The Demonologist boasts enough blood, boobs and leather to entice an easily-pleased audience, but its general stupidity is a turn-off.
“New year, new me,” is the popular false promise of a changing epoch, and based on the perplexingly favourable reaction to J.M. Stelly’s ropey supernatural origin story The Demonologist, one can only assume that huge swathes of the critical community have decided that 2019 will be the year that they turn off their critical faculties altogether. But not me, folks. I’m determined to remain the same cynical producer of unnecessarily mean-spirited words that I always have been. I’m doing the Lord’s work – which I suppose is ironic, in this case.
Ironic because The Demonologist is about the summoning of Hell’s royal demons, or the four horsemen of the apocalypse, or whatever, a plot orchestrated by the saucy cult leader Meredith (Manon Pages), who bathes in the blood of naked women. (Always a dead giveaway that someone’s up to no good, I find.) On the case is the hilariously-named Damien Seryph (Brian Krause), a detective investigating a series of ritualistic murders that predictably connect to his own past.
The influences are obvious. It’s a throwback to those Satanic movies of the 60s and 70s, seeing as Hereditary made that popular again, but it’s also attempting to cash in on the superhero zeitgeist by being an origin story and leaving things open for a sequel. Combine that with a healthy dollop of knowingly cheesy self-awareness, several errant boobs, and a fair helping of pulpy silliness, and you have what should amount to a decent-enough time for anyone who’s into such things.
If only it was that simple. The Demonologist at least has the decency to maintain a consistent tone, but the tone is consistently self-defeating; a mishmash of deliberately over-the-top low-budget nonsense wedged awkwardly alongside reams of franchise-starting mythological busywork. We’re expected to take the film completely seriously and, at the same time, not seriously at all. The result is that the whole thing barely leaves an impression, despite a bizarrely committed performance from Krause and a memorably devilish one from Pages.
In fact, you know what? I’m lying. The blood baths and the scoffing of beating hearts leave something of an impression, and there’s a pimply demon fella who looks like he dunked his face in acid and speaks like he smokes forty a day. Occasionally The Demonologist bolsters its decent practical effects with abysmal CGI, and that’s memorable, if for entirely the wrong reasons. So, perhaps I’m just being miserable. But all the same, the promise of further escapades of discounted devilry seems like something of a curse to me.