28th Aug2015

Frightfest 2015: ‘Demonic’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Maria Bello, Frank Grillo, Cody Horn, Dustin Milligan, Megan Park, Scott Mechlowicz, Aaron Yoo, Alex Goode, Ashton Leigh, Terence Rosemore, Griff Furst, Jesse Steccato, Meyer DeLeeuw | Written by Max La Bella | Directed by Will Canon

demonic

James Wan, the man behind Saw, Dead Silence (a personal favourite), Insidious and The Conjuring, dons producer cap once more – following the success of Annabelle – for Demonic, the second feature from director Will Canon (Brotherhood); and a movie that seems to share more in common with the work of its producer that just having his name on the film…

Demonic follows Detective Mark Lewis and psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Klein as they question the lone survivor of a ghost-hunting excursion turned horrific massacre – where five college students were brutally murdered inside an abandoned home. The amateur paranormal activists were simply seeking proof of poltergeist phenomenon at the supposed haunted house. But what started out as a harmless pursuit turned into something truly terrifying. (Or, you could say, turned Demonic. *Sorry*).

If you’re familiar with the aformentioned films of James Wan, or the films released by Blumhouse Productions such as Sinister, you’ll know what to expect from Demonic. Following the now-familiar formula, this is a somewhat by-the-numbers horror that, bar a few keys shocks and some decent gore, isn’t going to surprise horror fans. Not even the ending, a riff on Rosemary’s Baby will come as a surprise to veteran horror viewers.

That’s not to say Demonic isn’t worth a watch if you enjoy this particular current genre trend. If Sinister is the pinnale of these types of productions and The Gallows the nadir, then Demonic sits with its Wan-directed brethren somewhere in between Insidious and The Conjuring (I enjoyed it more than the latter). However, read on and prepare for a shock…

Essentially a tale of two halves, Demonic tells its story in both traditional and found footage formats, cleverly utitlisting found footage to flashback to events of the past as the cops review the footage captured by the now-deceased group of wannabe paranormal activists. Yes, I did say “cleverly utilising”; and yes I am praising the use of found footage in a horror film. For once the conceit is used well, used sparingly, and used for all the right reasons. If there’s anything I can take away from Canon’s film it’s that he has successfully re-invented the found footage wheel! No small feat.

There are some pluses to this terror tale. The jump scares, as speciality of producer James Wan, are incredibly effective – even when you expect them. Plus there’s some stunning, truly demonic, imagery strewn throughout the film – especially the use of crows to carry evil spirits; which taps in native American myth, giving much more credence to the spiritual aspects of the film. And, even though its somewhat cliched, the final reveal is incredibly satisfying to watch, setting things up for a possible sequel (which, I’m guessing, would be a new tale in this universe a la Annabelle).

*** 3/5

A refreshing take on the found-footage genre, Demonic is The Conjuring meets The Devil Rides Out by way of Rosemary’s Baby. The film screens at Frightfest on Friday August 28th, before being released on DVD on September 7th courtesy of Icon.

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