I got nothing.
Demonic is another horror film that James Wan has his hands in. I like Wan, I think he is good at providing stable genre flicks that are entertaining and accessible. I am sure that the previous statement hurts my horror cred, but widely appealing horror films will allow for more creative and experimental films to crop up. The extreme end of the genre needs to have a stable center. Further, Wan provides cheap frights with good characters, so I tend to enjoy his films overall.
This being a major exception.
I am curious as to what exactly went wrong here. The plot of the film is super-duper cliché, but that usually doesn’t mean the film is going to be a catastrophe. Further, there are attempts at molding the found footage genre and such that are at least conceptually interesting. The movie even boasts some legitimate talent with Frank Grillo and Maria Bello. I don’t think this film was doomed from conception, but rather it seems that somewhere along the line things were rushed, forced, and fed through a cliché maker.
The plot tries to balance a few different stories. We have a haunted house, a group of idiots investigating the haunted house, and the police investigating the aftermath of the idiots’ investigation. Grillo plays detective Lewis, and he does so with his gruff charm that is present in most of his roles. He seemed a bit sleepy here, and it is odd to say that The Purge character packed more of an emotional punch. Bello is likewise wasted as Dr. Klein, a psychiatrist called in to help interview the one found survivor.
Bringing in the investigative side wrecks a lot of the narrative suspense as we know what happened to all of the idiots, but this is still somehow the best part of the narrative. Grillo’s character is a clichéd hardboiled detective, but I like that character style. Further, there is nothing terribly defective about these portions of the narrative. We even have the found footage working in the plot as the police are working to de-scramble all of the cameras.
Where the film takes a big shit all over itself is when we get to know the idiot investigators. We have a bunch of shallow characters and one superdouche Bryan (Scott Mechlowicz) who is so objectively awful that the entire removal of his character would have improved the film greatly. Bryan is just another in the long list of horror characters who writers have decided to make shitbags instead of actual human beings. No one would willingly work with this person—I don’t care how much the writers try to frame it otherwise. There are numerous other options than having this type of shitty writing present in a film. The only reason they put his character in is an obvious red herring so they can cram a stupid twist in the end.
The film isn’t scary—at all. Any tense moments are ruined by one or more of the moronic characters. Bryan in particular sucks just about any interest of the film out. I truly feel bad for the actor portraying him. It is insulting to everyone—viewer and actor—to have such terrible writing.
We get a hackneyed and contrived story that uses plot twists as a shield to hide its own ineptness. Everyone looks a little bored in the story, and I can’t blame them. This is probably Wan’s shittiest film, though he has had stinkers before (Lights Out comes to mind). This isn’t a smart narrative, or creative, or valuable—this is about as debased as the horror genre can get. Here we have an obvious cash grab that will leave you feeling cheated.
I mentioned earlier that I do support accessible horrors film, and I do believe that these help the genre as a whole. However, we should all demand better than this crap. Don’t waste your time on this one. 2/10.