In today’s world of cinema, we seem to get two kinds of horror films.
The first kind are the cheap, cash grab gimmicks that are made for cheap, in hopes that it banks at the box office and turns into a cash cow for the studio for the next decade. Modern cinema seems to be overrun with these kinds of horror films now. Honestly, it’s quite depressing.
The second kind are the well-crafted horror films that are deep and meaningful, that are built on tension and suspense, all while not sacrificing a good story. The Polish film Demon falls into the latter category – albeit it comes off as more of a psychological drama, rather than true horror.
Demon tells the story of Piotr, a man engaged to be wed to the beautiful Zaneta and their subsequent wedding and reception while they are plagued by a force in Jewish mythology. Watching this film, I knew from the beginning I was not watching a typical jump-scare film, but a film that really had a message and deep story to tell. The film is methodical in its story-telling, not giving you everything until the end. But even then, I am still perplexed as to what I saw.
This movie absolutely requires multiple viewings, so I won’t try to break down the hidden messages, meanings or any theories. What I can say is that this is an incredibly shot and well-acted movie. Most moviegoers are used to the same background and settings in a world that we are familiar with. Demon plays on most viewers’ ignorance and keeps you guessing as to what is going on. Quick edits spin your head race your heart and makes you question what you are seeing, much like the main character.
Piotr loses his mind slowly as the film progresses and it becomes obvious that the family is doing everything they can to keep up appearances. However, their strange behavior leaves you wondering what is really going on behind the scenes. Hints in conversations amongst the party guests, including a doctor and a family friend known as the “professor,” tell you that not all is right, and that something far more sinister is happening to Piotr.
The movie also employs a very powerful element that seems to be lost in many other horror films – the score. I heard once that a great score enhances the story, but not overshadows it. The subtle music keeps you uneasy the entire time as Piotr slowly spirals out of control.
Demon takes an old tale, and makes it new with this fresh new story. However, this is not going to be for everyone. While I enjoyed this film as a whole, its slow pacing is going to turn many viewers off. In horror, you need to have scares, and this film, while it creeps you out, never gets that full blown scare that I think the movie could have benefitted from. The mythology behind this movie is not commonly known, which can make this quite confusing for the average film goer.
At the end of the day, this movie is unique, beautifully shot and scored and terrifically acted, even though the story is confusing and the slow crawl can make this a difficult watch.