e-Demon Movie Review
e-Demon Movie Review Metadata
E-DEMON (2018) won for best director and I can see how that would work with multiple camera angles, seamless continuous shots, and working with kids. When it all works together, it really hums. What E-Demon doesn’t have is enough tension and sustainability to carry it 100 minutes.
Four college friends gather for a Friday night of conversation via webcam. They’re spread out across the United States now so this is a 21st C way of keeping in touch without hopping a plane. AJ (Christopher Daftsios) is in Seattle and likes to show off his wealth with new expensive toys, Kendra (Julia Kelly) is in NY illustrating her book, Dwayne (John Anthony Wylliams) one is a solid family man in Dayton with kids, and Mar (Ryan Redebaugh) has moved back home to Salem, MA with his family after a rough job patch.
Beware, here there be tropes. E-Demon also has the crazy old woman (Waltrudis Buck) with the creepy backstory, the initial fakeout of terror, Gamma (the term for endearment that stops being endearing after the age of 4) tells a spooky story about a demon in a trunk, and a family legacy that the current generation is oblivious of, so of course the trunk has to be opened. For a family entrusted with guarding it, there were systemic errors all over the place. This demon can infect people with cameras – which is a problem as this movie is being told through multiple cameras. Because the action isn’t happening fast enough this demon can infect multiple people at once, but only like a few at a time, and not the people actually watching.
We’ve seen how movies with this concept work very well. Searching (2018) and The Den (2016) both employed nothing but cams and cell phones for the duration of the movie and they were compelling. We also didn’t have someone staring into a screen when they didn’t have dialogue or action. Those movies were more dynamic and interactive, and this, unfortunately, isn’t. I think multiple parties staring into a camera while another party gets murdered is supposed to convey helplessness, but as the audience, we’re kind of already there – as the audience. The multi-webcam angle is more than a little distracting because now the audience has more screens to divert their attention away from the main action, what little of it there is.
There a few clever things in E-Demon, like a neat little website (sadly the exact url isn’t featured in the film) you can visit an learn all about the Viralmalum – that’s the demon infecting everyone’s cameras – the entire movie taking place via multiple cameras but not simultaneously, and frankly the actors, who despite not having much to do except leave the screen when not actively screaming or freaking out, do manage to convey camaraderie, friendship, concern, and terror. Shout out to the wee kids, Nyla Evans and Samayah Bailey who proved their acting chops by being kids without looking like they were pressed into service because mom and dad were on set. I was actually impressed with them, especially the really scary parts. We could have budding Scream Queens on our hands!
As for our adults, they weren’t given much to work with and the intro into everyone’s lives went on far too long. There were chunks of information and exposition dumped at very awkward moments, and even once it got rolling, the angles were less than consistent.
Oh, and the buffering. Even the rich guy who could have easily afforded a T1 line suffered from signal buffer. It didn’t add to the authenticity and it happened so often I couldn’t tell if it was a cue that the demon was passing through or just an unnecessarily crummy internet connection.
I don’t know how fleshed out the script was in parts, but it sounded very loose and ad-libbed. One thing that really grates on my nerves about low-budget indie films is the lack of actual written dialogue. Allowing actors to riff a scene to get to a certain point, because someone couldn’t be bothered to write dialogue doesn’t feel nearly as natural as first-time directors think it does, and to veterans of the genre, it feels lazy.
There are a few really wrong things in this movie that frankly should be a warning upfront – we have incest and a child being murdered. I don’t consider those spoilers, and if I even considered recommending this movie and didn’t say anything I’d lose the trust I’d built up in people and I won’t do that for the sake of shock scares.
E-Demon is Unrated, however, if I had to chance it, I’d give it a Hard R-Rating, not for the blood or gore, because frankly there isn’t any, but it’s the swears, the stabbing, the bludgeoning, the throat-cutting, the language, the overly long incest scene, the kid getting whacked, and the Dark Web wraparound which was too ambiguous to be satisfying.
.E-Demon is available in select theaters and on some VOD platforms as of September 14, 2018.