Directed By Neill Blomkamp

Starring – Carly Pope, Chris William Martin, Michael J. Rogers

The Plot – A young woman (Pope) unleashes terrifying demons when supernatural forces at the root of a decades-old rift between mother (Nathalie Boltt) and daughter are ruthlessly revealed.

Rated R for adult language, some violence and bloody images

(1) Demonic – Official Trailer (2021) Neill Blomkamp – YouTube


– Compelling ideas. Even with an execution that is limited at best, there’s a series of themes and psychological commentary surrounding the script that is held together by the jaded dynamic between a mother and the daughter she left behind. Because of such, the film is at its very best when it is purely a science fiction narrative stitched together by the magnetism and allure of hereditary mental illness, filled with much anguish and regret from the depths of its female protagonists that made the initial act of this movie one that I was honestly digging for the first thirty minutes or so. It unfortunately gets weighed down by tonal inconsistency and convoluted ideals that over exert the execution, but it’s refreshing to see a writer/director like Blomkamp, who had an iconic turn over a decade ago with “District 9”, not rest on the laurels or capacity of what has already been proven succesful, challenging his creativity in ways that keeps him from being categorically typecast.

– Unpredictable. On one side of the coin, this story is constantly shifting the focus and gimmick of its narrative every twenty minutes or so during the inferior second half, that illustrates a disjointed nature with its intentions, but on the other there’s an appreciation for the constant deviation in expectation that kept me intrigued and constantly guessing through the story’s many turns. One such example is in a particular supporting character who is illustrated so on-the-nose and obvious with her characterization that I honestly saw ulterior motives with where I felt the movie was taking her, and yet it never materialized. Another instance saw an overtly physical attraction in chemistry between two characters that I thought would lead to a forceful romantic subplot, but it never happens. It proves that even with the abundance of genre tropes littered casually throughout the experience, there’s an honorable intention to constantly keep audiences guessing, taking the mystery in directions that I didn’t deem as detectable as I’m typically used to.

– Refreshingly climactic. Very few horror vehicles in contemporary times have the brass or balls to conclusively resolve matters in a way that leaves little to no room of continuation for future efforts, but “Demonic” is satisfyingly ambitious in such a desire, wrapping up matters and subplots with the kind of responsibility that refuses to pander. It’s certainly possible that a studio and someone other than Blomkamp could pick this story back up somewhere down the line, but Carly’s unresolved regret with her mother is wrapped up with the kind of resolved definition that leaves nothing to be desired in the way of redemption, before giving way to a physical conflict in the means of survival. There is a hint that matters will continue in the conventional wink and nod to the audience, but it is quickly dispelled in the means of a permanent epilogue attaining one of few examples where producers convey that less is in fact more.



– Logical leaps. If someone told me that “Demonic” was a victim of hack and slash editing, I would certainly believe them. I say this because the finished product bringing forth no shortage of gaping plot holes or character convenience brings with it holes of dizziness for the narrative that makes it all the more difficult to hang onto with each passing elevation of the stakes hanging in the balance. Many times throughout the film, I found myself audibly laughing at how certain characters wouldn’t know information of background about a concept on a surface level, but then ten minutes later would reveal that they know something even deeper about same concept, that would be considered only intimate details between those involved. On top of this, the exposition itself presented in the later half of the film directly contradicts matters that we learned about early on, that not only remove what diminishing interest we have left in the movie’s pieces, but also fleshes out a lack of concentration with Blomkamp as a writer that solidifies someone else should wrote this film, while he directed.

– Convoluted essence. As I previously mentioned, the science fiction in this movie is certainly the bread and butter with Blomkamp’s unique world-building, but it’s in the desperation of the horror elements where the film never quite finds its voice, turning this psychological family drama into a trope-riddled and soulless embodiment similar to the mother of the story in frame. For my money, there’s a lot of reasons why the horror doesn’t work in this element, but mostly it’s in how forceful and unnecessary it feels during sequences that are otherwise honest and forth-coming in breaking down the psychological barriers between mother and daughter. The horror is certainly there, mainly for how overtly it makes its intentions known, but it persists in a way that involves little to no creativity with its intentions, even so much as wasting away the cherished R-rating that could’ve offered something remotely compelling in the way of riveting brutality or pallet-cleansing gore for the horror hounds like me in the audience.

