Friday, February 22, 2019

Review: Demon Squad

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2019
Images from the Internet

Demon Squad (aka Night Hunters; Full Moon Inc.)
Directed by Thomas Smith
Fighting Owl Films / MVD Entertainment
97 minutes, 2019
In a new world of who can top whom with gross violence and vivisections, sometimes someone has to step up and say, “Hey, here’s some good entertainment that’s based on the story, rather than being gory.” Thomas Smith has been that voice for a while now, thanks to his direction with films like The Night Shift (2011). One might call them PG-13, but more on that later.
Khristian Fulmer, Erin Liley
We are introduced to Nick Moon (Khristian Fulmer), a hard-hitting PI (Paranormal Investigator) modeled in the Sam Spade mode of the Noir detective stories. He’s got a smirk a mile long, an odd hat, and can throw an incantation or two for the viewers entertainment and his prey’s detriment. His assistant/Girl Friday is empath Daisy O’Reilly (Erin Liley), who gets to see as much action as does Nick – and rightfully so, as she’s an interesting character in her own right; note that Liley co-wrote the film with hubby Smith.
Into their squalid office comes vivacious femme fatale Lilah Fontaine (Leah Christine Johnson), a rich man’s daughter who hires Moon to find her missing dad. Of course, if you read mystery novels, you know there’s more than meets the eye-candy with Lilah.
The world our three main characters inhabit is a normalized mixture of human and demon, though most of the time it’s easy to tell who is which (which is who?) by the make-up. Some demons look like the blood suckers on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” television shows, others like aliens on early “Star Trek” episodes, but most have some variation of horns. But mostly, they seem to like to hang out at demon bars and drink.
Leah Christine Johnson
While searching for Lilah’s dad, Moon and company get involved in the search for a mystical power source for a knife of unimaginable power in the right/wrong hands. Of course, every demon and religious order is trying to get a hold of it for whatever means, be it to use it to evil ends or to nullify that from happening. Naturally, all plots merge into a single point in the story.
Considering the size of the body count, there is almost no blood, though there is some violence in the fisticuffs and paranormal happenings (some involving portals!). Now, I belong to a lot of horror groups on social media, and invariably someone asks for a good starter horror film for someone in their youth (tweens or early teens, I am going to assume). I’ve seen someone suggest films like The Exorcist, which is way too adult. I would, however, recommend this one. There is a bit of occasional cussin’ here and there, but nothing compared to many cable shows. And the violence is definitely there – remember this is a genre film – on a scale that is equivalent to shows like SVU. In fact, this would make a great cable program, or on the CW channel, that I would watch. I’ve said this before about earlier Smith films, and stand by that.
The visuals as quite nice, without there being jump cuts. Brown tones seem to prevail, and a bit of steam punk paraphernalia is certainly present in Moon’s arsenal. Fulmer and Liley have been shown to have a nice platonic chemistry together in earlier Smith films, and continue to do so here. There is a bit of ham that shows up in the acting style here and there, but that is common in Noir films (e.g., Nicholson in 1974’s Chinatown).
What’s also enjoyable is the level of a-wink-and-a-nod humor that runs throughout the story. There are a lot of humorous lines of which Liley gets the bulk, but there is also that moment when Fulmer turns to the camera and knowingly smirks that’s bound to raise some smiles if you didn’t blink at that moment and miss it. It is little things like that which help keep the pace. Other than a couple of dialog heavy moments that may use some editing in my humble opinion, the dialog and action balance each other nicely to keep the story flowing.
Who would have thought of Mobile, Alabama, as a center of normalized demon inhabitation, rather than religious fanatics attacking them in the name of Jeebus? An aspect I like about Smith’s filmmaking is that we get to see quite a few back alleyways of the city, but it never gives the impression of being a run-down town, like Scorsese did with New York in 1974’s Taxi Driver.
While the demons are not scary in the Evil Dead or Italian horror kind of way, they are still interesting as villains, and the make-up tends to be cartoonish rather than frightful, but not in any negative way; rather it’s kinda cool. The make-up is appliance-based, but there are also numerous digital effects as well.
To sum up and paraphrase, for me a large part of what makes this film so much fun is that it’s story based rather than the plot revolving around wounds. While viscera are all well and good, it’s nice to follow a plot that is interesting in its own self. And Fulmer and Liley certainly are up for the task of presenting us that story.

No comments:

Post a Comment