Following the surprise success of District 9, pretty much everyone was ready to anoint Neill Blomkamp as the king of sci-fi horror. The heir apparent to Ridley Scott or David Cronenberg, but with more of an action bent, Blomkamp threaded a tough needle, delivering a movie that was smart, emotional, and scary as hell. His follow-ups, however, were much more of a mixed bag. Elysium managed to score some points as a Halo-influenced stab at class and climate crisis, while Chappie became a punchline even before people had a chance to see it. For the rest of the 2010s, the director found himself trapped in development hell between making sequels to Alien and RoboCop. Neither panned out.
This brings us to Demonic, Blomkamp’s latest horror science fiction movie that includes marines with machine guns—the guy knows what he likes. Amid hyping a District 9 sequel, Blomkamp looks like he’s scaled back considerably for Demonic, which now has a full trailer that’s heavy on violence, plot, and what appears to be a hellacious Sims expansion. So what is Demonic? Well, the synopsis is intentionally vague, with IFC Midnight stating, “A young woman unleashes terrifying demons when supernatural forces at the root of a decades old rift between mother and daughter are ruthlessly revealed in this horror-thriller from director Neill Blomkamp.” Not much there.
Based on the trailer, the film follows a woman (Carly Pope) who is enlisted by a team of researchers to use some kind of virtual simulation to enter the mind of her estranged mother and investigate why her mother went on a “homicidal rampage.” As you probably guessed, the simulation leaves something of an imprint on the woman, and she cannot discern between the virtual world and the real world. As you also probably guess, the film also features a plot where the Vatican hires a black-ops team to hunt a demon. Yeah, it’s one of those movies.
Demonic really does look pretty interesting. There are elements of A Nightmare On Elm Street, Insidious, and a touch of Videodrome. Plus, the studio claims that the film uses “a patent-pending new method of using volumetric capture (a three-dimensional video technology that turns actors into geometric objects.) The amount of volumetric capture in Demonic is the most ever seen in a feature film.” This explains some of the glitchy visual effects seen in the trailer’s in-simulation segments. Either way, it’s nice to see Blomkamp experimenting with digital effects again. That was part of the magic of District 9. Here’s hoping this one delivers.
Demonic opens in theaters and on VOD on August 20.