In E-Demon, writer/director Jeremy Wechter uses a computer screen, complete with a series of webcams, to tell the story of four old college friends, now scattered across the country, who accidentally unleash a demon that travels the Internet to find new bodies to possess. Chat boxes also pop up occasionally. The idea is that we’re watching a recording of the night’s stream exactly as it would have appeared to one of the characters if they were looking at their computer. I was watching the film on my computer, so it was quite odd to see another screen superimposed on my own, but it was a great way of establishing verisimilitude. Unfortunately, the technique is about the only thing that gives the film any sense of realism.
As you might expect, there’s a lot of stuff going on visually. The whole thing is really a long master shot, with a large box at the top of the screen that shows the character that is talking at the time. At the bottom of the screen are all four of the various webcams. Occasionally, instant message boxes will pop up, allowing the characters to have side conversations (usually to talk about one of the other members of the group). There’s a lot of stuff for the eye to fixate itself upon — sometimes too much — but it’s nice to have a variety of things where we can focus our attention.
The thing is, this is supposed to be a very dramatic, emotional film. But the actors, while perfectly fine when they’re having casual conversations, chew the hell out of the scenery when it’s time to cry or freak out. This would be tolerable in a somewhat goofier horror flick, but from the beginning it’s clear that Wechter was going for at least a semi-serious tone. In order for found footage films to work, and they so rarely do for exactly this reason, you have to realize that you’re essentially filming a fake documentary. Naturalistic acting is really what’s needed here, since it’s crucial for the audience to believe what they’re watching could be real.
With something going on in at least three places on the screen at once, I wondered how the hell Wechter filmed the thing to make it convincingly look like it was shot in real time. Certainly the movie wasn’t actually made in real time. That would cause all sorts of headaches if there was even a minor mistake. It was cool that I couldn’t figure out how Wechter did it.
Which is great, but the real-time nature of the piece means we’re talking about a lot of stuff happening in an hour and a half. Paramedics and cops arrive way too soon after being called. We’re talking one or two minutes. That sort of thing. The condensed nature of the timeline leads to some unintentional comedy.
So onto the most important questions for horror fans. Is it scary? Eh, no, not really. Are there thrills and plenty of tension? Certainly not as much as the director would have liked.
E-Demon had a neat premise, but that’s about it. As soon as the concept wears thin (and it does so very early), you’re left with nearly 90 minutes of bad acting and bad plotting.