03rd Jan2019

‘The Demonologist’ VOD Review

by Chris Thomas

Stars: Brian Krause, Jared Bankens, Lara Grice, Thomas Francis Murphy, Scott Allen Perry, Rhonda Johnson Dents, Kate Tumanova, Manon Pages, Keegan Macy, Jeff Pearson, Kurt DeVille, Shawn Bradly Hoefer, Jared Antoline, Trey Nolde | Written and Directed by J.M. Stelly

Demonologist-art

Low budget police drama meets camp biblical nonsense – demons and the horsemen of the apocalypse. To me The Demonologist sounds like a lot of fun (albeit the title sounds like a failed course from a failing university).

I have a soft spot for under paid, over worked (fictional) professional monster hunters. Be they John Constantine (in the comics), Giles from Buffy or Harry Dresden (in the books). I love these grumpy, surly individuals that ultimately end up doing the right thing when the stakes are stacked high enough against them.

Which takes us nicely into talking about The Demonologist. This is very much an origin story. Our “Demonologist” starts out as just another cliched, grizzled US cop with a muscular frame, lose tie and wrinkled face. Over the course of investigating murders (spoiler alert, these turn out to be demon-related) he goes on to become a powerful hero. Our protagonist is called Damian, let’s be charitably call it a “horror meta joke”. Sadly, Damian doesn’t display enough emotion for me to be particularly bothered one way or another about his plight, and if the stakes are “hell on earth if our hero fails” and you still find yourself shrugging your shoulders then something has probably gone wrong.

For one thing the balance of the film is off, we spend far too long watching our grizzled cop working 18-hour days and then spending the rest of the time with his cliched partner in a bar (socking it to his loving wife waiting at home). This means that the last 10 minutes of the film (the demon-busting bit) feels like we didn’t leave enough time for our hero to show off his new-fangled powers (plus naff computer-generated fire effects).

Much of The Demonologist is shot in the same manner one would direct a play, with the camera set up as if it is a person sitting in the front row, all players huddle around the centre of the small stage (generally around a table) and often knock out their lines with little care.

One of the issues I find with the film is there is too much of a budget to have “no budget” but not enough to ensure that the experience is consistent. Here we have “proper” professional actors next to less credible actors and putting the two together always highlights the lower performer. We also have some cinematography and camera work that looks far more like a low budget TV show then a low budget action / horror with low budget computer effects. There is good work here (special note to the demon make up effects), in acting and behind the camera, just not consistently so. We also get to play “genre cliché bingo” – overweight, unmade bed of a man cop partner? Check! Ball busting police chief with abrasive accent? Check! Blind black lady calling the hero “child” before reading from tarot cards? House!

There’s one particularly strange scene where a bad guy (naked except for his black, shiny apron) is torturing a good guy, who is very pointedly in his pants. The direction and camera work (such as it is) didn’t shout “Oh no! torture! The horror!” it shouted “Interracial, hot man on man action” (there seems to be a porn camera angle, it seems you know it when you see it). It is also one of those terrific scenes where the good guy is very pointedly saying “I am not afraid of you, you can torture me! I will give you nothing” Then three seconds into the torture he rather changes his tune.

Following this we get an extremely exploitative scene of a beautiful lady cavorting in pleasure over the blood of a blonde lady sacrificed to her. I suspected the purity of this sacrificial “virgin” by her nipple ring. It does not help the argument for the inclusion of these “old fashioned” scenes that they are so abrupt and lacking in any directorial skill or finesse. The men get to hide their genitals, but the ladies don’t, what an age we live in.

The rush to get to the title credits after the second act goes on 20 minutes too long means our showdown is abrupt and unsatisfying and enthusiastically set up for a sequel (or indeed, franchise). Again, some scenes feature some skill that are far more engaging than others. At it’s best you are probably looking at a pale imitation to something like Seven, at its worst it reminds me of Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter (not in a good way).

The Demonologist is available on demand, in the US, now from Uncork’d Entertainment.

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