It’s easy to think that Demonic is yet another haunted house, possession movie. And that would be enough to put you off watching it, if it weren’t for two things: firstly, it’s endorsed by (produced by, among other people) James Wan (Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring) and secondly, it’s at Frightfest. So it must be half decent… Right?
A group of teens decide that they want to film some ghosts. After a small amount of research they discover that one of the party knows just the location for such an investigation – a huge abandoned house in a remote location that was host to occult rituals and of course, a multiple murder.
From the beginning the group is fractured as two of the guys are after the same girl, so it’s obvious that this is going to cause issues with plenty of peacocking and the odd face off.
But the spare wheel, John, has an essential role to play in the ghost hunt. He knows the history of the location very well because his mother just so happened to be the lone survivor of the occult ritual-linked multiple murder that happened there.
The crew sets up on location and before long ghostly things are happening. This escalates and eventually people get hurt and some die.
The ‘joy’ of the film is then trying to figure out who the killer is. Ghost? Human? Possessed human?
As the film begins after the events have taken place the viewer is in a similar position to that of the police as they arrive. And as they work through the damaged video footage discovered at the location, survivor John is interviewed. Cut to lots of clips of found footage and Johns memories.
Some might already be thinking of this as a sneaky way to use the over-played found footage style without being an entirely found footage film. And I might just agree with that.
Looking at Demonic on the whole, it’s not a terrible film. It’s spooky with the odd jump scare, there’s a small amount of mystery with the odd twist and there’s nothing really wrong with the the cast or the effects.
But what is frustrating about the film, and what lets it down is it’s apparent desperation to appeal to the masses and the corners that have been cut to ensure that it reaches them. This starts with the ‘James Wan’ banner on the poster, but continues with a story that is filled with holes.
Sadly, Demonic that are too stupid to forgive, and it’s down to how unrealistic it is.
The first most obvious issue is the fact that the witness/suspect (John) is kept at the crime scene for questioning while the police look through evidence and search for other survivors.
I’m no policeman, but I’m pretty sure that this would never happen in real life. If you’re arrested, you’re taken to the station rather than the police department (and curiously, the police psychologist in this case) moving the station to you. There’s a number of reasons for this, including the fact that if you had just witnessed the slaughter of your friends it’d be pretty horrible for the police to keep you at the scene of of it all to ask you about it. In fact you’d probably be able to sue them pretty hard for that kind of thing.
So in Demonic, why do they do it? The answer is to set up the ‘twist’ at the end, which wouldn’t work so well if they were somewhere else.
Realism is again sacrificed at a crucial point when the group of young investigators first enter the house. Upon finding a ballerina statue in one of the rooms, they discover that the object is enchanted and likes to spin.
That would be enough to get excited/freak out about and document. But John works out that it’s pointing at something. But not the wall or door (although it’s pointing right at them), it’s pointing at the rug. But, John explains, ‘not the rug in that room’ (obviously) the rug in another room that is in another part of the house but still vaguely in the direction that the ballerina is pointing in.
This part of the story is used to demonstrate John’s ‘psychic abilities’ but is just a bit randomly specific and unnecessarily complicated to be worthwhile.
Why even use a ballerina? Or why not just have her point at the rug in front of her? I would still have given John props for working that one out.
This review is turning into a rant, so it’s probably time to regroup. But the issue here it feels like too many films assume that we’re not going to pay attention to stuff like this. And with a new possession film coming out every week, there’s a real danger of this sloppiness spoiling everything.
I don’t want to be down on new horror releases, but please James Wan and co., give us viewers some credit. Give us something truely new and exciting and realise that we do pay attention to the small things, particularly when we’ve heard it all before.