Psychological horror is often the preferred genre of hardcore fans because there are boundless paths that can be explored. Demon takes that premise and weaves it thoroughly throughout its eighty-four-minute runtime. Films like this keep the twists coming so that the viewer is unsure of what will come next, and that’s something that Demon hangs its hat on.
Demon is directed by George Louis Bartlett (Expulsion 2016) and co-written by Bartlett and Theo Macdonald (Beer & Coffee 2018). This story explores a man named Ralph who tries to flee an unpaid fine. In his runaway attempt, he comes across the Forest Lodge Motel, where he becomes haunted by his past in a descent into madness. Ralph is played by Ryan Walker-Edwards (Sucka Punch 2020), who gives a lot of life and varied emotion to the character. In a psychological role like this, you have to have a strong protagonist, and Walker-Edwards does a nice job in portraying how lost he is. It is meant to be a timed mental deterioration, in the vein of The Shining (read our tribute to The Shining here).
The film’s style is its strongest point. It’s shot in black & white and back-lit well so that the frames still have a sleek beauty to them. When Ralph is faced with an intense emotional confrontation, they play around with the images on screen, such as using a red filter for anger or slow motion for happiness. They also employ a VHS/camcorder for home movie flashback scenes, which give us exposition about Ralph’s father. The Director of Photography holds onto long static shots after the action has passed, showing off the cool locations and amplifying the tension. They also did a nice job with recurring props, such as the hotel bathtub and Ralph’s family watch.
Demon isn’t without its issues, of course. The pacing felt long-winded at times, some of the scenes could’ve been trimmed, and the plot became hard to follow due to the disorienting twists. But this film works as a character study, and Ralph’s family ties made for a strong coming-of-age theme with unpredictable changes. Demon premiered March 30th at the Cinejoy Virtual Film Festival and is planned for release in the UK later in 2021.