Starring:Julia Kelly, John Anthony Williams, Christopher Daftsios, Ryan Redebaugh
Written and Directed: Jeremy Wechter
Running time: 86 Minutes
Reviewed by: Dan Oles
Found footage. You wouldn’t suppose that this would be a genre as much as it would be a medium, in much the same way a film versus a video is not a genre but instead a format. But it’s apparently difficult to leave the shadows of successful found footage examples like The Blair Witch Project, like Paranormal Activity, like the most recent Unfriended series because E-Demon falls right into line with many of the tropes. Obnoxious characters who claim to be friends but are constantly bickering and screaming at each other? Check. Supernatural menace? Check. Jump scares? Check. Clearly improvised one take dialogue? Check. Even the modern cliches creep in, with characters looking up bizarrely detailed articles on obscure subjects in seconds, having text conversations with their significant others while video chatting, and all potentially copyrighted materials mysteriously blurring out.
There’s a few new concepts that were fun to see. For one thing the premise is bookended by a covert online ‘resistance’ movement against the demonic forces which is a novel blending of both the cyber context of the film and the monstrous foe that the characters deal with. For another unlike Unfriended and other productions dealing with Skype chats there’s actually some clever use of the idea with some characters leaving the chat, talking one on one, and glitches and pauses in the feed lending a spooky detached ambiance.
There’s some other impressive pluses for an independent film especially. The settings are nifty, packed with detail and a surprising range of colors for mostly domestic settings. The camera moves much more than you might expect for a production centering on a conversation over video. The acting is pretty decent, with the notable exception of surprisingly downplayed panicked reactions which are near constant and seem a little muted for the violent situations the cast experiences. The effects are also surprisingly subtle and believable.
The stumbling block of E-Demon is the story. If you’ve seen one horror concept found footage movie you’ve probably seen this one. It trundles along in a familiar way, the shocks are nothing you haven’t seen even if in this instance there is more polish and love poured into them. This is a ton of effort paid to follow in some well worn footsteps and even if the cast is above average and the production value also this is the exact same beats any genre fan would recognize down to Latin being the language of evil. The cyber resistance group is intriguing but underutilized. Unless you do become compelled to follow the narrative to its conclusion because of the individual players you may be hard pressed to remain watching the same haunted house shenanigans play out, especially since the ending is basically spoiled in the first couple of minutes.
It’s another found footage horror movie with demons. It’s pretty, competently acted, and has some nice integration of the effects but does nothing to break ground. If you want a solid entry into a heavily stocked genre this functions fine. It may be a fine stepping stone for more experimentation for the team in the future since they clearly do have a handle on the craft. I just wish this film had tried a little hard to break the conventions and creep out from under the safety of its predecessors’ formula.