A police officer and a psychologist investigate the deaths of five people who were killed while trying to summon ghosts.
Found footage films aren’t for everyone – after the success of The Blair Witch Project, plenty of filmmakers were eager to cash in on what seemed like an easy opportunity. Of course, this led to a number of poorly made, hastily produced films, many of which flopped or just went straight to DVD. Demonic is an interesting attempt to reinvent the genre. It follows a police investigation and rather than presenting the found footage as the film itself, it’s spliced with shots of the police analysing the footage, as well as their interviews with the survivor.
Demonic begins with a montage of newspaper and magazine clippings detailing the murder of a group of friends during the late eighties. Then, we cut to a gas station, where a police detective has his night off cut short by a call to a nearby house. When he arrives, he finds a gruesome scene – the bodies of a group of young people lie strewn around the house, and the sole survivor is in a state of panic. Reinforcements are called and the survivor, John (Dustin Milligan), is detained. It’s revealed that John’s pregnant girlfriend, Michelle (Cody Horn), and her ex-boyfriend, Bryan (Scott Mechlowicz) are both missing from the body count, having presumably fled the house.
Much of the film revolves around the police detective, Mark Lewis (Frank Grillo) and criminal psychologist, Dr Elizabeth Klein (Maria Bello) and their attempts to piece together the murders. Conveniently enough, the group documented their time in the house using a series of cameras, and the police team are able to recover enough of the footage to determine what really happened over the course of the night.
The video footage shows the usual – a group of friends are travelling to an abandoned location, camera in tow, to investigate something creepy. In this case, it’s the Livingstone house, the scene of the murders years prior, and their intention is to discover the reasons behind the visions which John has been plagued by. While he’s never visited the house, he is able to recall minute details of its interior with eerie accuracy.
Of course, given the history of the house, they take it upon themselves to perform a séance in an attempt to contact the spirits which may be lingering in the house, particularly Martha Livingstone, the owner and culprit behind the 1988 murders. And, as expected, in an uninspiring turn of events, this goes horribly wrong, and the group manage to unleash an evil from beyond the grave.
It’s revealed that John’s mother was the sole survivor of the original murders, leading the police to suspect that he’s attempting to imitate the killings. There’s plenty of gory footage of the night that follows the séance, but it’s impossible to tell from the videos alone who’s behind the morbid scene at the house. However, as the film unfolds, it becomes clear that everything isn’t as it seems, and that dark, supernatural forces may be responsible for the deaths.
Demonic does its best to impress with plenty of twists and turns, but in the end, I was left feeling unfulfilled. The ending was cliff-hanger, which might otherwise be considered suspenseful, but it didn’t feel as if the ‘evil’ in the film was explained well enough for such an ambiguous ending to instil any fear in the viewer.
While James Wan isn’t the director of Demonic (that would be Will Canon, also behind 2010’s Brotherhood – Wan is credited as a producer), they were quick to plaster his name over the film’s posters. With successful titles like Saw and Insidious under his belt, I honestly expected more. There were plenty of great jump scares but while the approach was, in some respects, refreshing, the raw feel of the found footage was diminished by all of the fixed angle shots and professional cinematography.
Plus, they included a stereotypically awkward, tech-savvy Asian. In 2015! I think that that says everything you need to know.