Director – Will Canon
Cast – Frank Grillo, Maria Bello, Cody Horn, Dustin Milligan, Scott Mechlowicz, Megan Park, Aaron Yoo, Alex Goode, Terence Rosemore,Jesse Steccato
Release Year – 2017
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I remember being really excited to see this film a few years ago. The plot had me hooked, lead actor Frank Grillo was fresh off of his Purge: Anarchy success, and the film was produced by James Wan (Insidious, The Conjuring). What more could I ask for? Constant postponements of the release date (two years worth) accompanied by bad reviews left me uninterested, but it was finally time to get this off of my queue. Well, now that I have seen Demonic I can say that it isn’t as bad as I expected it would be. It has a few good jolts (wearing headphones), good atmosphere, and a plot that kept me curious. Sadly, its story-related faults result in boring clichés that leave this a mediocre film in the end.
It’s a slow night in rural Louisiana when detective Mark Lewis is called to the last place he’d expect – the vacant Livingston house. The scene of a grisly murder 20 years prior, history is on repeat when he enters the home and finds the mutilated bodies of a film crew documenting a séance. With one survivor and several others missing, Lewis calls on criminal psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Klein to extract information from the shaken lone survivor. His claim that they awoke something in the house and it killed his friends falls on deaf ears. However, as the night unfolds and the video evidence is recovered they learn that this case will be far from ordinary.
As you can tell by the plot summary, there are some found-footage elements here. The film is mostly told in the third person, and starts off in present day with Lewis investigating the murders. Soon after this the story begins a timeshare between present day and about a week prior as the young adults prepare for their own investigation. Their plan is to break into the Livingston home and document evidence of ghosts. As the story moves on the flashback scenes move on to the same night, mere hours before their deaths. I was fond of this timeshare tactic as it brought a different scope to the often-convoluted found-footage sub-genre. They reach the home about 30 minutes in, and that is when the scares begin to surface. These scenes are tame at first, but as the runtime grows the scares intensify. I was impressed at how effective the scares were. Some of them gave me chills down my legs, which is a sensation I rarely feel these days. I believe part of this is that I watched the film alone, in the dark, and with headphones on. Setting this atmosphere is key to enjoying a horror experience. Sadly, this horror experience goes nowhere with its great elements. The supernatural aspect goes in a direction I did not enjoy, and while that is a subjective phrase I know I am not alone. Maybe with better direction this element could have hit harder, but it does not. It was a shame to see the story deliver an interesting take on found-footage and demon possession and then give us the same old results.
Strangely enough, while I have many balks with this film it kept me engaged until the bitter end. Frank Grillo is great, albeit a bit cheesy here. Maria Bello carries her own and her character proves to be a more central to the story during the final act. With good atmosphere and some decent spooks I was always holding on for something more. There are scenes in the abandoned home where the only available light comes from the flashlights of the young adults and these scenes were a great setup for some spine tingles. It was because of these scenes that I mildly enjoyed this piece, but in the end it isn’t a film I can recommend. Unless you are curious as I was, there isn’t a reason to give this a go.
Overall, Demonic gets a few things right when it comes to the scares but it’s unfulfilling story will leave you wishing it had more to offer.
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