All cultures have their versions of the possession horror story. In Jewish culture it usually revolves around the dybbuk. The spirit of a dead person looking for a body to possess, often to right a wrong done to them. It has featured in stories and plays throughout history, most recently Marcin Wrona’s Demon.
Piotr (Itay Tiran} arrives in Poland from England for his wedding to Zaneta (Agnieszka Zulewska). While working on the old home given to them as a wedding gift by her father (Andrzej Grabowski) he digs up some bones. He begins to become obsessed with what he’s found and as the wedding ceremony begins starts acting strangely, suffering from what appears to be seizures. Wedding jitters, mental issues, to much vodka, or something much worse?
Despite what the trailer makes it seem, Demon isn’t truly a horror film, it mixes elements of horror and comedy, at times very slapstick comedy, with a message about how the past can haunt us. There’s also some very poignant moments as an elderly Jewish professor reminisces on the town as it was before World War 2. There are some creepy and unsettling scenes, but if you go expecting an Exorcist type possession film you’ll be disappointed.
Stylishly shot with a wonderfully active camera the film is a visual feast. The wedding itself is incredibly shot even as it goes from lavish celebration into comical chaos both from the groom’s condition and the weather. And vodka, lots and lots of vodka. It’s a witty commentary on materialism and image as the bride’s family become more concerned with keeping the situation quiet and preserving their reputation and status than with Piotr’s health or their daughter’s wishes.
Director Marcin Wrona was an up and coming figure in not just Polish but international cinema with several awards to his name. Sadly he committed suicide a week after Demon’s release.