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DEMONIC (2021) review

August 22, 2021


written by: Neil Blomkamp
produced by: Neil Blomkamp, Mike Blomkamp, Stuart Ford & Linda McDonough
directed by: Neil Blomkamp
rated: R (for language, some violence and bloody images)
runtime: 104 min.
U.S. release date: August 20, 2021 (select theaters – Music Box and available to rent on Digital and VOD on most major digital platforms, including Amazon Prime VideoYouTubeDIRECTVSpectrum OnDemandGoogle Play, and Vudu)


What has writer/director Neil Blomkamp been up to since his last sci-fi feature, “Chappie” released in 2015? Better yet, what has he been up to during the pandemic? The answers to both questions can be found in his latest film, “Demonic”, a peculiar science fiction/horror thriller that revolves around a woman with a complicated and estranged relationship with her mother. Although there are attempts to incorporate some unique and quite fascinating concepts to the horror subgenre of demon possession, it falls subject to recognizable formulaic trappings and predictable moves that limit the potential for the film to embrace potential for weirdness and dread.

While it’s never established in the story, “Demonic” was filmed in British Columbia, Canada, with Blomkamp prominently featuring a relatively small town that surrounds an immense lake. This is where Carly (Carly Pope) resides, a young woman trying to move on from a past that in which her mother, Angela (Nathalie Boltt), engaged in criminal actions that resulted in her imprisonment…or at least that’s what Carly thought.



Since then, Carly has maintained a connection with her best friend, Sam (Kandyse McClure), but when she starts to receive text messages from an old friend, Martin (Chris William Martin), she becomes both troubled and curious. Against Sam’s advice, Carly agrees to meet Martin at a local cafe where he shares with Carly that he has seen her mother and proceeds to tell her that Angela is currently in a coma at the nearby Therapol Medical Center. Martin states that he was part of a focus group test at the facility that involved real patients and one of them was Angela. He believes that Carly will be contacted by the physicians treating her mother, in an effort to assist with their treatment.

This unexpected news is troubling for Carly, who’s been plagued by recent dreams in which she wanders a foreign landscape where she can hear Amanda crying and calling out for her. Maybe the dreams aren’t connecting, but she is about to find out more when she answers an expected call from Interpol, asking her to come out and see her mother. She meets Dr. Michael (Michael J. Rogers) and his assistant, Daniel (Terry Chen), who are conducting an experimental research project that requires Carly’s help. They suspiciously offer her the chance to be plugged into Amanda’s psyche in an effort to communicate with the comatose woman in hopes of making a breakthrough in the their treatment. Seeing her mother’s helpless body, connecting to a hi-tech apparatus and considering the dreams she’s had, Carly decides to enter this “second reality”, uncertain what she will experience or what state she will find Amanda.




Leading up to this point in the film, Blomkamp builds a certain foreboding atmosphere by having cinematographer capture leaves rustled by wind and composer Ola Strandh build a sense of growing intensity. That atmosphere bleeds into the virtual realm Carly is connected to, where she finds her mother sitting alone on a bed in an old home in the middle of nowhere. Blomkamp and his visual effects crew create a world that appears semi-real with a pixelated sheen as if traversing through a rotoscoped video game world (think creepy Sims). What Carly sees, hears, and says in this world can be monitored by Dr. Michaels and Daniel, yet they cannot communicate to her. If things get too intense (which they undoubtedly will), Carly can call out to them and they promise to pull her back into the real world. But will they really, considering their odd behavior and we really don’t know too much about their research, medical background, or motives?

Initially, Carly thought she would go into this simulated world and confront her mother and share with her the hatred that has built up over the years. While she does do that, it’s not as satisfying as Carly envisioned it would be. Amanda appears in this dreamscape younger than she is in real life, closer to Carly’s age and telling her daughter she is sorry and that she loves her, but she needs to leave. Carly is taken aback by this and realizes there more going on here, an evil presence which weighs heavily on Amanda, possibly controlling her and potentially responsible for her past behavior, changing Carly’s perspective of her past.



Indeed, with the film’s title, there is more going on here and it’s in this digital environment where Carly encounters the malevolent antagonist that has plagued her mother. Once this demonic foe is revealed, the screenplay begins to check off certain beats that are familiar to past horror films of the demon possession variety. Carly awakens with a wound on her right arm that she received in the virtual realm. Martin has had his own disturbing visions and we learn that he’s been researching the mythic legend of the same bird-like demon that has captured Amanda and is pursuing Carly. The creature is understandably frightenung for Carly, but viewers will find it quite underwhelming. What happens to Carly’s BFF Sam can unfortunately be seen a mile away, resulting in a back-bending spider crawl chase seen that has been overdone. Such familiarity of events in the real world, make the virtual realm presented in Demonic” much more interesting.

Blomkamp drops an intriguing midpoint reveal involving Therapol’s true motives that has fascinating potential, but is sadly unexplored. There’s a larger story somewhere in Blomkamp’s mind that he could’ve included more of here, that would’ve made “Demonic” something more odd, peculiar, and different than it actually is. I definitely would’ve been down for some stranger things here, instead of dull cliches and lackluster attempts at fright. With more time, a bigger budget, and a world with no pandemic, this could’ve developed into something far more different and intriguing.






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