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  Demonic Virtual Unreality
Year: 2021
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Stars: Carly Pope, Chris William Martin, Michael J Rogers, Nathalie Boltt, Terry Chen, Kandyse McClure, Jason Tremblay, Quinton Boisclair, Derek Versteeg, Christopher Wardrop, Andrea Agur
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Carly (Carly Pope) has been suffering nightmares recently, related to her mother Angela (Nathalie Boltt) who she is estranged from after she took a funny turn that grew murderous, burning down the elderly care home she had been working in as a nurse and killing a number of residents in the process. Naturally, she has been taken to prison where she has been held in a secure unit ever since, and Carly thinks, good riddance to bad rubbish, she did not want to see her again anyway. However, she is contacted by an old friend, Martin (Chris William Martin), who informs her a medical corporation wants to see her about Angela...

Mention the name Neill Blomkamp - you know, the District 9 guy - to many a film buff and they will shake their head and wonder well, what could have been in regard to his career, a once promising prospect that he managed to fritter away on big budget flops, which may have picked up cult followings in some places but did not set the box office tills-a-ringing. After spending time in development hell trying to get an Aliens sequel off the ground that was scuppered by Ridley Scott not being done with the franchise yet he finally returned to a bunch of unimpressed faces with Demonic, his first out and out horror movie with no sci-fi elements.

This to many was more evidence of his decline, a sparsely furnished chiller populated by a handful of television talent and nary a hint of the extravagant setpieces he preferred that demonstrated his ability with the visual effect. Well, that was not quite true, there was one halfway through that managed to be satsifyingly freaky, a late night encounter that pops up as a genuine surprise and was effective in a manner you wished had translated to the rest of the story, which some identified as a retread of the extravagant but empty Tarsem Singh vehicle for Jennifer Lopez, The Cell, yet in effect played out more like an update of A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: The Dream Warriors.

Meaning, the idea of entering a dreamspace to battle demons was not a new or fresh one by any stretch of the imagination, and a stretch of the imagination was what was largely missing. It's not that Demonic was a bad movie, Blomkamp, whatever the naysayers said, knew where to point a camera and elicited sincere performances out of that cast, it's just that old saw, whom the Gods destroy they first call promising, was never too far away from your thoughts, and you longed for the movie to really embrace the potential of the freakiness it appeared to be capable of but were reluctant to get on with. Not helping was that it also resembled one of those virtual reality sci-fi thrillers from the nineteen-nineties, accompanied by supposedly "otherworldly" looks to the dream world.

Therefore, if The Thirteenth Floor was where you hoped science fiction would have headed in the new millennium, then you would appreciate this, as Carly enters a dreamworld where her comatose mother is existing and initially uses the opportunity to swear at her, all under the guidance of the Cronenbergian corporation which it later transpires has connections to the Catholic Church. If that revelation makes you groan, worry not, as next to nothing is done with this information other than the further revelation that the Church has a black ops division. The demonic part enters into it when the buzzy matter of possession raises its horned head, or in this case beaked head, but again the tone was almost apologetic about its supernatural trappings when you wanted something a good deal more full-blooded. It was fine as far as it went, but from an unpredictable talent like Blomkamp, you wanted go for broke crazy, not this relatively conservative material. Music by Ola Strandh.

[Signature Entertainment's Demonic opens FrightFest 26th August 2021 and is at UK Cinemas, Premium Digital 27th August and Blu-ray & DVD 25th October.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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