Demonic, the Devolution of Neill Blomkamp


Unlike most, I quite liked 2015’s Chappie. I didn’t buy into the notion that director Neill Blomkamp was losing his touch. His latest film Demonic, a rote science fiction-horror offering that barely even bears his fingerprints, may prove I was wrong. Either his mixed critical success of late has born insecurity in the South African filmmaker, or he simply took a paycheck to pass the time during COVID, because his notable visual style is almost completely absent here. Fascinating ideas abound, however, such as the use of technology to communicate with comatose individuals in a “digital space” made of memory. When wet-blanket protagonist Carly (Carly Pope) enters the digital realm to speak to her felon mother, she’s surrounded by familiar locations, moments in her mother’s own memory, all of which half-resemble tangible buildings and half-resemble a glitchy video game. I mean that as a compliment, with the constantly shifting landscape around her and us offering audiences an ominous and peculiar visual, even if it is criminally underused. That becomes a trend throughout, where Neill has many neat ideas that are never fully explored. He even concocts the looney, crazy brilliant concept of gun-toting, demon-hunting mercenary exorcists working for the Catholic Church, and yet utterly squanders such a cool epiphany by killing the team off-screen within sixty seconds of introducing them. Between poor acting, endlessly expository dialogue, and mostly flat photography that recalls DTV cinema more than a Neill Blomkamp joint, Demonic is a cut or two below what we’re used to seeing from the guy who made District 9 with a mere $30 million dollars. I can’t help but wonder why he chose not to hire more talented actors, or why he chose not to run with his more compelling narrative threads or ideas. Instead, the picture devolves into a relatively generic slice of demonic possession storytelling, right down to the demon in physical form resembling a perverted mirror of an animal (in this case, a raven) we know, and chasing after Carly’s rather annoying friends. Demonic officially marks a possible devolution of the once-venerated filmmaker’s career.

Grade: C

Available to rent on-demand via Fandango, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime.

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