Motivated by the suicide of a classmate, a group of college students form a pact to kill themselves in order to escape from the pain and misery of their lives. However, when a masked killer begins picking them off one by one, they start to realise that death might not be the answer to their problems.
There is a great secret to horror films that very few of the genre’s directors seem to comprehend: characters the audience cares about are what make an engaging film. It doesn’t matter how inventive your homicidal stalker is in tearing out his victims’ entrails, if you couldn’t give a rat’s arse about the people getting eviscerated, the entire exercise is emotionally meaningless.
Refreshingly, first time director Arjun Rose seems to have a partial handle on this concept. Much of the film’s focus is on the circle of the eight members of the suicide pact and how the decision to end their lives affects their thoughts and feelings towards each other. The titular demons here are of the figurative kind: isolation, anger, lost parents, self-loathing, mental health issues, loneliness; the kind of gnawing emptiness at the back of your mind that can never truly be banished. It’s surrendering to this internal darkness that pushed the group beyond the desire to go on, and by attempting to overcome it that they rediscover the will to continue living. At least, that was probably the plan. With a large ensemble cast and a short running time, only three of the group are allowed much development, while four others are given only groups scenes, and much of their dialogue revolves around their comrades. The eighth, a pouty, blonde, underwear-clad Hollyoaks castoff, barely makes it 20 minutes before the killer’s knife strikes.
It’s the brief meditation on the things that truly matter in life that raise the film slightly above the average slasher; but so much of the film is lavished on characters that the murders almost seem like afterthoughts. Yes, character focus is important, but not at the expense of forgetting that this is a horror movie, and as such requires some scenes of actual tension. The film gets at its most frustrating during numerous interludes soundtracked by trendy urban music that really could have been put to better use, such as further developing the supporting characters so we might be more concerned at the prospect of their throats being sliced open.
The film’s main let down is its climax at yes a big house party, complete with drink, drugs, sex, pseudo-lesbian gratuitousness and, erm, Twister. The killer shows up, the knife flashes, and genre clichés spring forth from hiding. The killer appears to belong to the typical breed of omnipresent ninja, appearing, killing and vanishing without so much as a whisper of movement to alert anyone to his presence. When the mask finally comes off, the intent of the film’s statement becomes clear, but the manner of the revelation is nowhere near as clever as it thinks it is.
Overall Verdict: Demons Never Die had the potential to be a truly engaging horror film, but is betrayed by its weak structure and underdeveloped characters. Arjun Rose has another two films lined up with producer Idris Elba; let’s hope he’s learned from the mistakes of this one.
Dionne Bromfield Music Video
2 Teaser Trailers
Interviews from the Premiere
Reviewer: Andrew Marshall