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Monday, August 16, 2021

[Review] Neill Blomkamp’s Sci-fi Horror Movie ‘Demonic’ Fails to Inject New Life into a Standard Possession Tale

Thanks to a particular seminal horror classic in the ‘70s, the possession and exorcism subgenre of horror followed in its wake by adhering closely to its blueprint and adopting its tropes. Getting trapped and held prisoner in your own body by an inhuman entity makes for an inherently terrifying setup. Still, it’s become increasingly difficult to break the mold over the decades. Demonic uses sci-fi and tech to give an inside view of the possessed, but the high concept fails to inject new life, or scares, into a standard possession tale.

Carly (Carly Pope) cut her mother Angela (Nathalie Boltt) out of her life many years ago for a good reason. Angela got sent to prison after a string of gruesome crimes that racked up a severe casualty list, including Carly’s grandmother. Once the community turned on Carly, too, she wanted nothing to do with mom. That is until someone from her past, Martin (Chris William Martin), reappears to tell Carly that he found Angela in a high-tech medical facility, where she currently resides in a coma-like state. The cutting edge company invites Carly to participate in their experimental simulation, where they can deposit Carly into Angela’s head to find answers and closure via virtual space. Carly does discover the truth; Angela’s mental illness is demonic.

The early scenes with the simulation tease a substantial departure from the norm. The way writer/director Neill Blomkamp stages the virtual simulation adds visual interest, giving a Sims-like quality that disorients. It lends an unsettling uncanny valley-type element as Carly wanders through a peaceful digital setting to find her way to Angela’s darkened room. Lurking within the darkened recesses of this building is a menacing entity with a crow skull mask. But the more Carly ignores mom’s insistence that she leave, the more Blomkamp defers to the usual tropes.

Pope tries her best to provide emotional stakes for Carly, a character whose motivations are tethered to a dangerous parent she’s been estranged from for a very long time. Beyond that, it’s hard to get a read on the character outside of her complete gullibility. She agrees to every single request by those running the medical facility, even when her health gets put at risk. Even when it seems evident that they’re hiding essential details from her, especially the truth. Beyond Carly, Demonic is a story of contrived convenience. Martin comes back into her life at just the right moment and happens to have a locked shed full of tools and weapons suited for Angela’s particular set of disorders- as well as expositional information for Carly to learn what horror audiences know from the outset.

The superficiality and convenience of the characters and their lack of arcs would easily be forgiven if Demonic managed to be scary at all or added any tension whatsoever. But outside of the simulation, there’s not much else there to this. It’s a simple idea stretched thin. A couple of exciting shots of the figure haunting Angela tease something more, but it never comes. The third act descends into silliness once the medical facility higher-ups show their hand.

A strong start sets up a very different take on demonic possession, with a detailed peek into the mind of the possessed by way of simulation tech. But once that’s out of the way, Blomkamp seems to have run out of ideas, dragging out Carly’s ultimate confrontation with predictable beats devoid of any scares, dread, or suspense. In the end, Demonic feels more like an inventive sci-fi mask that hides a lifeless, familiar story underneath.

Demonic releases on demand, digital, and in theaters on August 20, 2021.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3678568/review-demonic-wields-sci-fi-mask-standard-possession-horror-without-scares/

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