Starring Gregory Lee Kenyon, Venesa Talor, Brannon Gould, Kyle Tracy, Jennifer Capo, Allen Nabors, Candace Kroslak, Dominic Joseph, Val Perez, Todd Rex
Directed by Jay Woelfel
Expectations: Low. Look at that cover art and tell me you’d expect anything more.
On the general scale:
On the B-Movie scale:
Demonicus has many things working against it: it’s shot on video, its script is definitely lacking, its characters are mere cutouts of real people, its budget is noticeably small. Despite these things that could easily be deal breakers, Demonicus is ridiculously entertaining, as well as having the distinction of being pretty much the only traditional slasher in the Full Moon catalog. The film opens with a nice selection of mountain vistas. This is supposed to be the Italian Alps, and while you might fool a country boy from Iowa, I instantly recognized them as the Angeles National Forest just north of Los Angeles. You don’t grow up around them for over 25 years and not notice that stuff. Anyway, besides my brain killing their illusions, the filmmakers actually do a good job of selling these mountains as somewhere other than California, as there’s snow on the ground in patches and the shot selection is careful enough to not make it too obvious.
But enough digressions about the mountains, let’s get to the story. James and his girlfriend are hiking around, doing their best to beat their friends to the campsite and win the challenge. James is ever the competition-minded dude, so he had everyone split up and start up the mountain at different spots to see who could make it to the campsite first. Of course, he wants to win so he’s pushing his city-loving girlfriend much too hard. She receives a welcome rest when James discovers a large cave, but I bet she didn’t expect her boyfriend to emerge from the mountain fully clothed in Roman armor and a demonic helmet. She probably also didn’t see that sword to the gut coming either.
Inside that large cave was a perfectly preserved treasure trove of Roman artifacts, and one especially nasty looking corpse wearing some especially demonic looking armor. (Just go with it.) Naturally, James sees something cool and he desires it, so he walks over and takes the helmet from the corpse’s head and places it on his own. (Just go with it.) The power of Tyranus, the evil spirit inhabiting the helmet and the cave takes over James’s body and what follows is a wonderful montage of James suiting up in gladiator garb and trying out the various weapons hanging on the cave’s wall for his enjoyment. (Just go with it.)
So if you’ve heeded my subliminal messages and you’ve been just going with it, and you never balked once (laughs are OK), then you’ll probably enjoy Demonicus as I did. Other reviewers might tell you that nothing in the film is believable, or that this one requires some incredible suspension of disbelief, but I’m not here to say such things. Demonicus never assumes or expects you to believe any of this shit. While the acting is definitely focused on being realistic instead of campy, and the tone is always serious, the tone in your home while viewing should always be set to fun.
In this way, Demonicus is a supreme piece of low-budget filmmaking. Just for the fact that they found a way to make a slasher movie about a Roman gladiator, I have to applaud them. The fact that it also features some good quality gore, something quite rare in a Full Moon film, especially of this period, is just gravy on top. While the FX definitely aren’t on par with the greats of the genre, I defy you to find a better looking “man getting his arm sawed off in the forest” scene. It’s surprisingly realistic and looks fantastic. I’m sure the effect was achieved rather quick and easily, but the end result is nothing short of perfect.
Director Jay Woelfel has made one prior appearance here at Silver Emulsion, with his entry into the Trancers series, the much maligned Trancers 6, or “the one that doesn’t feature Tim Thomerson.” For many, the lack of Thomerson was a deal breaker, but those people missed out on what is hands down one of my favorite B-Movie plots of all time: a meteor hooked to a Super Soaker that blasts hobos in the eyes to turn them into trancers (AKA zombies). Oh yeah! While that film featured a lot of great moments, I don’t particularly remember it having much in the way of great direction. Demonicus, though, is rather impressive for a seemingly quickly shot low-budget film made on videotape. It features some really nice looking mountain vistas, as well as loads of great camera movement on actual camera equipment as opposed to the cheaper and far less effective “human hand.” I also especially enjoyed all the long takes where the action would develop while the camera slowly zoomed out, revealing more of the landscape as the characters moved around. It’s something that’s hard to describe without seeing it, but trust me when I say it’s much more artistry than is generally found in a shot on video film. The film is also impressively edited and paced. It’s just a well-made movie, there’s no need to beat around the bush. It’s definitely not slick or what would traditionally be called good, and it does show a few rough edges, but compared to what it could have been, it’s excellent.
As I am focused a bit more than average on martial arts here, I couldn’t help but be amused by the poor weapon fight scene, or the lame attempts of our villain to look badass while swinging his newfound swords and axes. I logically assumed that it was bad because the actors just didn’t have any experience, and they were doing whatever they thought was best. So imagine my surprise when there was a legitimate fight choreographer listed in the credits! That made me laugh almost as hard as anything in the film.
The characters are another huge weakness, as no one’s name really sticks and there isn’t much to identify everyone by. When one character’s glasses are his main character trait, you know we’re working in the realm of the shallow. But here’s one observation that I enjoyed, and perhaps you will too: there’s never a main character and only through the course of the film do we uncover who will survive and ultimately become the most important character. Doesn’t that sound like another, more famous film? Hint: it’s Alien. Oh, if only Full Moon could get James Cameron away from those boring blue avatars and onto the set of Demonicuses… or would that be Demonici? I don’t know. Anyway, what I’m saying is that if this one had done well, I would have been interested to see where they took the surviving character.
I thoroughly enjoyed Demonicus, and it’s rather good for a shot on video film. That’s all relative of course, so definitely don’t make this your first venture into the dangerous, underbelly of the horror world. But ardent fans of the sub-genre (and low-budget films in general) should definitely get a good kick out of this one.
Next week on Full Moon Tuesday, I’ve got Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity on tap, a sci-fi take on The Most Dangerous Game!