DEMONIC * Canada 2021 Dir: Neill Blomkamp. 104 mins
Writer-director Neill Blomkamp’s feature debut DISTRICT 9 (2009) showed immense promise unfulfilled by his bigger-budgeted (though not uninteresting) Hollywood follow-ups ELYSIUM and CHAPPIE. This oddly uncinematic, tedious venture into possession horror manages at least one remarkable achievement: it’s far worse than the last terrible film named DEMONIC (the James Wan-produced yawnfest of 2015).
One-note, miserable leading lady Carly Pope has recurring nightmares of her incarcerated mother (Nathalie Boltt) engulfed by fire. An estranged pal (Chris William Martin) gets in touch to tell her that self-harming Mom is now a comatose, paralysed patient at Therapol, a medical tech company in the Valley on a mission to use cutting edge technology in order to alleviate the suffering of patients. She is among the test subjects, and the company offers Pope the chance to communicate with her mother, literally stepping into her mind (“Kinda like a dream”) thanks to their VR program.
“I think that sanitarium was built on some kind of haunted land…” Blomkamp’s painfully slow script unfolds like a 20-years-too-late variation on post-LAWNMOWER MAN chillers like HIDEAWAY and (the superb) THE CELL. It spends too much time depicting, in its “second reality”, pace-killing scenes of fuzzy VR Pope telling fuzzy VR Mom how much she hates her and how disgusting she is. There are endless scenes of Pope wandering around darkened rooms with her cell phone torch – occasionally punctuated by lazy false-alarm “scares”.
The po-faced dialogue is laughable, though it’s almost worth sticking around to see an actor delivering, with a straight face, the line “The Holy Lance. It’s been in the Vatican for 1000 years – it’s the only thing that will kill it”. Relieve your intense boredom by dubbing it over at home with “The Holy Hand Grenade”. Some effort is made to generate terror from a malevolent presence wearing an over-size crow mask, but it’s all so agonisingly dull, you’ll be yearning to grab The Holy Bullshit Plot Device yourself and ram it through your own brain for merciful release.
Review by Steven West