demonic | neill blomkamp | carly pope | chris william martin | michael j rogers | drama | sci-fi | thriller | curse | demon | possession | possessed | exorcist | canada | nathalie bott | terry chen | kandyse mcclure | jason tremblay | quinton boisclair | religion
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Writer: Neill Blomkamp
Starring: Carly Pope, Chris William Martin and Michael J Rogers
This was a movie that I first heard about going to the Gateway Film Center. The trailer was being shown so I knew that was coming there. I didn’t get the chance to see it in the theater due to schedule issues, but it was one that I added to a list to check out for 2021 since I was a fan of the writer/director Neill Blomkamp. I will be honest; I did see some people who saw this before me being down on it so it made me leery. The synopsis here is a young woman unleashes terrifying demons when supernatural forces at the root of a decades-old rift between mother and daughter are ruthlessly revealed.
For this movie we start in a field with tall grass. Carly (Carly Pope) is walking through it and she can hear a woman’s voice calling out to her for help. She approaches a large building and goes inside. She finds the woman who is calling out to her, Angela (Nathalie Boltt). She turns out to be her mother. Even from this early scene, we see there are tensions as Angela asks if she knows what she is standing in and tosses a lighter, starting a fire.
This turns out to be a dream. Carly is estranged from her mother and has moved on with her life as best as she can. She goes about her day when she gets a text message from Martin (Chris William Martin). She hesitates to answer it when Sam (Kandyse McClure) calls. Carly and her are best friends and Sam has just moved back into the area for work. Carly agrees to come see the place she is staying with a glass of wine and pizza. She cannot stay long though.
Later that night, Martin sends another text message. It is a place and a time to meet. She does agree to this. What we will learn later, Martin, Sam and Carly were all friends growing up. Carly’s mother went on a killing spree and then Martin also went a bit crazy. Sam and Carly turn their backs on him when this change came over him, a time when he needed someone to be there for him and believe.
Over coffee, Martin reveals that he went to a focus group for a sleep study. Carly’s mother was there. They are trying to get in touch with her, but Martin refuses to give the information. They are powerful and will find her, he just wanted to warn her. That night they do reach her and she agrees to meet with them. The man who greets her is Michael (Michael J Rogers). Along with Daniel (Terry Chen), they are conducting an experiment. Angela has Locked-in Syndrome that was believed to have started after a brain injury in prison. She was harming herself during this time. It has her in a pseudo-coma. This company of Therapol was able to get her released into their care to look into it. They focus on brain mapping amongst other experiments.
The reason they sought out Carly was to go into a simulation where her mother is currently locked. They want her to ask questions to better understand her condition. She agrees to do this, but once she meets her mother in a memory, she tells her all of the things that she has been harboring all these years. Angela understands and wants her to leave. Michael points out she didn’t ask about her mother’s condition. They want her to go back in to help them. Carly is leery and refuses at first. She does change her mind though.
This simulation though isn’t necessarily what it seems. Angela is able to tell Carly things, but she isn’t in complete control. Carly realizes this when the second memory is the building where all of the troubles began and the one of Carly’s nightmares. Angela might not be fully to blame and Therapol might not be exactly who they say they are. Martin might also be right.
That is where I want to leave my recap. To shift over, we have some interesting aspects to the movie. I’m not surprised that Blomkamp has done movies like District 9 and Elysium as he does an excellent job of taking science fiction ideas and then incorporating them into a grounded movie. That is where I want to start. What gets things going in this movie is the technology that Therapol has. Angela is in a coma, but they’re able to tap into her brain and render it like a simulation. It reminded me of playing The Sims. Carly is able to tap in and join her. What makes this better is that the simulation isn’t perfect. Part of this is that it is from memories and is like a dream. Not all of the details are there, but enough that you recognize it. This idea they’re using also works for me in that we get a lot of dream sequences. I’m forgiving due to the simulation and what I’ll get into next uses hallucinations to mess with its victims.
Where I’m going is that we have a supernatural aspect here. The demon I don’t recall ever getting a name, but it has the skull of a raven on it. Our entity one that is closer to a human sized raven’s skull which is creepy looking. Martin is our researcher as he’s been plagued by this creature for a long time. This has pushed him into reading religious texts and mythology. I liked that he gives us enough without completely being able to explain it. I’m a sucker for this so I could always use a bit more as well. We are getting an interesting take on a possession film through this as well.
Now I do have some gripes here. I’m not going to spoil what it is, but there is a reveal about the truth behind Therapol. I’m fine with it to an extent. I think that it goes too far though and I don’t think it is needed. The movie also runs too long. Coming in at around 105 minutes or so, I think 15 minutes could have been trimmed and it would have tightened this movie up. I’m also thinking some of what they added here is part of that. I don’t think this movie is as boring as some say, but does meander a bit still.
Then to move away from the story, next will be acting. I think that Pope is solid as our lead here. She has an interesting role to take on here. Her mother committed horrible acts when Carly was a young adult. This forced her to grow up, but she also had to deal with angry people lashing out at her. I think the performance feels like someone who is harboring a lot of anger and is faced with a side to things she didn’t know. Martin is fine, but I think he is a bit wooden if I’m honest. I did like Rogers, Boltt and Chen. Rogers taking on the role of Michael is interesting. I don’t trust him from the beginning and it gets worse as we go. McClure was a bland as well. She doesn’t have a big part so there is that. Overall though, I’m still positive on the acting as a whole.
The last things to go over would be the effects, cinematography and the soundtrack. I already said that I liked the look of the creature and what they do with simulation. The blood we get is good. We get an interesting scene with Carly and Sam that I’m assuming used CGI that was scary. Both worked for me. The cinematography is solid as well. I had no issues there. The soundtrack is a bit subdued, but it also doesn’t take me out of the movie either.
So then in conclusion here, I don’t think this is as bad as some people have said, but I do have my issues. I like the lore that we are using though and incorporating the sci-fi elements into it. There are some things that are added in that we don’t need and it does bog the pacing down for me. The acting is solid for the most part. The effects are good as is the cinematography. The soundtrack doesn’t stand out, but it works for what they need. Overall I would say that this is just over average for me. It is lacking in too many things for me to go higher at this time.
My Rating: 6 out of 10