Available today on multiple streaming services, Demon House (2018) is the feature-length spin-off of the popular, long-running television series, Ghost Adventures. Based on a series of allegedly real paranormal experiences at the Ammons House in Gary, Indiana, Demon House follows Zack Bagans’ investigation into the case following his purchase of the infamous house. The highly effective trailer promises a disturbing glance into a paranormal phenomenon. Additionally, advance reviews were pretty glowing.
Documentary, Mockumentary, or Just Bullshit
I’ll preface my review of Demon House with the following confession – I am naturally curious about the occult and paranormal, but firmly skeptical. Demon House is listed as a documentary on its IMDb page, while its Wikipedia entry describes the film as a mockumentary. Quite frankly, you could just label this as complete and utter bullshit.
At the start of Demon House, a written warning appears on the screen and while it could have just advertised itself as “based on a true story”, Zak Bagans has to go the extra mile and caution that just watching the film could expose the viewers to the risk of demonic possession. And with that warning I knew I was in for 90 minutes of pretentious posturing and exaggeration. Unfortunately, Bagans’ tendency for confabulation and melodrama characterizes the majority of the film. A straightforward, journalistic re-telling of the Ammons House by itself would have made for an interesting documentary. Instead Bagans includes multiple scenes of himself or crew members “acting out” under the supposed demonic influence of the house. In one scene, Bagans “lunges” at a crew member and, later in the documentary, another crew member becomes agitated in a hotel. These moments are more embarrassing than frightening.
All Filler, No Killer
The vast majority of Demon House involves either dramatic re-enactments of alleged supernatural activities or the kind of “confessional” moments involving Bagans and his crew described above. There is very little actual investigation included in the film, which is quite contrary to what the trailer promises audiences. Only one moment in the film resonates as actual investigation – a home inspector discovers mould and carbon monoxide leaking from the furnace, which may have impacted the residents. It takes an hour and 20 minutes before Bagans actually seals himself in the house, windows and doorway boarded up, to spend the night and, you know, actually try to capture some evidence. Things almost get interesting at this point with one genuinely creepy moment. Sadly, Bagans can’t seem to help himself and immediately following this development with more contrived narration and unfounded yarns.
Warning: Actual Demon Not Included
The Biggest Douche in the Universe
Throughout the entire run time of Demon House, I was constantly reminded of the South Park episode, The Biggest Douche in the Universe. Like the subject of that episode, alleged psychic John Edwards, director and paranormal investigator Zak Bagans comes across as a pretentious carnival barker. Everything he says and does in Demon House feels forced and intentionally over-the-top, which is a problem because Bagans is front and centre for the entirety of the film. On Ghost Adventures, Bagans may be tolerable for hour broken up with commercials, but in a 90-plus minute film where he is almost omnipresent, I found myself wishing that a portal to hell would open and suck me in.
The Megalodon of Paranormal Documentaries
Whether Demon House was intended as a serious documentary or an in-joke “mockumentary” the result is an utter waste of time. I honestly have not felt this ripped off watching a film since the Discovery Channel aired that Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives “mockumentary” for Shark Week. I laughed out loud several times at Bagans’ forced sincerity and exaggeration. If you enjoy sensationalized documentaries you would be better served to sample one of the dozen or so documentaries on Netflix right now. The most disturbing part of Demon House was that they took boards off the house doorway and let Bagans out to dump this turd.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: F