Stephanie Hensley’s ‘The Demons Within’ – Movie Review

It’s always interesting to see a film from a director you’ve never seen before. Sometimes the final product is slow, awkward, and full of empty promises, but in others, viewers get a well-thought out and carefully planned story that has been buffed into a sparkling shine. You honestly never know what you’re going to get.

Ryan Lambert, Andre Gower, The Demons Within, The Monster Squad
The Monster Squad’s Ryan Lambert and Andre Gower reunite once again in The Demons Within

So, when I heard about Director Stephanie Hensley’s possession film, The Demons Within, I felt like it had some promise. Check out the synopsis:

Inspired by terrifyingly true events… When demons infest the cell phone of a troubled teenage girl, her demonic possession soon follows, forcing her atheist parents to seek the help of a Catholic priest in order to survive the unspeakable evil taking over their lives.

A demon-infested cell phone? Atheist parents? Inspired by true events? Check, check, and check!

And the trailer…

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. That really is April Fool’s Day’s Deborah Foreman, The Monster Squad’s Andre Gower and Ryan Lambert, and The Wicked One himself, Jack Norman. You might also recognize Wolf Hollow’s Spencer Madison and BJ Mezek, Vincent M. Ward (Ocean’s Eleven 2001), and Alisha Seaton (The Fourth Kind 2009), along with Jessica Arden Napier, Shane Thompson, Stavros Batras, Rouge Rose, Jf Davis, Jake Reynolds, Christina Cupo, Jackson Everest, and Nick Long.

The Demons Within was directed by Stephanie Hensley (A Mother Knows Best 2017) and written by Roberta Griffin (Uddishya 2018). Producers include The People Under the Stair’s Yan Birch, actor BJ Mezek, cinematographer Jake Reynolds, and Brenda Long, Taylor Alan, and Greg and Cody Hesseling who also helped compose the score, along with Brandi Dale. Speaking of music, the band The Anti-bodies was front and center in this film. I’m pretty sure they covered the entire heavy, high-energy soundtrack.

Spencer Madison, The Demons Within, possessed, demons
Spencer Madison hunts their prey in The Demons Within

What Works

Right from the very first scene, The Demons Within snatched my attention. The film opens with teenager Izzie (Madison) and her parents (Seaton, Davis) chatting in the kitchen when suddenly, both parents jerk their heads to the side and stare into the camera, their eyes burning but their expressions blank. Izzie tries to get their attention, but they won’t look at her. An instant later, Izzie is in her bed, waking up from a terrible nightmare. And this is only the beginning.

I love that the demon infested Izzie through her cell phone. What a clever concept! Our phones are like our lifelines, the first thing we grab in the morning and the last thing we check at night. We get all of our news and info through them and spend hours on social media and playing games. They’re the perfect portkey for something supernatural to get at us. Who needs a Ouija board when we’re staring at our own, individual invitations all day? It’s bad enough that Amazon and Google can hear what we’re talking about and send us ads. Just think what a demon could do!

Deborah Foreman, April Fool's Day, The Demons Within
Deborah Foreman in The Demons Within

The Demons Within is the first time I’ve seen Spencer Madison, but I know I will be hunting down more of their work. The way they contorted their body and the shrieking desperation in the way they screamed, “Kill me! Kill me, Mommy!” sent my heart into my throat. What mother could hear them and not react viscerally? They took this one dimensional character and turned her into every parent’s nightmare. I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for more of their work.

I am also more than pleasantly surprised to see that the plot of The Demons Within flows perfectly in a well-timed story. I’ve seen so many first time directors who are afraid to trim the fat from their firstborn and ending up with a story with lolls and lags that can send a viewer searching for the nearest clock, wondering how much time is left in the film. But I can happily say that this did not happen here.

Lastly, I want to mention the Foley sounds. I know that’s not something most people tend to notice… unless they’re really bad. But in The Demons Within, Alberto Garcia’s background sounds are as creepy, stomach churning, and insidious as the story and the acting. I especially loved snap of the cracking joints.

Spencer Madison, The Demons Within
Spencer Madison’s eyeball in The Demons Within

What Doesn’t Work

I only have a few complaints about The Demons Within. I wish the possessed cell phone had been more prominent in the story. It was really only shown in all of its demonic glory in one scene. Seeing it mess with Izzie was something I was really looking forward to, and I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t showcased more. The dialogue is sometimes hard to hear, which is too bad, especially in contrast with the fantastic Foley work.

Spencer Madison, The Demons Within, possessed

There are a few too short, choppy edits in the film, especially near the end. There was even one scene where a character’s line was cut off in the middle of what they were saying. And I hate to even mention this because I loved him in The Monster Squad, but Andre Gower’s acting is a bit wooden. Maybe it’s intentional as he was playing a serious priest character, but I was hoping for more emoting from him.

Final Thoughts

The Demons Within is a fantastic film from Stephanie Hensley. At times, I felt like creepy, crawly ants were scurrying up and down the back of my neck, and as a mother, Izzie broke my heart. If you’re looking for an intense possession thriller, look no further than The Demons Within.

About Tracy Allen

As the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of PopHorror.com, Tracy has learned a lot about independent horror films and the people who love them. Now an approved critic for Rotten Tomatoes, she hopes the masses will follow her reviews back to PopHorror and learn more about the creativity and uniqueness of indie horror movies.

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