Over the last several years, James Wan has made a name for himself in the world of horror. With movies like Insidious, Saw, and The Conjuring, it cannot really be denied that Wan has put his own touch on the genre. God only knows, though, what drew him to put his name on the new film Demonic, where he is attached as producer.
Demonic, directed by Will Canon (Brotherhood) follows the story of a police detective (Frank Grillo, The Grey) and a criminal psychologist (Mario Bello, A History of Violence, Payback) as they try to piece together the deaths of several members of a ‘ghost hunters’ type troupe, several of whom were found dead in a house where a series of grisly murders once took place. With one member of the group in custody as a suspect, and two others missing, the story of the events are told through a series of flashbacks and found-footage video clips.
For the most part, the movie is a cliché as they come. There have been no shortage of ghost hunter films where at least one (or several) of the members become possessed. There are also no shortage of found-footage movies that deal with demon spirits in an old, abandoned house. And I think all of the movies that deal with old, abandoned houses filled with ghost hunters revolve around a series of grisly murders. So, suffice to say, not much new happening in this story.
We are treated to some fairly proficient visual effects that, unfortunately, are played in the most generic of ways possible. Darkened rooms where a person’s back is to us, only to spin around suddenly with deformed faces or mouths filled with dark blood. Flickering lights during a séance. Found footage, shot-on-video captures of someone who only appears on the screen – jumping out at us, of course – before disappearing. All of this is paired with the typical mounting horror music, giving away the next jump-scare moments to even the most casual of horror fans.
Mario Bello and Frank Frillo are both very competent actors whose talents are completely wasted in this convoluted, messy film. Both put in plenty of effort, even as the script falls short of giving them any real meat to work with. The story, credited to Max La Bella, took three people to turn into a shootable screenplay apparently, but to be quite honest, I have no idea what could have possibly made it so complex. We’re given plenty of goofy lines that are supposed to be funny, I guess, like when Bello’s Dr. Klein asks a random policeman if he is familiar with a symbol they found painted on the floor in one of the rooms in the house. “I believe that is a circle,” he states, before blowing her off with a “the kids are just crazy” line. Great police work, officer nobody.
Overall, there are plenty of other fantastic horror movies out there that take this exact same concept, but do it much better. If you’re just in the mood for a random haunted house story, you’d be better off skipping Demonic, and re-watching The Conjuring instead. At least then, you might actually enjoy yourself. Here’s hoping that Wan doesn’t turn out to be the next Quentin Tarantino, putting his name on any piece of garbage that crosses his desk.