Demons (2017) Review
Demons is a 2017 horror film about a celebrated fiction writer and former priest and his wife who are tormented by the ghost of her late sister.
Exorcism films are a sturdy bunch, sure-to grabbers that attract a lot of fans. With Miles Doleac‘s latest thriller, the appropriately named Demons, exorcism once again is the name of the game, though with a little twist in this well-made if familiar story that offers up just what the genre demands, even if we know right where it’s going.
It starts eight years in the past when Father Colin Hampstead (Doleac) tries to save seventeen-year-old Jewel Grant (Jessica Harthcock), who her father Jasper (Andrew Divoff) claims is possessed by a demon. Colin explores other possibilities but eventually attempts an exorcism that goes terribly wrong. Soon after, he gives up the cloth and takes up writing, becoming a successful novelist and marrying Jewel’s sister Kayleigh (Lindsay Anne Williams). When the couple host a gathering in advance of their friend’s Eddie (Steven Brand) and Lara’s (Kristina Emerson) wedding, things get dark when Kayleigh suffers horrific visions that escalate, making it clear that Jewel is back and with something to say.
Doleac spins a number of plates here, being the film’s writer, director and lead actor and while the story is solid and his performance is notable, it’s his direction that works best. Mixing flashbacks and hallucinations and myriad of other narrative trickery, Demons is a good looking Independent film, despite its budgetary limitations. There’s not a lot that is particularly new, but Doleac isn’t trying to rewrite the book, simply adding chapters to it. Christian themes of good and evil pop up throughout and while it takes a good half hour to truly get its legs, there’s plenty of interest in the second half to keep the simple story entertaining, even if it runs a little long.
That’s helped by some good turns by the assorted cast, including some strong supporting work from the likes of Divoff – who is especially effective – and both Brand and Emerson, who embrace the quirky, energetic friends (Lara is a would-be nudist who enjoys a bit of nakedness and has a ‘sense’ about what’s happening to Kayleigh). There’s also some good work from John Schneider, who shows up in a pivotal part. As a dialogue-driven movie, there are some lengthy conversations, and while some of it surely could have been trimmed, credit goes to Doleac for giving Colin some pretty impressive depth, having the priest question the possession in logical and believable ways, but then carry a bit of guilt afterwards for profiting on its results. This is a smart twist on the genre.
Not everything works of course, as the film does find time to meander and loses some momentum where the film should have wrapped things up a little more tightly. It further goes to the well a few too many times maybe in its jump scares, however these are a staple of the genre and fans have expectations. Still, despite its necessary descriptors, this is hardly a horror film in the traditional sense, weaving a much darker story into the mix at the end that is more psychological that scary. It makes a decidedly divisive turn in the last moments, one that is more designed for visceral impact than narrative continuity though, and while it’s undeniably satisfying, sort of doesn’t work given everything that happens before it. But if you’re looking for a decent possession movie, there’s still plenty here to make for a good night at the movies.
Demons is in theaters and VOD October 6.
Demons (2017) Review
Movie description: Demons is a 2017 horror film about a celebrated fiction writer and former priest and his wife who are tormented by the ghost of her late sister.
Director(s): Miles Doleac
Actor(s): Miles Doleac, John Schneider, Andrew Divoff, Steven Brand