★★★ out of ★★★★★
It’s not a real séance until someone gets possessed.
Directed by Will Canon.
I was all set to hate this movie. I really didn’t even mean to watch it. I was browsing around Netflix, looking for something interesting since I’d finally caught up with all the episodes of Black Mirror, and I accidentally clicked on Demonic (2015). Oh, great, another “ghost hunters hold a séance” movie. I’ve had a string of reviews for decent movies lately, though, and figured I was due for a good Do Not Watch This Movie post. And then I liked it!
Demonic is only the second full-length movie helmed by writer/director Will Canon [Brotherhood (2010)] and it’s his first horror film. It’s not the most original idea in the world. Not by a long shot. But it’s got some nice features that work well and make it a bit more interesting than just-another-séance-movie. For example, the guy who lives next door hears a noise in the haunted house and goes to investigate. Why? I have no idea. It’s not like he’s the caretaker for the property or anything. He just goes to check it out. Maybe he’s part of the neighborhood watch or something. The point is, he goes in, sees some blood on the floor, leaves the house, and calls the cops.
He leaves the house.
And calls the cops.
In a horror movie.
That never happens! I was all set for the door to slam shut, neighbor guy screaming inside, while the camera pulls back to show the front of the house as the movie’s title splashes across the screen in a scary font, dripping animated blood.
But wait, there’s more! So, the first officer on the scene is our main investigator, Detective Mark Lewis [Frank Grillo; The Purge: Anarchy (2014), The Purge: Election Year (2016)]. He cautiously enters the house and, get this… he sees a dead body… and calls for backup. His radio works and everything! Plus, he waits for them to show up before searching the rest of the house! And that’s what convinced me to keep watching. Not that Demonic breaks away from all the standard clichés. You still get people wandering around completely alone even after all kinds of weirdness has been going on, but every once in a while someone does something that’s actually logical and it’s like a cool breeze on a hot day.
The search of the house reveals one survivor, a college kid named John [Dustin Milligan; Slither (2006), TV’s Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (2016)]. John’s a bit shaken up since he can’t find his girlfriend, Michelle [Cody Horn; Magic Mike (2012)], and bad things have happened to most of the other people he started the day with. The plan had been to hang out in the house where Martha Livingston had killed most of her friends back in 1988. Hunt for some ghosts, maybe hold a séance. You know, the usual. One thing led to another, though, and now most of John’s friends are corpsefied and he’s stuck in the middle of a police investigation being interrogated by police psychiatrist, Dr. Elizabeth Klein [Maria Bello; Lights Out (2016), TV’s NCIS (2017-2018)].
Which is actually another part of what makes Demonic a more interesting movie. The narrative unfolds as part paranormal exploration, part found footage flashbacks, and part police investigation with everything well-edited into a coherent whole. They did get to spend some money on this one, so production values are higher than some films our Scariest Reviewers have seen, but it’s still light on the gore. The filmmakers opted for creepiness and a few jump scares rather than goopiness and gross-out making this a great gateway for anyone wanting an intro to the Ghost Hunting Gone Wrong movie category.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s not all cool breezes and refreshing logic. There are still things that’ll have you scratching your head. For example, the fancy-pants super-sensitive ghost hunting microphone that can pick up the heartbeats of everyone in the room, but doesn’t register anything when someone talks. There’s also Jules [Megan Park; Diary of the Dead (2007), TV’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager (2008-2013)], the séance girl who’s like a safety conscious paranormal hall monitor the whole time, until they find an unknown sigil carved into the floor and she throws caution to the wind. Dunno what it is, but hey! Great place for a séance!
If we didn’t have something to complain about, though, we just wouldn’t be happy.
You can catch Demonic streaming on Netflix as well as Amazon’s Prime Video.