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In 1985,  Lamberto Bava directed a film called Demons (1985)Dario Argento shared writing credit with Bava and two others. Anyone who is familiar with Italian horror knows that Bava and Argento are classic staples of graphically elaborate horror films, legendary for their visually disturbing contributions to the genre. Unlike Bava’s Demons (1985), Demons (2017) is nothing like Bava’s version. That’s not to say that it’s unwatchable…it just isn’t what it advertises itself to be.

Miles Doleac plays Colin, a former priest and the main protagonist of this story. The film consists of flashbacks, from when Colin was still a priest to his present-day retirement. Compared to other films containing  flashbacks, Colin is clean-shaven as a priest, then sports a beard in present day. The scenes from Colin’s past recount the moments leading up to his final assignment as a priest – an exorcism of a teenage girl, Jewel (Jessica Harthcock), that goes horribly wrong. Colin had become romantically involved with Jewel’s sister Kayleigh (Lindsay Anne Williams) during the exorcism preparation and process. The infamous Andrew Divoff plays Jasper Grant, Kayleigh and Jewel’s father. Divoff’s performance is a bit subdued, compared to his previous roles (Wishmaster, for example), but his controlled intensity as the protective father is convincing. Speaking of familiar film faces, Gary Grubbs (JFK) plays Colin’s confidant  Father Joseph Moran, and John Schneider (Dukes of Hazzard) plays Dr. Gerry Connor, a visiting doctor who checks-in on Jewel. Flash forward to present day. Colin and Kayleigh are eight years married with a daughter…named…Jewel (Presley Richardson). Colin and Kayleigh run a fancy bed and breakfast, which includes a fancy elevator. They invite friends Marcus (Yohance Myles) and Emmie (Megan Few) to join them in celebrating the nuptials of Eddie (Steven Brand) and Lara (Kristina Emerson). Lara is half Eddie’s age and prefers to walk around poolside and swim in the nude. Lara later transforms from trophy-wife-to-be to pseudo-sage, who becomes useful later in the story. Colin still experiences moments of guilt over Jewel’s death, while Kaleigh begins having visions of her sister. Colin’s guilt controlling his judgement, and Kaleigh experiencing her visions, causes their gathering to be constantly interrupted. By the third act, the film has morphed into the epilogue of a Ghost Whisperer episode.

Director Miles Doleac is not new to the movie business, as this is his third feature film. As far as style and technique are concerned, Doleac appears to play it safe and not take many risks. Demons (2017) is aesthetically where it can be – (mostly) medium shots, consistent lighting and sound throughout, and even moderately intense acting when needed. What suffers is how the story maintains a medium flow, topped with a formulaic ending. Also…and possibly the most important reason…the concept of ‘demons’ in the film is presented as more of a metaphor than in the literal sense. This realization is neither surprising nor unexpected as there is very little evidence of the inclusion of actual demons in the story.

Demons (2017) may be ideal viewing for fans of Divoff, Schneider, or Grubbs for their intense and committed acting sequences, but if you’re looking for actual demons you might want to shop somewhere else.

Demons is streaming now on the following services:
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