A bridegroom is possessed by an unquiet spirit in the midst of his own wedding celebration, in this clever take on the Jewish legend of the dybbuk.
It’s not that often that we receive Polish horror films (Editors note: But surely welcome more). “Demon”, the final work of director Marcin Wrona, is noted as being part horror, part comedy/thriller. Though as a horror film, “Demon” has a very unique flavor to it that is rich in Polish culture and scenery. Well shot and beautifully framed, “Demon” is more than just another horror drama piece, it is a work of art that cleverly invokes a sense of creepiness as a result of the sum of its parts. However, there’s more to this creation than that simple statement.
Itay Tiran plays the role of Peter (or Piotr ‘Pyton’ more appropriately) supplying the brunt of the film dynamics. As he arrives from England, he is instantly brought under the wings of his fiance’s family and its particulars. Given as a gift, fiancee Zaneta’s (Agnieszka Zulewska) house provides the setting to this story. Peter accidentally uncovers skeletal remains as he digs around the yard with the family bulldozer. The family bulldozer (or digging machine, for that matter) is almost referred to as member of the family itself as its mentioned thru out the film.
Jarred by the discovery on the eve of their wedding, Peter tries to keep the find under wraps. But as their wedding progresses, it soon become apparent that holding back his discovery is starting to take an emotional and spiritual toll on him. The family gathers in celebration and the wedding proceeds as planned, though when Peter begins to see a “spirit” emerging in the background, things start to turn for the worse leading to a unexpected possession that takes hold of Peter’s sanity.
The comedic aspects of “Demon” is subtle at times, but is injected thru the celebrational and character role aspects. The bride’s family continues to party without the couple, thus doing their best to “keep things rolling” like nothing has happened. Meanwhile Peter is kept in the cellar possessed by a spirit that has him speaking in tongues and completely taking over his personality. The idea of “even a possession won’t slow this bunch down” comes to mind as the family goes about their dysfunctional rituals. Simply said, the notion of a wedding that is “paid for” takes priority over the missing main attraction, the wedding couple.
Rumors of the groom being possessed by a Jewish demon start to emerge while everyone tries to pretend that nothing is wrong. There is a crossover at some point when the film looses its creepy nature and just defaults to absurdity. The absurdity here is a certain naivety that dominates the film basically shutting off the notion of horror in favor of a family that’s stuck in tradition (ignoring the whole marriage aspect and wiping the slate clean). Without giving away too much, we begin to lose the idea of Peter and the original intention of this film. I’m really not so sure I understood the final act of this film which might even require a re-watch of it myself.
Research note: The film is mentioned as being a retelling of an “old Yiddish tale of the dybbuk”. I myself am not familiar with this tale, which may have been my reason for some disconnect.
In short, the film has alot of unique qualities that can easily be commented on as great filming-making lush in vivid cinematography. The story is interesting to a point, and then goes off in different directions that create more of a mixed genre atmosphere. “Demon” is no extreme supernatural film, so horror fans may not get exactly what the title infers. In other words, no “Constantine” here…more ghost story, than anything. When all is said and done, “Demon” should be appreciated for it’s uniqueness rich in Polish flavor and tradition making it compelling more as “cinema” than as “another horror piece”. It’s simply a film for film lovers who don’t mind some dark comedy thrown in. Fun at times, creepy at others, “Demon” is a must see.