Here we go, another demonic possession movie. So far 2021 has already given us The Unholy, The Seventh Day, The Conjuring III: The Devil Made Me Do It, and Separation. There truly is no rest for the wicked. But when the subgenre is done well it’s given us some of horror’s most memorable classics. And latest release Demonic has at least one thing going for it – writer and director Neill Blomkamp. It’s also hinting a unique take on a familiar story. Can these bonuses help Demonic stand out amongst the crowd? So far Demonic hasn’t possessed the critics.
For most of her adult life, Carly has been estranged from her mother, Angela. Years earlier, Angela committed a series of brutal murders without warning or explanation. Now Angela, afflicted with locked-in-syndrome, is in a coma. But doctors offer Carly a chance to get the answers she’s always wanted from her mother. With a revolutionary technology, Carly enters her comatose mother’s subconscious. But the procedure inadvertently opens a doorway to a resting evil.
Demonic Wastes Its Potential By Ignoring Its Own Story
Without a doubt, writer and director Neill Blomkamp is a visionary filmmaker. Over 10 years after its release, District 9 remains one of the most inventive science-fiction movies in recent memory. Still Blomkamp’s subsequent directorial efforts have met with diminishing returns. And a recurring Achille’s Heel for Blomkamp hobbles Demonic. Mainly Blomkamp doesn’t execute his own premise. Specifically, Demonic promises a secret militarized sect of the Vatican using technology to hunt down demons. And Blomkamp nicely teases out this twist. But the supernatural thriller never commits the idea to the screen. We just never get to see these paramilitary exorcists in action. What could have potentially been the best part of the movie happens off screen.
Rather Demonic gives us an underwhelming pixelated version … of our own world.
If Demonic wastes one unique premise, it just mishandles its other concept. Yes, The Cell took us into the mind of a killer two decades earlier with a very similar idea. Nevertheless, there was still plenty of visually disturbing potential to mine here. Yet Blomkamp doesn’t even seem to try and match Tarsem Singh’s stunning visuals from The Cell. Rather Demonic gives us an underwhelming pixelated version of … our own world. Any intrigue from exploring the possibility of technology opening otherworldly gateways steps aside for contrived family drama by the movie’s third act.
Too Many Ideas Left Underdeveloped or Mishandled
This family family drama that increasingly takes center stage doesn’t offer much to the movie either. Simply put, it suffers from familiarity while also being woefully underdeveloped. To some extent, Demonic and its high-concept premise – even if poor executed – leaves little time for satisfying characters arcs. As estranged daughter ‘Carly’, Carly Pope is perfectly fine in the role and works well with what’s in the screenplay. There’s just not compelling stuff for her. And more often than not, the movie relies on the kind of poor character decision-making
By the time the movie brings its evil out into the real world, however, Blomkamp struggles to handle the scares.
Arguably, the biggest surprise with Demonic is the lack of scares and suspense. Things start off quite promising. Blomkamp’s handling of early nightmare scenes and Carly’s first trip into her mother’s subconscious are quite creepy. By the time the movie brings its evil out into the real world, however, Blomkamp struggles to handle the scares. A chase scene through Carly’s dark house never elicits the jumps one expects. Once Demonic takes us into its climatic finale it commits an even worse sin – it’s kind of boring. The pacing feels like a grind that may have some viewers checking their watch.
Demonic Wastes an Intriguing Premise By Not Making That Movie
Could someone just remake Demonic now? And this time, let’s follow through on the movie’s original premise. Blomkamp’s promises of technological gateways into demonic realms and paramilitary exorcists sounds like a techno-horror dream for horror fans. After countless trope-heavy demonic possession movies, Demonic should have been something wildly different. While it’s still not as derivative as other recent examples of the sub-genre, Blomkamp didn’t make that movie. Instead, he gives us a supernatural family drama that downplays its techno-horror potential and wholly skips out on the exorcist SWAT team.