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Demonic Movie Review

Written by Ren Zelen

Released by Signature Entertainment

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Written and directed by Neill Blomkamp
2021, 117 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Frightfest UK Premiere on 26th August 2021

Starring:
Carly Pope as Carly
Chris William Martin as Martin
Michael J Rogers as Michael
Nathalie Boltt as Angela

Review:

More than ten years ago, Neill Blomkamp gave the cinema-going public District 9, a critically acclaimed sci-fi with a political subtext. It’s now been six years since his third feature Chappie, which presented the idea of a robot who could think and feel for himself.

Blomkamp has finally returned with Demonic, a sci-fi/horror that he managed to make in the middle of the pandemic. In Demonic, Blomkamp attempts to meld cutting edge-simulation technology with a story about the old battle between good and ancient evil. Sadly, the filmmaker again brings us an original idea, but fails to follow through and live up to the promise that excited us about his first feature.

Demonic begins with Carly (Carly Pope) experiencing a horrific dream involving her mother Angela (Nathalie Boltts). Shortly afterwards she is contacted out of the blue by an estranged childhood friend, Martin (Chris William Martin).

Martin knows that Carly has not been in contact with her mother for many years. She renounced her mother and changed her name when Angela was arrested and imprisoned after going on an inexplicable rampage involving multiple murders.

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Martin claims that he has seen Angela at a hospital where she is lying in a coma, and he wants to warn Carly that the hospital in question is searching for Angela’s next of kin. Sure enough, it isn’t long before she is tracked down and receives a call from the hospital asking her to come over and discuss her mother’s condition.

Initially unwilling, Carly reconsiders and visits the hospital. There she discovers that two scientists, Michael and Daniel (Michael J. Rogers and Terry Chen) are using cutting-edge technology to devise a way for people to enter the dreamscapes of coma patients.

They want Carly to enter a VR simulation of her mother’s ‘dreamscape’ and glean information from Angela, who they claim is anxious to contact her daughter, but who clearly cannot speak to anyone directly. They explain to Carly that their interest lies solely in ongoing research to alleviate the suffering of troubled minds.

Carly, who has never forgiven her mother for the devastation she caused, couldn’t care less about their research, but sees it as an opportunity to exorcise some old demons. (Of course, they turn out not to be the kind of demons she is thinking of).

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When she enters her mother’s dreamscape, Carly discovers that her mother did not in fact ask to speak to her, quite the contrary, she is anxious for Carly to stay away. It gradually becomes evident that the scientists in the special facility are not what they seem and have an entirely different purpose in initiating the interaction between mother and daughter.

Much of Demonic takes place in a virtual world. It’s created in a way that is typical of old-school RPGs, with jitters and flaws in the recreations, screens that only build gradually or portions of Carly and Angela’s avatars flickering and reappearing. These serve to represent lapses or inaccuracies in memory and fluctuations of emotion within the subject’s coma dreamscape.

This is potentially an interesting tool, but Blomkamp doesn’t really use or develop the idea. Instead, it becomes an aesthetic choice that creates a distancing effect, draining some scenes of emotion.

A major weakness of the film is the lack of depth to the characters, who seem to act without explanation or emotional consistency. They have no individuality or personality for us to latch onto but seem to be as much simulations as the avatars in the virtual world they enter.

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Neill Blomkamp proves to be a writer and director who can introduce interesting concepts and ideas into the world of cinema, but often lacks the will or wherewithal to develop them or create convincing characters and dialogue to make them engaging and bring them to life.

Demonic has ambition and an intriguing premise but doesn’t live up to the initial promise of its setup. Some exciting ideas quickly run out of steam and ultimately collapse into an expressionless mishmash of action-horror clichés. Blomkamp fails to invest his themes with any authenticity or creativity, he tries to veer off in too many directions at once and ends up going nowhere in particular.

Grades:

Movie: 2.5 Star Rating Cover
Buy Amazon Uk

About The Author
Ren Zelen
Staff Reviewer - UK
REN ZELEN is a writer, movie critic, reviewer, academic editor, pop-culture junkie and Sandra Bullock lookalike. Her post-apocalyptic science-fiction novel ‘THE HATHOR DIARIES’ is available on Amazon in the UK and USA and worldwide.
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