A muddled tech-possession story that never really takes off.

Synopsis: A young woman unleashes terrifying demons when supernatural forces at the root of a decades-old rift between mother and daughter are ruthlessly revealed.

The mix of technology, punishment and clinical horror is a well-founded one. The idea of technology pushed to the edge of limitations and the very human cost of it is something that horror is well placed to explore, especially when dealing with the fall out from trauma and repressed memories. So, the concept of Demonic that looks to marry this with a supernatural edge sounds unique and interesting. It is a shame then, that this take doesn’t succeed on almost anything it sets out to do.

Carly (Carly Pope) is terrified of her mother Angela (Nathalie Boltt) – perhaps understandably considering Angela was the perpetrator of a seemingly unprompted mass killing. When a medical corporation offers the opportunity for her to communicate subconsciously with her, she sees an opportunity for closure.

The core issue with Demonic is that it seems to have no concept of where to add scares, or indeed what it considers scary. It utilises the excellent contortions of Troy James during one section (this alone added half a star, for context) but there is no pay-off or wider reasoning to it, seemingly thrown in entirely for effect. This is the case for almost every moment that seeks to scare, leading to the feeling that it has all been borrowed from other films and collaged. This does feel like a film built around the idea of the simulated space as its ‘new’ contribution and everything else is secondary. The simulation is interesting enough, with glitches and sense of ‘off-ness’ working in its favour, but as a gimmick it only serves to grab your attention once so repetitions are less effective and the film world outside offers little to support it.

Further to this, there is a strange amount of spoon feeding, as if Blomkamp doesn’t trust his audience to follow what is happening at all. A clearly framed flashback is further punctuated by an unnecessary year on screen. The film plods through the motions, misinterpreting the idea of clinical distance and alienation for dullness. The performances are fine across the board, but everything feels so surface level that there doesn’t seem to be anywhere they can take it.

Due to the uncertainty the entire film conducts itself with, it is borderline impossible to truly engage in the story it is telling. That sense of a director continually pulling back, holding the audience and material at arms-length feels uniquely unsatisfying, especially where there is such a tradition of brilliantly invasive sci-fi horror that gets under the skin. Worse yet, despite some unintentionally ridiculous, unnatural dialogue that may prompt a laugh there’s very little to sustain interest.

Ultimately, Demonic doesn’t work, either as a sci-fi concept or as a horror. Far too straight faced for the far-fetched concept it seeks to explore and lacking entirely in a personal stamp, which is a shame considering Blomkamp’s District 9 achievement.

1.5 out of 5 stars

1.5 out of 5 stars

Demonic opened FrightFest 2021. It is now available on premium digital with a Blu-ray & DVD release on 25th October via Signature Entertainment.

Author: ScaredSheepless

Film and television fan, with a particular love for horror.

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