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Demonic (2015)

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Plot Summary:
"The House of Horror is a horror-thriller that centers around a gruesome crime scene. The film is shot with a blend of found footage, interrogation video, news cameras and classical cinematography. The film focuses on the aftermath of a horrific massacre; five college students, brutally murdered inside a decrepit, abandoned home."

Review by
Ryan McDonald
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Review Date: 14 October 2016 My Rating: out of 5


Cops (headed by cynical Frank Grillo) are called to a Louisiana house that was previously the sight of spooky tragedy in 1988. There are three dead bodies and the only living person is the son (Dustin Milligan) of the only survivor to the 1988 incident. Apparently he, his girlfriend (Cody Horn), her jerk TV ghostbuster ex-boyfriend (Scott Mechlowitz, who has been alright in other films) and his crew (including Aaron Yoo and supposed empath Megan Park) were investigating the house and something murder-y appears to have happened. Possibly paranormal. Whilst the cops look through the video footage that was recorded, Grillo’s police shrink girlfriend Maria Bello tries to make sense of Milligan and his crazy story of the paranormal activity in the house.

Although not awful, this 2015 effort from director/co-writer Will Canon is a good case study in how to completely incorrectly approach horror material. Here’s a film where the narrative approach pulls you in and out of the plot time and time again, and you’re also alternating between third-person and first-person narrative. How are you meant to get scared when you’re constantly undermining the tension by cutting between narratives? It’s a basic horror movie screenwriting no-no, I’ve rarely if ever seen it pulled off successfully. It almost ruined “The Conjuring”, and despite that film’s director James Wan producing this film, this sure as hell ain’t no “Conjuring”. Combine that with boring characters, and all I can say is thank God it looks great and has two solid performances from Frank Grillo and Maria Bello. It’s enough to stop this one from sucking, albeit not by a whole helluva lot.

Truth be told, as much as a more linear narrative approach would’ve solved most of the film’s problems, it would’ve meant losing the characters played by the film’s two best actors. But those two characters really aren’t necessary. You want to find out what happened in that house? Cool, me too. If you’d just bugger off with the police investigation and let me find out for myself what actually happened as it unfolds before my eyes, that’d be great. Oh you can’t do that? Damn it. Adding these two characters and the police investigation element just keeps you removed from the whole thing.

I can see why they wanted to do a mystery angle in theory, but it doesn’t work and ruins what might’ve been decent horror. The twist ending is OK, but so what? A nice ending doesn’t rescue a whole film, does it? Canon shows he has a decent eye, but it’s not an eye for choosing scripts, that’s for sure. Canon co-scripted with Max La Bella and Doug Simon, and all I can say is, better luck next time, guys.

A split narrative approach with way too much police investigation stuff and not enough attention on the horror. Clichéd characters (and unfortunately, mostly good-looking twenty-somethings) you mostly don't give a damn about. All you're left with is a good-looking and occasionally well-acted movie that never pulls you in. I'm sure making movies isn't remotely easy, but everyone involved at the screenwriting level of this film is making things more difficult than necessary. Not good.

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