Directed by Will Canon.
Starring Maria Bello, Frank Grillo, Cody Horn, Dustin Milligan, Megan Park, Aaron Yoo and Alex Goode.
A police officer and a psychologist investigate the mysterious deaths of a group of people performing a séance in an abandoned house.
When a horror movie comes with the tag of ‘[insert well-respected director’s name] Presents…’ you can pretty much be assured that the film will be nothing special, as we saw with Guillermo Del Toro and the very dull Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark or the bland Mama, Sam Raimi with the awful The Possession and even the late, great Wes Craven with the abomination that is Carnival of Souls. In this case it is James Wan (Saw/The Conjuring) whose name is attached as a producer and, quite typically, Demonic is a supernatural tale featuring a haunted house and found footage. Typically, because Demonic brings nothing new to the party and is about as generic as you would expect from a filmmaker with Wan’s filmography and the backing of Bob and Harvey Weinstein.
The film starts off promisingly enough, with off-duty police detective Mark Lewis (Frank Grillo – The Grey) being called to an abandoned house after a neighbour reports a disturbance. Once there he discovers three dead bodies and a terrified John (Dustin Milligan – Slither), who appears to be the only survivor. Claiming that two more of his friends are missing after a séance, Lewis calls in criminal psychologist Elizabeth Klein (Maria Bello – A History of Violence) and using the video footage shot that evening the pair try and piece together what happened. And then the fun and games begin…
Well, they begin eventually, after a few flashbacks to the week before where we get the setup and see John and his friends getting together to plan what they’re going to do. After that the film cuts between the events of the evening of the séance and the police procedural aftermath where we learn about John, why he was involved with the séance and what his real connection to the derelict house is. Although the other characters in the film may not realise the full extent of what is about to happen to them we are, and that is because after the initial promise of a supernatural horror movie with a little more than the bog-standard ‘people-go-into-a-haunted-house-and-meddle-with-the-occult’ formula, Demonic falls into exactly that trap.
And introducing a found footage element is not an innovative twist or a necessary plot device, despite the obvious attempt to try and make it one. There are one or two moments where the film starts to give you something approaching tension or even a creepy visual but these are only flashes that soon disappear and Demonic resorts to the same old clichés that we have seen in dozens of similar movies from the last few years – obvious jump scares, black goo in the mouth, CGI face contortions and a yawnsome ending that you’ll see coming at least 15 minutes before Lewis and Klein do.
There are those that will no doubt hail Demonic as a masterpiece and give it plaudits claiming it to be a fresh take on an established formula – make no mistake, it is neither of those things. To be fair, it isn’t a terrible film; it is well shot, is lit perfectly and the characters aren’t totally the clichéd bunch of half-wits that normally populate these films (although the token ‘Asian guy with technical know-how’ character is wearing a bit thin now). Frank Grillo and Maria Bello are the two best actors in the film but unfortunately they don’t have that much to do apart from asking John what happened over and over, which is a shame as they both gave solid and believable performances, whereas the acting in other places is a bit patchy.
However, one great thing about Demonic is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it visual gag (be a bit lively with the pause button when Maria Bello’s character is looking on a computer screen and read what it says) that proves the filmmakers had a sense of humour. It’s just a pity that the same sense of playfulness didn’t seep over into the other elements of the film because ultimately Demonic is quite bland and nothing that you haven’t seen before in much more entertaining movies.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★