Welcome to the House of Demons. This particular abode is home to generations of supernatural energies. It captures the desperate need of a cult leader, the unbridled passion of a would-be storyteller, and the guilt of a group of friends hardly on speaking terms. It’s a drama mixed with terror and plenty of doses of theater of the mind.
The film opens with a group celebrating the engagement of Jeff and Abby. The happy couple interacts with friends Gwen, Matthew, Katrina and Spencer who are all together for the wedding. The tension is palpable as the foursome relives the drive that led to a tragic accident years earlier. In that accident, the group’s friend, Dave, was injured in a way that is kept secret to viewers.
The film flashes back to the group’s same residence back in 1969. The house was occupied by a group of cultists. Frazer, the cult’s charismatic leader (Dove Meir (Dig)), delivers a child in front of the room full of worshippers. It’s the first hint at a connection between the cult in the past and the group of friends followed in the present. Back in the present, Matthew (Jeff Torres (Pitch)) and Gwen (Kaytlin Borgen (Hawaii Five-O)) drink the night away, while Spencer (Morgan Peter Brown (Absentia)) and Katrina (Birdemic‘s Whitney Moore) crash early. There is some cryptic dialogue about Dave, and it is revealed that he is a wheelchair-bound invalid.
Katrina claims that through spirit healing she is able to communicate, and has talked to David. Spencer’s medical approach directly conflicts with Katrina’s belief in the supernatural. The scene is short, but shows the acting chops of both Brown and Moore. Maya, the aspiring author, writes about a connection between the past, present and future in the house, and another flashback shows the cult leader’s obsession. Frazer is intent on bringing back his own fallen family member, Bobby. He is confronted by Maya (Amber Benson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)) who tries to convince him to stop.
After this exchange, the wheels are in motion. Katrina’s willingness to tap into the supernatural opens her insight into the energies around the house. Gwen continues to feel it even though she isn’t sure how it’s happening or what it means. They’re balanced by Matthew’s languishing addictions and Spencer’s desperate clutch for science and evidence. The timelines begin to overlap and influence one another.
The filmmakers take some very cool risks in House of Demons. The multi-track audio where Spencer’s dad tells him that Santa isn’t real is a cool technique. The film-within-a-film pitch of Gwen’s time traveling writing is a nice nod to the downward spiral the viewers are watching. There are plenty of close-in camera shots and grainy effects, which are the modus operandi of a low-budget horror film. The dialogue and pacing help to explore the depth of the characters and the generations who impact the titular house and all of its horrors.
The themes of familial sacrifice are overwhelming. They define multiple generations. They are damning and they are salvation. These are the core at the story of House of Demons. They juxtaposition of what is and what could have been weighs heavily on all of the core characters. It’s the strength of the film and overcomes the need for any outright violence. The film is 90% suspense and 10% horror, and that is why it works.
The actors in House of Demons do the most that they can in the film. Moore is a front-runner given the depth of her character’s suffering. The themes of individual choice versus predetermined destiny are rampant throughout.
Gwen’s elevator pitch needs work. The fact that each generation fucks the next is a hard sell to any publishing house. Her obvious conviction to her beliefs makes her the perfect target for Frazer’s we-can-be-free act.
House of Demons may be a jumble of timelines, and a mix of confusing stories, but it is all about family. It asks more questions than it answers, but that approach downshifts and pulls viewers back to the here and now, or does it? It second guesses everything, and opens up a dialogue that should have viewers debating about what happens to every one of the characters.
The finale’ will leave plenty of unanswered questions.That’s the last present delivered from this film’s complicated and multi-layered plot lines.
The film arrives on all Video on Demand platforms on February 6th.