As far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved movies and TV shows with strong female leads. I attribute this to two things. 1. I was raised by a strong single mother. 2. As a child, I was introduced to the movie Buffy The Vampire Slayer and fell in love with the film (the TV show is one of my favorite shows ever and helped me through the death of my mother but that’s a different story entirely). Awhile back I heard rumblings in the indie scene about an Irish action horror film called Demon Hunter, which featured a strong female lead, and I knew I had to check it out. Luckily I was given the opportunity to check it out in advance of its release on VOD next week. Here are my thoughts on Demon Hunter.
Demon Hunter was directed by Zoe Kavanagh from as script she wrote with Tony Flynn. The film stars Niamh Hogan, Alan Talbot, Sarah Tapes Jenkinson, Kevin O’Malley, Nic Furlong, Michael Parle, Aisli Moran, Saorla Wright, Lauren Emma Bartlett, Stephanie Alken, Meaghan Gallagher, Margarita Grillis, Dave Duffy, Stephen Gorman, and Mark Schrier.
After she is captured by police for questioning in the slaying of a man she claimed was a demon, Taryn Barker must prove her innocence, and the existence of demons. But when a cult captures the daughter of one of the detectives on the case, the police must trust, and unleash, this warrior on the Satantic group who are intent on bringing an ancient evil force into the world.
While I was already expecting to enjoy Demon Hunter, I was pleasantly surprised with how much. So many action horror films end up mindless or try to keep things light with awkward comedy. Demon Hunter was thankfully very character driven and wasn’t afraid to go dark. Yes, there is action and it’s pretty well done but it’s not the focus, its a means to an end. The film is grounded by the excellent characters and their relationships. Niamh Hogan was absolutely phenomenal as Taryn, the eponymous demon hunter. She is a complicated character: She feels guilt for the death of her sister (even though she was powerless to stop it), she has a darkness growing in side her that she is fighting a losing battle with (the more she uses her power, the worse it gets) and she’s willing to sacrifice herself if she can save the people by doing it and she isn’t afraid to die.
While mainly a solitary fighter, when things get rough, she does have a backup team for support including Ethan played wonderfully by Kevin O’Malley. Maybe it’s me just reading too much into it, but Ethan kind of reminded me of Xander from Buffy. It seems he has a crush on Taryn (which she seems oblivious to). He’s not a fighter but he is there to defend her and support her in any way he can when necessary. She’s soon joined by Detective Beckett (played by Alan Talbot), a man who is haunted by a promise he couldn’t keep, who is thrust head first into Taryn’s world when the past catches up with both of them. Talbot does a great job making Beckett a complex character as well as making him a sympathetic one. The ending is sad but hopeful. One minor complaint that I have is the villain of the film felt a little underdeveloped. After watching the film all the way through I wasn’t really sure what his motivation was. He’s built up to be this supremely powerful character but when he finally engages Taryn in their inevitable confrontation, he didn’t feel like much of a threat and their battle was fairly lackluster.
In a sea of mindless horror action cinema, Demon Hunter is a pleasant surprise. The film is stylishly shot, features likable and complex characters, and a strong badass heroine that I hope we get to see in a sequel. If films like this are your cup of tea, be sure to check out Demon Hunter when it’s released on August 15 on VOD.