– Ocular trauma. The visuals in the presentation are probably my single least favorite element of the production, and one that made interpreting matters a chore for what transpired on-screen. To be fair, I’ve certainly seen worse in horror, but the desire in us of dark, grainy cinematography over captivating atmospheric pulse is one that I’ve never enthusiastically subscribed to, and does the physical side of the conflict itself no favors, especially when a majority of the movie takes place at night. Darkness is certainly an overwhelming issue with depiction, but what’s perhaps the bigger problem is the camera work itself, which is either too close or too rampant at times, when physicality overtakes the engagement of the scene. Not only did I make out very little about what took place, even with the drapes in my house closed, but I also am flabbergasted at how Blomkamp and company approved this as the finished product to be shipped off to audience.

– Underwhelming direction. It would please me to say that Blomkamp is a victim of the vehicle he created here, but most of the problem revolves around the captivity that he supplants to the experience that he himself crafts entirely. For one, there’s an overwhelming displeasure with everything we’re experiencing. Dark movies and material are often an engaging experience for me, but here the implausibilities of the character motivations attains very little momentum-building between sequences, leaving this floundering effort feeling boring and ineffective the longer it persists. The other problem is the complete lack of depth pertaining to his protagonist and the ensuing abandonment that is constantly talked about throughout, but never explored in a way that fleshes out the tragedy of the disposition. It takes away the kind of heart necessary to keep its audience invested while constantly elevating the magnitude of the conflict in front of them, giving us a series of characters who can’t even remotely hold a candle to those of the similarly structured, but all around monumentally better “Relic” from last year.

– Budgetary limitations. I’m uncertain of the budget used in a production of this magnitude, but the spotty illustrations of the dream world itself brought forth an abundance of problems that add to the movie’s already sloppy presentation. The film certainly conveys this as a world far from reality, especially with pixelated backdrops and character designs that articulate an unnatural feel in its circumstance, but considering it is 2021, and not 1993, the designs were horrendously void of any palpable style, and essentially unnecessary when you consider how easy it is to convey a thick visible line between fantasy and reality. One such idea would be to use environmental color to relay to the audience the diversity of its appeal. Another would be to deviate in character appearances to replicate what they looked like at the time the memory they are persisting in took place in the mind of its captor. Anything is better than the lifeless computer-generated “Lawnmower Man” we’re left with, that is anything but radiant with 21st century technology in filmmaking.

– Musical meandering. Easily the biggest culprit of the unnecessary horror enveloping, and one that strips away much of the integrity and authenticity of these scenes of dialogue interaction, is the heavy handed work from composer Ola Strandh, which brought forth some of the more annoying compositions of 2021. If these tones took place in a movie that was entirely possession horror, then I could appreciate them slightly more for the dread they are entailing, but considering this is science fiction first, not everything should feel as obvious and heavy-handed in selling the appeal. The themes themselves often overwhelm and influence an environment long before the intention of a character has materialized, then implant a doubt of denial in the mind of the audience that completely removes any semblance of nuance or spontaneity from the intention, putting audiences forcefully one step ahead before the scene even has time to catch up.

– Flat acting. Some of this can certainly be contributed to Blomkamp’s diminishing grip on the production he almost single-handedly helms, but the work of Pope, Martin, and especially Kandyse McClure is free from error, or effective emotion that drives the intention of the characters accordingly. Pope is easily the best of this ensemble, presenting a likeability as Carly (Same name in real life? Sweet Jesus) that is investing enough, but when it comes to the heavy lifting of these emotionally riveting sequences, can’t quite rise to the occasion of what is called upon her. Martin as Martin (Jesus, again?) is forgettable, so I won’t waste much time on him. McClure, however, is so flat and unintentionally laughable that I often felt every scene she was a part of was a dream sequence, when in reality only one of them were. Her work never immerses her seamlessly into the element of the scenes she accompanies, making her unpleasantly stand-out for all of the wrong reasons that a scene never calls for.

My Grade: 3/10 or F+

One thought on “Demonic

  1. Well…I finally got a chance to watch it and finish my review, and I have to say that I really hated it. I honestly had a difficult time trying to think of positive things to say about this one, because there isn’t much that I can say I liked about it. Even if it does have compelling ideas like you mentioned in your review, I personally don’t think it utilizes any of them effectively. I also love your comparison to Relic as the characters did have a similar dynamic that was exceptionally worse in this film. Easily the most disappointing film I’ve seen so far this year and also one of the worst as well. Glad you got a little more out of this one even though that isn’t saying much for a film this bad. Excellent job!

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