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Demonic is a supernatural thriller produced by James (The Conjuring) Wan and set in an abandoned house were a grisly massacre took place. In 1988 Martha Livingston had a group of friends over for a seance, which ended in her murdering all but one of them before killing herself. It was believed to be part of some satanic ceremony and the house has been empty since. The film opens with detective Mark Lewis (Frank Grillo) discovering the bodies of a paranormal investigation team inside the house with one, John (Dustin Milligan), still alive and two others missing. Now, along with police psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Klein (Maria Bello) the detective must try to pice together what happened, who did this and where the missing team members are.
Flick is written by director Will Canon along with Doug Simon and Max La Bella and moves back and forth between days earlier and present time to piece together what happened. It follows the paranormal team as they enter the house and start to discover something is not right there, to Lewis and Klein trying to get answers out of the dazed and confused John and from the evidence collected by the team. While the film is never particularly scary or offers anything we haven’t seen before, Canon does direct competently and the police investigation angle works well enough. The film really loses it’s grip in the last act, though, where it goes a little overboard and gets a bit silly and very cliché. The more subtle approach was working better and when the film goes all The Omen, it induces eye rolling instead of goosebumps. The flick did have some spooky moments and the house setting is creepy, but Canon and company opt for a more outlandish wrap-up and one we have seen countless times before. Too bad, as the film is somewhat entertaining till then and on a production level, it’s well made.
The cast is a mixed bag. Frank Grillo is strong as Det. Lewis and he is one of the reasons the film is as enjoyable as it is. He is a veteran detective faced with something out of his element in terms of the occult and supernatural and he is trying to make sense of a very unusual crime. Grillo creates a very likable character and conveys his frustration well. Bello is also strong as Dr. Klein. She is trying to get answers out of John through psychological means and the answers she is getting, puzzle and frighten her. Bello also creates a strong and likable character here. Sadly Dustin Milligan and the rest of the paranormal crew are kind of bland and are generic egotistical young hot shots. None of them are really that memorable or as strong as the veteran performers.
I was never bored by this and for the first two thirds was reasonably amused. We have a familiar story with some very common elements for this kind of tale, but early on they are used competently. The movie is never scary, but it had a few spooky moments until the filmmakers went all cliché in the last act and lost what grip they had. The film is elevated by the performances of two veteran actors, but at the same time, our younger leads are bland and forgettable. As a mild diversion it works fine, but overall very familiar, ultimately unremarkable and didn’t know enough to keep it subtle, which was working.
2 and 1/2 axes, as veteran actors Grillo and Bello earn some extra points for this.