Sunday, August 22, 2021

Blomkamp’s Demonic

Carly Spencer is about to plunge into VR world like that of Ready Player One, but it was designed for therapeutic purposes rather than entertainment. Unfortunately, there is something else in there—something evil. The technology is cutting edge, but the evil force has been around for centuries in Neill Blomkamp’s Demonic, which is now playing in New York.

Spencer changed her name after cutting all contact with her notorious serial killer mother Angela McDonald. Yet, somehow the clinic treating her now comatose mother managed to track down her old friend Martin, so it is probably only a matter of time before they find her, as indeed they will. It turns out they have plugged her locked-in mother into a simulated reality. However, McDonald refuses to engage with it, until she talks to Spencer.

Reluctantly, Spencer agrees to go in, only to tell her mother off, but instead, McDonald just begs her to leave. Shortly, thereafter, Spencer experiences some extremely disturbing and life-like nightmares. Martin has a demonic (so to speak) theory about what is going on, but she doesn’t want to hear it.

To his credit, Blomkamp has finally delivered a film that does not give viewers a stern lecturing on a political topic. Instead, he supplies some creepy atmosphere and several chilling scares. The simulated-world is deliberately designed to look glitchy, which can be a little jarring, but when Blomkamp really delves into the demonic aspects, it gets profoundly creepy.

Carly Pope is solidly down-to-earth as Spencer, but Chris William Martin is even more compelling as her damaged friend Martin. Indeed, the entire (relatively small) cast is quite strong, especially Michael J. Rogers and Terry Chen, as the simulation project managers.

In terms of tone and its use of traditionally science fiction elements in service of horror,
Demonic brings to mind Anthony Scott Burns’ Come True. It is smaller in scope and ambition than Blomkamp’s previous films, but it hits on a deeper level. Living up to its title, this is an effective demonic horror movie. Highly recommended, Demonic is now playing in New York at the IFC Center.