Demon (2015) isn’t that scary. Who would have thought? But its ok, supernatural horror isn’t its main focus, but rather what is conjured up as a result.
The film, based on the play Adherence, enters around the marriage and reception party of Peter and Zaneta (played by Itay Tiran and Agnieszka Zulewska), who celebrate near their new home in Poland. Previously belonging to Zaneta’s grandfather, Peter finds a buried in the yard the day before the wedding. He initially hides this information so he doesn’t worry his soon-to-be wife, but as the wedding, and later, the reception occurs, Peter cannot help but be haunted by what he saw. His behaviour grows increasingly erratic, much to the chagrin of his father in law, who tells Zaneta’s brother that “he picked the wrong one.”
And here is where the films’ focus is: not on the supernatural or the demonic, but rather the stress it puts upon the family dynamics. As a businessman, Zaneta’s father addresses the tense reception party by trying to please his guests as much as possible, indicating he cares for his public image than he does for the well-being of his son-in-law. This is eloquently revealed in a much later scene, where, going over the options and possibilities of medical conditions and health care, the father merely remarks that they need to bring Peter to a hospital, not because he is ill, but because it will look bad if they don’t.
This film is best enjoyed not as a horror film (as I suspected it would be, but it most certainly is not), but rather a character study, appropriate since it’s an adaptation of a play. It’s pacing feels long, and by the end of the film, you feel exhausted much like the reception guests. To be fair, my emphasis on the exhaustion is no doubt somewhat inspired by my physical exhaustion of my first big foray into TIFF. I saw four movies yesterday. I think. It’s getting hard to keep track.
The film is rather plain, with a strong emphasis on earth tones. White, black, and brown dominate the colour scheme here, though appropriate given the film enters around a wedding. The cinematography can feel creepy and claustrophobic at times, with one scene of revelry filmed within some tight spaces. The audience never receives a full establishing shot of the house, as tress and other shrubbery hide it, giving it an aura of intangibility. Without an establishing shot, and with its strange architecture, the house exudes a creepy vibe crafted by some creative cinematography, making it never feel quite right when characters are inside it.
This movie made me feel uncomfortable for a number of reasons, intentionally of course. You are supposed to feel the misery of knowing what ails peter without any agency to help him. But the emphasis of drinking away your troubles, or rather, making other drink away your troubles, bothers me because of its corrupt nature. The father wants hides a person through his wealth when he becomes inconvenient. And that kind of acts gets under my skin.
This movie isn’t very scary. While a few audiences members jumped occasionally, I was never unsettled. This isn’t to say the film is not effective however, for the film isn’t designed as a horror film, but rather as an examination of family dynamics in light of a marriage. The true horror? The family chooses a good image above all.