Priest-turned-author Colin Hampstead is haunted by a failed exorcism that resulted in a young woman's violent death, which destroyed her family and created a strong bond between Colin and Kayleigh Grant, the woman's older sister. Eight years later, Colin and Kayleigh are married with a child, and, in addition to Colin's writing career, own a successful bed-and-breakfast. As they are in the midst of hosting a wedding for their close friends, however, Kayleigh's sister emerges from the afterlife as an increasingly-powerful force whose sinister energy bursts into the living world with terrifying intensity. In Demons (2017), the gruesome and shocking secrets surrounding a pious Southern family collide with the otherwordly perils of the supernatural realm.
The primary strengths in Demons revolve around the film's attention to depth. The intermingled flashback and present-time scenes are almost equal in emotional complexity and detail, which strengthens the moments of horror. The portrayal of the fractured relationship dynamics within the Grant family are dark and arresting, with the slowly-unraveling layers of disturbing secrets lending an atmosphere of both visual and psychological horror. Miles Doleac (Colin), also the film's director and writer, delivers a mesmerizing lead performance, as his penetrative gaze and gravelly voice allow his characterization of a troubled and disillusioned former priest to ring true. Andrew Divoff (Jasper Grant) commands his scenes as the callous patriarch of the Grant family, and his interactions with Doleac's character are tense and compelling. Kristina Emerson (Lara) and Steven Brand (Eddie) also impress with their sincere portrayals of their characters, who are refreshingly interesting in their secondary roles and avoid the pitfalls of one-dimensional horror tropes.
The film is, however, weakened by a few inconsistencies. The momentum of the plot is hindered by slow scenes that dilute the excitement of the more active scenes, and a few elements in the storyline lack coherence between the natural and the supernatural, which (without revealing spoilers) deprive the twists in the film of their full potency. A few reactions by various characters to emotional revelations in the film occasionally lack authenticity, which also takes away from the ultimate potential of the scenes.
Overall, Demons goes beyond the general possession/exorcism film in terms of depth and characterization, but never quite reaches the potential of its gripping plot.
Demons tells the story of Kayleigh and her husband Colin who is a famous author and an ex priest. The happy couple met when Colin performed an exorcism on Kayleigh’s sister, Jewel, which went fatally wrong. Trauma bonding turned into a happy marriage but things were not all sunshine and rainbows though, Kayleigh’s sister has haunted them both for years and her presence is getting stronger. I went into this expecting a standard possession flick and that is not what I got.
What I did get was pretty much a drama with a ghost and a couple violent scenes. On the bright side, it was a thoroughly enjoyable drama. The acting was good for the most part, the writing was solid, and it was really well shot and had I not gone into it with expectations, I believe I would have liked it even more that I did. In one of the early scenes, Colin’s film maker friend says something about how the story and the characters are what really matter to a movie and it is obvious that this is something the writer of Demons takes seriously. The important characters were well fleshed out and the overall narrative was just great. You know when you read a really good book and think “This was a really good book, I would like to see this as a movie.”? This is the opposite for me, I think this would make for an astounding novel.
While I really think it’s a stretch to call this a horror movie, it does discuss some dark topics. I found it interesting that demonic possession takes a back seat to a father and other trusted adult figures who are physically, emotionally, and sexually abusive to the two girls; like the King said, the real monsters live inside people. We’re given glimpses of the deeds of these human monsters through flashbacks and visions that Jewel shows Kayleigh.
All in all, I’d say give it a shot if you’re in the mood for a good dark movie. Honestly, I’m considering watching it again free of my original expectations because it may not have given me what I wanted but it definitely delivered.