Filmed in secret during the pandemic – and there is a distinct ‘project’ feel to the movie, as if everyone involved is nervous they’ll be discovered doing something they shouldn’t – Neill Blomkamp’s latest follows Carly (Carly Pope) who has been estranged from her mother Angela (Nathalie Boltt) following a violent incident many years before. With Angela now in a coma, Carly is persuaded by two men to talk to her mother using technology they have developed which allows her to enter her mother’s ‘dreamscape’. Given the title, you can rest assured something else is in there with her.
Blomkamp’s filmmaking has always been about ideas and originality. District 9 and Elysium confidently dealt with themes of social segregation and xenophobia through bold, futuristic concepts. By contrast, Demonic feels nervous, restrained somehow as if from a first-time filmmaker uncertain of his craft. The script, cast, and direction are all cautiously flat, rendering the final result blandly forgettable.
Perhaps damaged by the critical response to his last feature Chappie in 2015 or reeling from an inability to get projects moving (he has been involved in the unsuccessful development of Alien and RoboCop movies in recent years) Blomkamp seems unable or unwilling to fully commit to his concept.
Some interesting ideas remain – the Vatican’s use of technology to combat demonic possession being one – but many of the influences are too obvious, and you’ll be considering rewatching The Exorcist long before the predictable, somewhat rushed finale.
Like many before Blomkamp comes across like a filmmaker struggling to rediscover the talent and conviction that brought early success. Let’s hope he does, and we can quickly mark Demonic down as simply a blip.
Signature Entertainment’s DEMONIC is on and Blu-ray and DVD from October 25th