast member whom the HSJ crew met at Sri Lanka Comic Con.
The film’s completion spanned eight to nine months, which included a lengthy period in post production and the effort truly shines through on screen.

If there was ever a project made with the labour of love pouring through the screen, it’s “The Summoning”. The film was absolutely gorgeous, looking every bit like the professional high quality production it is.

The 14-minute film was premiered on 26 October at the National Film Corporation to a host of enthusiasts and the crew’s friends to much applause and high praise.

The short film pays homage to the Raimi era of horror, whilst putting a spin on the recent trend of Ouija boards. The Summoning has been screened in LA to a few producers, receiving rave reviews, including the creators of a benchmark in horror – the “Paranormal Activity” franchise.

The film is a true testament to clever filmmaking. With their limited budget, entirely financed by themselves, and just only a few pieces of equipment, the Director and his crew are able to create an idyllic horror atmosphere with some highly impressive framing, to keep you on edge.

The pacing of the film is highly commendable; within the short time span, it bravely takes its time to build up to a thrilling crescendo.

The acting however was the only issue anyone had with it, as one of the audience members accompanied with a host of compliments to the cast and crew said: “The film was near perfect but the acting was sort of subpar, but it didn’t take away from the experience that much.”

The brief reference to the film’s acting requires the mention that its cast included HSJ’s Composer Shenic and videographer Kasun.

The Director, speaking about the reception he’s received for his previous films and the overall support from Sri Lankans, said: “We’ve been blessed to have such a supportive group of people around us, which has really made things easy for us in the long run,” adding that “locally, it’s been really overwhelming and unexpected, and we’re most grateful.”

He also added that a fan base is imperative for local art to flourish, pointing out that a country like India has a thriving film industry due to there being a dedicated group of supporters, and that culture really needs to develop in our country, although there has been a considerable change for the better as of recent years.

About potential future projects for the group, they said: “We are in the process of shooting something called ‘Alkaline’,” which very excitingly involves Iko Uwais from ‘The Raid’ as an executive producer, and hopefully a feature length production within the next 3-5 years.

High School Junkies and their dedication to filmmaking is a true gift to the future of Sri Lankan cinema. It is fantastic news for an industry that is still searching for its footing in the world. Here’s to hoping that HSJ’s passion ignites the yearning hearts of young filmmakers within our island.

‘The Summoning’ is now available on the High School Junkies YouTube channel.
YouTube: High School Junkies

By Dimithri Wijesinghe

Premiere photos: Saman Abesiriwardana