Written and directed by Will Cannon
Starring Maria Bello, Frank Grillo, Cody Horn, Dustin Milligan, Megan Park, Scott Mechlowicz, Aaron Yoo, Alex Goode
A police officer and a psychologist investigate the deaths of five people who were killed while trying to summon ghosts.
Just as with The Diabolical, Demonic from producer James Wan and director Will Cannon is a movie that attempts to move the ghost story genre into a new direction. And Cannon does this in the most perfect of ways – he makes three movies that intertwine with one and other to create one of the best narratives to come from the subgenre in some time.
The first of these movies is your typical ‘five kids go to a haunted house tale’ which plays out better than you’d think. It’s helped by the fact Demonic has a wonderful cast of likeable characters – even if none of them actually look like ghost hunters – and the scares on show are very effective. The problem with this section however is that, while they’re effective, none of the scares on show are entirely original. If you’ve seen movies like Insidious, The Conjuring, Sinister, Mama and any other supernatural horror from the last few years than you will have seen everything Demonic has to offer. But in the end, that doesn’t matter because Cannon finds new ways to present things you’ve seen before.
He does this by using found footage in the most effective of ways – sparingly. The found footage subgenre has been a fart stain on the horror community for the last decade, with each new release being surprisingly worse than the last (save for some gems like Frankenstein’s Army and The Borderlands), but the ones that get it right are the ones who use the method creatively, which Cannon does here. Because he has the first narrative running concurrently with it, Demonic doesn’t have the justify why the camera is on or rely on it telling the story. And because it’s used for the majority of the scares, it creates an immediate sense of doom simply by switching modes.
And all this is bookended and surrounded by a police procedural movie as Captain America: Civil War‘s Frank Grillo teams with Maria Bello as a detectives and doctor respectively who are investigating the aftermath of the previous two plot threads. This is where we really discover what happened in the house, and because we’re learning along with the police, it’s incredibly gripping. Questions keep getting raised, and the answers we get are fabulously satisfying. Many times have these haunted house movies fallen apart in the final third, but Demonic just gets better the longer it goes.
Which is helped by a terrific cast, not just in Grillo and Bello. Cannon is a director who can get the best from his performers, as previously seen in the criminally underrated Brotherhood, and he once again shows here how good he is. He’s helped by a terrific script that contains clichéd, but easy-to-relate characters and the whole thing just comes together perfectly.
Seasoned horror fans may find a lot of Demonic a bit ‘paint by numbers, and will most likely bemoan James Wan’s ‘horror movies for the masses’, but this is a cracking example of how to get the genre right. Cannon brings something new and original to an already tired formula and this breath of fresh air is simply tremendous. Demonic may just be one of the best horror films released this year, and we can only hope that we don’t have to wait five more years to get another film from Mr. Will Cannon.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.