Written, directed, and starring Miles Doleac, Demons is a drama disguised as a horror movie. Who knows if this is a story that Doleac really felt passionate about, but I strongly suspect it wasn’t. The flick comes off as a product of marketing, a way of shoehorning what’s basically a drama script into a horror film in order to get those horror fans’ dollars. It’s really a kinda-sorta family drama with horror elements that revolves around a possible demonic possession.
Colin (Doleac) is a former priest turned bestselling author who is married to Kayleigh (Lindsay Anne Williams), the sister of a (possibly) demon-possessed girl who died during an exorcism that Colin performed while he was a priest. During a weekend visit where an old college friend of Colin’s is getting married at the couple’s home (which is also a bed and breakfast), Kayleigh begins to have visions of her dead sister, and old family secrets slowly reveal themselves.
Definitely not a bad setup, but the execution is just too damn piss poor to be worth anything. The trailer and poster for the movie really want you to believe that you’re getting a straight horror flick instead of the muddled mess of a drama with a peppering of horror that you get instead. I mean, there are indeed some pretty graphic, maybe even scary scenes, but Demons really is a mess tonally. On one hand, you have the reunion and wedding thing, which leads to all sorts of melodrama that’s actually quite interesting in itself, though it feels rather like a soap opera. On the other hand, you have the flashback sequences that take place during and around the exorcism, in which everything is drenched in a pea-green color that you see in altogether too many horror films these days. That kind of thing. It’s a weird mish-mash of styles that never really blend.
There’s some interesting ideas that get brought up and either dropped or get lost in the general muddled mess of the writing and directing. Colin is a former priest in a secular world. His skepticism even extends to when he was a priest, since it’s clear that he believes a real-world explanation for the possession is the most likely. He’s even more secular than the family doctor. Kayleigh, though raised in a very religious household with a fanatical father, is a philosophy teacher who’s also secular, maybe even an atheist. So Doleac tries to provide a secular as well as spiritual explanation for everything that happens, but he adds demonic sound effects to the possessed girl’s voice and makes the exorcism scenes so over-the-top that a secular explanation for the events becomes moot.
There is one theme, though, that does hold up, which is the guilt that both Colin and Kayleigh feel about their life together. If Kayleigh’s sister hadn’t died, Colin probably wouldn’t have left the church, or at least under the same circumstances. Which would mean, of course, that Colin and Kayleigh wouldn’t have gotten together and they wouldn’t have had a child together. This exploration of guilt and the nature of fate is quite interesting, but not enough to sustain the movie. The script should really have been tightened in order to zoom in on this particular idea. It would certainly have been a more interesting movie like that. But instead the thing goes all over the place.
I think within this tonally inconsistent movie is a story that Doleac really wanted to tell, but it got buried underneath other considerations. The film definitely wanted to be a drama, but, yeah, I guess a low-budget horror is easier to market. So you beef up the horror elements and you’re on your way. I can get behind movies of any quality that are made with passion, but I just whiff too much cynicism here to really give the filmmakers a lot of credit. Too bad, I guess, but that’s the way things go sometimes.
Demons opens theatrically and on-demand on October 6th.
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