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Demon Movie Review: Jarring music, subpar performances, and pacing issues bog down this promising ho- Cinema express

Demon Movie Review: Jarring music, subpar performances, and pacing issues bog down this promising horror film

A shining aspect of Demon is undoubtedly Sachin's performance, which is head and shoulders above the majority of the cast, who deliver subpar performances

Published: 22nd September 2023

Despite horror films becoming a staple in Tamil cinema recently, we haven't seen any white saree-clad ghosts with long hair roaming around haunted mansions. It felt therapeutic that these paranormal figures attained salvation from their eternal fashion statement and the horror imaginations of our filmmakers. But then came Ramesh Pazhaniivel's debut feature film, Demon, which brings those sartorial choices back with a vengeance.

Director: Ramesh Pazhaniivel

Cast: Sachin, Aparnathi, Kumki Asvin, 'Bigg boss'Sruthi Periyasamy,
           Raveena Daha


Why bother with elaborate world-building when the film is riddled with template music and generic visuals right from the introduction? As I chuckled at the irony of laughing during a horror film, the twist was revealed — we were actually watching aspiring filmmaker Vignesh Shivan, aka Vicky's (Sachin), pitch to a producer. Upon receiving the producer's approval, Vicky unknowingly rents a haunted flat. And thus, the Demon begins.

As easy as it is to guess the genre of the film from its title, we also see the filmmaker not trying too hard to dole out any surprises. White-dress-donned figures, jump scares, and eerie music have been an inescapable trope of horror genres. However, the real test of a horror movie lies in whether it can maintain audience engagement. Unfortunately, Demon falls short in this regard. It sways from scene to scene without an organic segue. As a result, the narrative moves in an excruciating pace and tests our patience. 

If the pacing is a problem, the shortcomings in the writing get exacerbated by the jarring background score. Imagine listening to a beautiful melody, only to suddenly hear a creepy score and witness lightning striking the sky while random tunes scatter and reappear. Unfortunately, this musical transition feels out of place because the script lacks a proper connection between scenes.

While there are moments where Demon shows signs of redemption, the film is unfortunately marred by poor writing. There is a love track for Sachin's character that is outrightly problematic. Just because ghosts stalk people, it doesn't mean the hero can follow the heroine on his bike as long as it takes to make the heroine fall for him. Vicky's friends' gang and their interactions have no sense of naturality, and their performance and dialogue delivery don't help things either. The breathing space in the first half gets sacrificed for an unnecessarily convoluted second half and middling attempts to ramp up the horror elements. Things don't just get overwhelming but indecipherable, too. 

However, it isn't that the makers of Demon don't try. It is just that the attempts don't always land properly. For instance, the eerie incidents that Vicky experiences in the new apartment are depicted as his dreams. While this is understandable, the problem lies in the fact that Vicky had multiple dreams that featured various events, which is sans any logic. It is important the writing stays true to the world it creates, and Demon doesn't really do that. The complications in the writing are compounded by the making. When certain events unfold within a photo frame, akin to a television show, when scenes are oddly interspersed with sporadic drone shots in unemotional settings, that made me ask, "Why?" As events pile up and Vicky somehow tries to get to the bottom of it, we are introduced to a recent real-life horror story that is seeing multiple iterations across many streaming platforms. 

A shining aspect of Demon is undoubtedly Sachin's performance, which is head and shoulders above the majority of the cast, who deliver subpar performances. 

Most of the well-made and well-received horror movies have certain prerequisites, and Demon seems to have all of it on paper. But it is important that these aspects are used in the right amounts. It is high time the fashion choices of our ghosts are reconsidered. This might also result in a rejig of how we showcase their demonic aspirations. Let sleeping ghosts lie, perhaps? 

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