Through intelligent camera work and interesting if occasionally simple effects, Mark Duffield’s gothic fantasy Demon belies its low budget status to generate more chills and intrigue than the majority of mainstream horror films. A persistent, uncomfortable tone set against growing unease that something sinister is about to happen engages the viewer, but sadly the film ultimately fails to carry its unsettling premise through to a finale that is slightly disappointing.
Visiting London to attend a clinic that specialises in blood disorders, Lorcan (Andrew Mullan) falls in love with attentive nurse Amy (Clare Langford). As his affliction becomes increasingly dominant, resulting in a transformation into the titular Demon, he struggles with his feelings for Amy while attempting to supress his bloodthirsty nature.
There are hints throughout Demon as to what the film could have been with a little more investment. It’s clear that Duffield has done everything he possibly can with what he had, and the film never feels cheap or guilty of poor production values, but there is a sense that it could have been so much more. Inventive camera work hides the modern day paraphernalia of London, allowing a believable Victorian setting to be realised. The limited yet creatively creepy indoor sets confirm that considerable thought and planning took place in order to maximise the available resources. Where Demon is weak is in some of the scenes of exposition, when characters are prone to explain everything relevant in order to advance the stumbling narrative. When that narrative becomes even more stifled in the second half, these dialogue-heavy exchanges slow the film down to a weary, plodding pace and diminish much of the previous strong work.
According to the IMDb, writer, producer, cinematographer and director Duffield has no credits to his name following 2012’s Demon, and this is a shame. Taking the film as a whole, he has captured the gothic style so reminiscent of the atmosphere evident in many of Hammer Studios films, with a soundtrack clearly influenced by that period. The story slips into melodrama a little too easily towards the end, and the film feels very much like an elongated short, but it is interesting enough to warrant seeking out. The love story at the centre of Demon may not carry much dramatic depth, and draws comparison with Coppola’s love-struck Dracula, but this is a decent film. Keep your expectations reasonable and Demon may even surprise.
DEMON / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: MARK DUFFIELD / STARRING: CLARE LANGFORD, ANDREW MULLAN, GABRIELLE CURTIS, TOM HALL / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW