From director Neil Blomkamp whose repertoire features some of the most innovative and exciting sci-fi films of the past two decades, comes Demonic, a stylish yet painfully sluggish horror film.
From the offset the film boasts a striking visual style, the expertly crafted shots makes Demonic look sleek, professional and expensive. A segment where our protagonist Carly recounts a graphic depiction of her Mother’s murder spree, was a real highlight. However where the film’s visual style borders on awe inspiring are the simulation scenes. The beautiful use of light and colour made these sections a feast for the eyes. The glitchy designs of Carly and Angela were so well done that one could do nothing but appreciate a truly bold artistic choice.
However Demonic’s impressive artistic direction does not save the film from it’s severe issues with an aimless script, poor pacing and bland characters. The film features several pointless filler scenes which could be easily cut without any detriment to the finished product. These purposeless scenes bog down the film giving a sense that the film is trying to unnecessarily pad out the runtime with filler, rather than explore any of the themes the story presents.
Demonic also has an issue with finding an effective way to tell its story in an interesting way. For a film with such a rich directional style it never allows itself to tell us that story visually. Instead the dialogue takes every opportunity it can to dump as much exposition on us as possible, to the point where it’s almost condescending. A particular scene where Martin tells Carly all about demon possession was such a bombardment of information the film briefly felt like a lecture.
The exposition machines masquerading as characters are as one dimensional as they come, even by horror movies standards. Each character is so uniquely dull that one would be hard pressed to describe a single character trait for any of them. Making it difficult to care all that much when many of them end up dead by the end of the film. Carly as our protagonist is so bland and almost completely without agency, every action she takes serves only to keep the story moving without any consideration put into her motivation.
Admittedly truly fleshed out characters aren’t necessarily vital to the success of a horror film, as long as it is at least scary. Demonic however was not scary, at no point does the film do enough to instill even the smallest sense of fear. In one of the many dream sequences in Demonic a contorting demon in a bird mask chases Carly through her house. What should have been utterly terrifying was unintentionally hilarious, made even worse by the fact that it was so obviously a dream sequence. The main antagonist of the demon with a face of a crow was so ridiculous looking that it was impossible to take it seriously. The scene where The Demon possesses a host and starts spewing cringe-inducing lines of dialogue definitely wasn’t scary, it was embarrassing.
So despite being a visually impressive film helmed by a prolific director, Demonic ultimately suffers from a story that feels both bloated and paper thin. With such an interesting premise and rich potential, it is disappointing that Demonic turned out to be a shallow, forgettable and boring horror film.
Horror | South Africa, 2021 | 15 | 26th August 2021 (Arrow Video FrightFest) / 27th August 2021 (UK Cinema) | Signature Entertainment | Dir.Neil Blomkamp | Carly Pope, Chris William Martin, Michael J Rogers