Review by Bryan Yentz
Starring Christopher Daftsios, John Anthony Wylliams, Lindsay Goranson and Ryan Redebaugh
Written by Jeremy Wechter
Directed by Jeremy Wechter
Dark Cuts Pictures
‘Member THE DEN?
‘Member UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB?
Know how SEARCHING just came out?
Well, here’s another sub-genre flick from the sole perspective of a computer screen. Unfortunately, it accomplished little more than being a copy/paste rehash that’s more interested in riding coattails rather than doing anything remotely new.
E-DEMON follows four former college friends as they reconvene on the ol’ Skype for a recollection of good times. Each has hit the dreaded ‘3-0’ (though all actually look to be in their mid-to-lates) and are still trying to soul-search in regard to what they should be doing with their life. While one has finally landed a book deal, another has been forced to return to his family home to assist his kin in trying times. While this attempts to provide a foundation for each of the character’s development (and in turn, gain empathy from similarly “lost” thirty-somethings viewing the flick), none of the characters (beyond Julia Kelly’s “Kendra”) are remotely likeable. A fact made more apparent the longer each convalesce about the pranks they pulled in their heyday—and coincidentally begin performing anew on this particular night of nights.
Using “high-tech” webcams that allow each to see the other’s POV (gimmicky for sure), each spill the beans about their lives, loves and dilemmas. . . That is until one of the jokesters seeks to have fun at his ailing grandmother’s expense by mocking her mental fragility when she attempts to weave a cryptic yarn about Salem (the city in which this particular character lives), its witches and a box she has in the attic that just might house a demon. You can see where this is going. . .
Without spoiling anything (hell, look at the title), an evil entity is released and each character begins debating about whether or not the possessions/violence they’re witnessing is real or just some more tomfoolery.
For what it’s worth, there’s an over-arching narrative that’s more ambitious in its attempt to connect each character (each being in different state) to a virally infectious plight that could affect more than just them, but the whole world. Commendable, yes—but much like everything else herein, that particular plot point has been done to death (ANTIVIRAL 1 & 2 for example) and writer/director Jeremy Wechter’s attempt with E-DEMON is both shoddy, corny and marred all the more by its limited budget.
Disregarding E-DEMON’s world-wide possibility of demonic possession (and the “resistance” group formed in its wake), the movie is an eye-rolling assortment of horror check boxes that Wechter has gone through with abandon. Jump scares that are neither scary nor make one jump. Late-game characters that are introduced with the sole purpose of exposition (because they somehow know everything about E-Demons?). Camera movements that are so spastic you can’t properly see what’s going on. Blurred out company logos (like Apple) that the filmmakers couldn’t get the rights to show. Okay, so that last one isn’t particular to the genre, but it is distracting.
What’s more annoying is that the rules of such devilry aren’t established properly. Such a purposeful choice was made so as to misdirect the viewer (and the characters) as to whom to trust, who’s still pulling pranks and who’s truly affected by the malicious spirit’s custody—but it just creates further unanswered plot questions and holes. The demon can affect anyone staring into the lens/screen of those watching, so off the bat, why doesn’t it just nab each Skyper from the get-go and then carry on its sinister business from there (yes, that would end the whole movie in five minutes, but the question still stands)? Instead, each character (or their family member/friend) is seemingly affected at random (or not at all) simply as the plot progression dictates. Further aggravating the “rules” is that the only identifier to possession is that a person stares at a screen for longer than they should. . . that equals possession? There’s no sound to it, no cue—they just go momentarily catatonic and bing! E-Demon! Again, this could be Wechter recalling and taking the similar scene from UNFRIENDED (which was actually creepy and appropriate therein), but it’s utilization within this context is just sloppy. Worse, one of the main personalities that appears the most influential candidate for the specter’s shenanigans (and is practically manipulating the situation for his own gain), is removed from the movie about three fourths of the way through. He literally just logs off and isn’t brought back.
So when the possessions start, E-DEMON follows the gamut of cliché with pentagrams, anti-Christ jargon, unrealistic reactions and lots of people screaming—none of it the least bit frightening but thoroughly ridiculous (though, I will admit *SPOILER* the third-act rape of an elderly man was a bit more on the shocking side *END SPOILER*). The initial death caused by the demon is especially laughable as the victim’s acting is SO bad that it ruins the picture’s credibility early on and it never recuperates. From here, the performances continue to wane from decent to ludicrous until the end credits finally hit. And about those end credits. . . They might just be the most obnoxious end titles I’ve ever seen. I understand Wechter was trying to be creative and do something different, but it’s utterly impractical for viewers who are actually trying to read them. Good try.
The difference between imitation and emulation is intent, and E-DEMON is far more in line with the former than the latter. Yes, the quicker road to acquiring attention is by rewrapping the same product that worked for other studios (hell, even UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB ripped off THE DEN), but when it’s done in such hasty ways for such obvious reasons, the result is just what you’d expect. Not good, not awful, just a forgettable forgery.