Demonic is a horror film that has taken a winding path and continues on the journey for the proper presentation to horror fans worldwide, first the film, started under the name House of Horror in 2011 with James Wan to produce it, and then in 2013 reborn with current title. While Wan stayed on as producer he joined with six other producers namely Bob and Harvey Weinstein, and yet to hit the US market in any capacity, not even film festivals, so to state the least the film’s journey continues a dark venture. Director Will Canon, who is an experienced director, though his first venture into the horror genre a with a creation that mixes the found footage genre with possession and a haunted tale, filmed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, using the script by Max La Bella and Doug Simon.
It is a simple enough setup, by first introducing the audience to Detective Mark Lewis (Frank Grillo (Mother’s Day (2010)) to investigate a disturbance in an old house, abandoned and supposedly haunted. Upon his investigation numerous dead young adults, murder and butchered, and one sole survivor, and quickly the location transforms into a crime scene and a call to his love interest Dr. Elizabeth Klein (Maria Bello (The Dark (2005) brought in to examine the survivor and suspect John (Dustin Milligan). The story involves the summoning and failed attempt to contact through a séance and conjurer a ghost in the Martha Livingstone home. Now an interesting tie-in to the found footage aspect the police are shown trying to reboot and uncorrupt the files of the cameras, thereby show true raw data, nothing edited together, allowing brief images to shock the officers and piece together the storyline through bits and uttering statements. Hence a spoon-feed script that trivializes the plot and treats the audience as little children, insulting their intelligence, until the traction suffers and loses momentum all at the wrong times. At times one can sense the input and guidance from James Wan, trying to right and steady the ship and bring shivers, unfortunately the final destination lies in dry dock, and covered in cobwebs, serving as a lesson to filmmakers to make sure the screenplay readies itself beforehand, with multiple rewrites by the same team.
Most of the movie, involves interacts of Mark and Klein, and similar to the cop thriller of Deliver Us From Evil (2014), delivering a few scares but not enough to keep the audience on the edge of their seats, and flirts with revealing more, but never fulfills the promise. The narrative works to a limited standpoint and the POV takes over, and evaporates quickly, noting plot holes in the screen hurried production, and then slamming the brakes to stop the process. The movie, plagued with countless rewrites, and each time partial scripts used to create a new one, and then production lagging starts, with two directors abandoning the project, Javier Gutierrez and Xavier Gens, the green light signal the go ahead. However, the starting points from the different act missed the direct action, for example, one of the ghost hunters identified as an occult specialist, and this namely would conjurer the interest to focus on them. Then the numerous clichés repeated often, mixed with warnings of taboos only to break them, and the customary abandoned house with a grim reputation, and no true direction of why spirit finds itself trapped inside, and not able to venture outside on the grounds, until much later in the film. The key many haunted house stories, allow the location to speak, and the set design, gives it volumes but sadly, the filmmakers mute it, and muzzle it for far too much of the movie.
While many found footage films lay scattered across a battlefield of disinterest, with only few achieving worthy viewing status, this film crawls across, having a rare opportunity to view the movie, I found it better than many films that fall into this category. The sad development of this film, created in Louisiana, with more favorable tax benefits and yet not released in the states, for the majority of fans to enjoy, though the Turkish translation of the film, gives it a true punch to encourage viewership, as it’s called “Satanic Spirits”.