A police officer and a psychologist investigate the deaths of five people who were killed while trying to summon ghosts.
“Demonic” had the makings of a good movie but unfortunately, that version never transpired. Even the addition of seasoned veterans Frank Grillo and Maria Bello couldn’t stop it from falling into clichéd, unimaginative territory. James Wan, the director of “The Conjuring,” “The Conjuring 2,” “Insidious,” and “Insidious: Chapter 2,” legitimately scary films, in my opinion, lends his name to this feature in a producer capacity but sadly, none of his directorial expertise or talent rubs off on Will Canon, the director of “Demonic.” Everything in it, from the acting, the story, and the scare effects are all very uninspiring. The movie does come to life (no pun intended) when Frank Grillo and Maria Bello appear but after a while, even they begin to blend into the yawn producing narrative.
Nearly 30 years ago in Louisiana, Marta Livingstone, a very quiet and secluded woman, unexpectedly went crazy and killed four people in her house before hanging herself. Since then, the building has stood vacant and the town has moved on, trying to forget its horrific past. When John (Dustin Milligan) begins having horrible nightmares about the house and sees visions of his mother at the location, the only survivor from that fateful night, he turns to his pregnant girlfriend Michelle (Cody Horn), who just happens to be a part of a ghost hunter group, led by her ex-boyfriend Bryan (Scott Mechlowicz). She insists that he join them on a trek to the house and by performing a séance, they might be able to contact the spirits there to find out what they want. The group arrives early in the day and starts setting up audio and video equipment throughout every room in the house but when night falls, the spirits awaken, and as they try to reach out to them, they quickly discover the spirits’ true motives for bringing them to the house, and one by one, they begin to disappear.
When the police arrive later that evening, John is the only survivor while Michelle is missing but as he recounts his recollection of the events to Detective Mark Lewis (Frank Grillo), Mark realizes that certain aspects of his story don’t add up. He brings in his girlfriend, Dr. Elizabeth Klein (Maria Bello), a psychologist who has worked on many police investigations and asks her to sit with John to try and figure out what happened. As she gradually gains John’s trust, Mark and his officers scour the rest of the house looking for clues but as the night draws on, strange things begin to occur, and Elizabeth quickly ascertains that there is something sinister working through John and that he may not be who he says he is. When Mark and his men locate the missing body of Michelle in a hidden closet, John’s true identity reveals itself, much to Elizabeth’s horror, and the memory of Marta Livingstone is brought back to life.
The only authentic aspect of the film is the old house itself and in the hands of a more capable director, this story could have been truly terrifying. After all, Louisiana is known for its black magic and voodoo but the movie reverts to quintessential scaremongering and I can’t recall the last time a film utilized so many jump scares, from demonic faces suddenly protruding out of the dark to ferocious dogs jumping into the scene unexpectedly, the movie is overflowing with them. Cinematographer Michael Fimognari, who has worked on such films as “Oculus,” “The Lazarus Effect,” and “Ouija: Origin of Evil,” is only too familiar with the atmosphere that is required in order to create a scary movie and while he most certainly achieves the desired effect on his end, unfortunately, director Will Canon does not.
Available on DVD, Digital HD & On Demand Tuesday, October 10th