Sorry About The Demon first published by VODzilla.co
When writer/director Emily Hagins presented the world première of My Sucky Teen Romance (2011) at FrightFest, she was barely old enough to attend the festival – but extraordinarily it was not her first or even second feature. In fact she debuted with Pathogen (2006) when she was just 14, followed by The Retelling (2010). So Hagins began her filmmaking career early, and despite the odd excursion into other genres like the coming-of-age drama Grow Up, Tiny Phillips (2013) or the crime romance Coin Heist (2017), she has mostly stuck to her idiosyncratic, generally comic takes on horror, including recent contributions to the indie anthology Chilling Visions: 5 Senses of Fear (2013), the TV miniseries Creepshow (2018) and the hilarious curtain raiser for postmodern omnibus Scare Package (2019). Her latest feature Sorry About The Demon continues this pattern, as Hagins shows us the impact of a vicious human-hunting demon – and the various lost souls that it has enslaved – on the mundane lives of those who enter its domain.
That domain is an ordinary-seeming American home out in the suburbs, where the Sellers family – realtor Ken (Dave Peniuk), his wife Tammy (Sarah Cleveland), their teenaged son Jake (Jude Zappala) and younger daughter Grace (Presley Allard) – move out almost as soon as they move in. For having encountered Deomonous (voiced by Tony Vespe) – who has briefly taken possession of Grace’s body and whose ridiculous name is expressly flagged by Jake – they make a deal with him that if they promise to find, in Grace’s stead, another human sacrifice for him to drag down to hell, then he will release Grace and even let them return to the property. Enter Will (Jon Michael Simpson), a young, commitment-phobic toothpaste telesalesman who has just been dumped by his girlfriend Amy (Paige Evans), and cannot quite believe that this big house is renting for less than his ex’s poky apartment. The catch manifests itself early and clearly – except to Will himself, who insists on regarding all these hoary, hokey supernatural incursions (creaking sounds, self-rocking chairs, menacing messages written on cake and furniture forming vertical piles) as just the normal quirks of an old build. Yet once he finally acknowledges that he has seen all this paranormal activity before, but only “in movies – scary movies”, he turns to his childhood friend Patrick (Jeff McQuitty) and Patrick’s colleague from accounts – as well as one-time spiritual cleanser and exorcist – Aimee (Olivia Ducayen) for help with busting ghosts and expelling demons.
When Will first tries to tell Patrick about his bizarre domestic experiences, Patrick misunderstands his friend, imagining that Will is merely describing his personal struggles with a recent breakup and a more general lack of direction. Indeed, this becomes one of the film’s running jokes, and also its interpretative key, as Will’s battles with the diabolical presence in his new home, and the way he grows in his attempts to overcome it, run parallel with the more metaphorical “inner demon” that has been plaguing him ever since Amy showed him the door. And so scenes of possession and séances and exorcism – the kind of scenes that are the bricks and mortar of demonic horror – are here made to cohabit in the same space as sweet if bumpy romance and somewhat belated, only partially Satanic rites of passage.
Best of all, while Hagins gleefully exposes the callous greed and self-centredness of the bourgeois adults in the Sellers family, she shows an unapologetic sympathy with the sheer geekiness of late millennials like Will, Patrick and Aimee and Gen-Zers like Jake and Grace – a geekiness that no doubt the filmmaker herself and her target audience share. So if you like your horror with charm, good humour and loads of sweet, sweet icing on the cake, then Sorry About The Demon has all this aplenty – and if you are worried that so much sugar may damage the sharpness of its bite, it has something for that too…
strap: In Emily Hagins’ haunted house horror comedy, an aimless, recently dumped telesalesman shares his problems with paranormal housemates
© Anton Bitel