A young woman unleashes terrifying demons when supernatural forces at the root of a decades-old rift between mother and daughter are ruthlessly revealed.

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A woman uses a virtual simulation to learn the horrifying truth about her murderous mother in . Carly () is a woman who has repeated nightmares involving her mother Angela (), who was imprisoned two decades earlier for murder. Carly is contacted by her estranged best friend Martin (), who tells her he was approached by a company named Therapol for a focus group and was shocked to see Angela as one of the patients. Carly is then herself contacted by Therapol doctor Michael (), who wants her to come to the clinic and participate in a virtual simulation run by his cohort Daniel (). Inside the simulation, Carly is reunited with her mother and learns the horrific truth about her past actions.

Demonic is the latest film by writer/director Neill Blomkamp (District 9), which sees the South African move away from sci-fi/action into sci-fi/horror. Secretly shot in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic, Blomkamp utilizes a motion-capture process known as volumetric capture to create virtual worlds, used for the film's simulation scenes. It is through these simulations that Carly Pope's protagonist of Carly learns that her mother has been possessed by a demon for the last two decades and that it wants Carly to be her new host.

You can't help but feel bad for Neill Blomkamp, whose stock as a filmmaker fell greatly after the failure of his previous film Chappie, to the point that a rumoured legacy sequel to Aliens was cancelled before it could even get started. Demonic was almost a chance for Blomkamp to start with a fresh slate since it's his first film made outside of South Africa without his regular collaborator, . Admittedly, the premise of combining a demonic possession with a “Second Life” style simulation is an intriguing one, however, I found that it did not quite work in execution.

The volumetric capture used in the simulation scenes results in a major uncanny valley feeling that gives the film a bit of a cartoonish look. It also doesn't help that the demon is portrayed as a large bird-like creature. In fact, the best horror set-pieces in Demonic happen outside the virtual simulation, particularly a mid-film sequence in Carly's home. I also have to add that the true nature of the company performing the virtual simulation is quite ridiculous when it is revealed.

Ultimately, while it was refreshing to see Neill Blomkamp try something new, Demonic is ultimately another stumble in the once-promising filmmaker's career.

Demonic is now playing in select theatres and on VOD

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Trailer for Demonic

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.