Maria Bello in Demonic
"Bello makes a strong impression, making a lot of a role that could easily have been played by numbers."

Every horror fan loves a haunted house. Some people take it a bit further and make a hobby of visiting such places, believing that there are spirits there with whom they might make contact. Will Canon's latest film, co-produced by the prolific James Wan, sees six young people hold a séance in a house where, some years previously, several people were murdered. They're curious about the sigils on the walls, the occult seal beneath the rug. Summoning the dead here couldn't possibly be risky, could it?

All this we see in flashback. As the film opens, three bodies are found in the house. Detective Mark Lewis (Frank Grillo) is called in to investigate and is quickly joined by Elizabeth Klein (Maria Bello), a police psychologist. Her interest lies in trying to get the truth from the confused, apparently amnesiac young man they find there, who identifies himself as John (Dustin Milligan). His lies in trying to find the two people who are still missing. Is one of them a murderer on the loose? Could one or both be trapped somewhere, slowly dying, desperate for help? Or are they dead already?

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As Elizabeth focuses on interviewing the witness - well aware that he could be the killer himself - Mark searches the house and examines the material evidence, and his team tries to recover footage the young people recorded in their own exploration of the site. They soon realise that the situation is still more complex than it seems. One of the missing people is pregnant, adding to the urgency of the investigation; the occult markings found in the house correlate with an ancient ceremony for summoning a demon; and John has a secret.

Packing all this into just 83 minutes, the film does a good job of keeping its complex plot together. It's not so strong as a chiller, too often resorting to cliché or relying on supposedly scary make-up; it shows too much when a little more mystery could have made it a lot more sinister. Some original effects involving crows work very nicely and deserve a more central role, in place of the blood everywhere and the things going bump in the night. The performances of most of the younger actors also leave something to be desired. The older actors however, are much better, and Bello makes a strong impression, making a lot of a role that could easily have been played by numbers.

Demonic's biggest problem is its hype. If it didn't pledge to provide something more scary and more shocking than anything the detectives (and, by implication, the audience) could imagine, it would be a solid little police procedural with an effective horror twist. To properly appreciate it, it's best to set aside what the trailer says and enjoy it as a series of puzzles. Even those who solve these early on will enjoy observing their impact on the characters. The denoument isn't terribly original but the central conceit, mingling present and two layers of past events, works well, and there's certainly more substance to this than to the average haunted house tale.

Reviewed on: 29 Aug 2015
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Demonic packshot
In the aftermath of a horrific massacre where five college students were brutally murdered inside an abandoned home, Detective Mark Lewis and psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Klein question the lone survivor of a ghost-hunting excursion that seemingly went horribly wrong.

Director: Will Canon

Writer: Max La Bella, Will Canon, Max La Bella, Doug Simon

Starring: Maria Bello, Frank Grillo, Cody Horn, Dustin Milligan. Megan Park

Year: 2015

Runtime: 83 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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