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Since breaking out of the gate with a modern Sci-Fi masterwork in 2009 with District 9, writer/director Neill Blomkamp has seemingly struggled to hit that same initial almighty high. Yet, in spite of some widely different readings, he remains a filmmaker with incredible vision and ambition.
From the social class gap depictions of Elysium, to the AI implications of Chappie, Blomkamp’s work always can be relied upon to ponder weighty and interesting themes within a grand aesthetic. However his latest lockdown shot film is something far more stripped back and lower in budget, but no less intriguing for it. Despite some devilish reviews from fans and critics alike, Neill Blomkamp’s Demonic is a distinctive, if flawed, offering in an overstuffed field that is far better than expected.
The story follows young woman Carly (Carly Pope) who is contacted by an organisation known as Therapol currently caring for her estranged and comatose mother Angela (Nathalie Boltt). They seem to think that Carly may be able to reach her where they have failed, but to do so not only will Carly have to lay to rest a decades long rift with her mother (the result of a past atrocity) that still causes Carly nightmares, but will have to enter her mother’s mind via pioneering simulation technology. But once she’s in, is there more to her mother’s past and current state than meets the eye?
Demonic may be missing some of the director’s trademark scale for sure and that big acclaimed comeback since his earth-shaking debut, is still certainly yet to arrive but once again Blomkamp instils his work with neat ideas and ambitions, amidst some familiarities too. The flawed story is certainly a high concept one. Essentially an exorcist horror that does something slightly different with the genre, by blending it with simulated reality. While also eventually reverting back to some of the same old tropes too.
Demonic is admirably compiled under the most confining and challenging of times and while some things work (elements of its concept, a rather emotional character climax between mother and daughter, a well designed monster at it’s core), others do not (the more action-heavy climax, some rather OTT ideas that never quite flesh out) but overall I still enjoyed my time in its distorted company.
Nothing here breaks out quite as fully and ferociously as it ought to (barring some well delivered cinematography by Byran Kopman) but to be honest it doesn’t really have to, as the premise hook is unusual enough to make it worth giving this one a go, and despite the messy nature of some of it, there are a number of ideas at play here that ensure it feels rather unique in its own right. Which, considering its chosen crowded genre, is to be commended. In spite of the anti-hype, Demonic is not the disaster many have depicted it as, it’s instead a dark but enjoyable story of the age old demonic told via new age technology.
Think Rec 2 meets The Sims!
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