Connect with us
'Demons', a horror comedy from Singapore, only lands half of its jokes and even less of its horrors.

Film

Berlinale 2019: ‘Demons’ is a Poor Attempt at Horror Comedy

‘Demons’, a horror comedy from Singapore, only lands half of its jokes and even less of its horrors.

A satire of male entitlement that is neither surreal enough to be amusing nor cutting enough to be insightful, Demons is an exhausting experience. A two-hander between an abusive male director and the actress in his latest play, it combines horror and comedy to an ambitious, yet frustrating effect. While notable for its playful aesthetic and willingness to shake things up, it only lands half of its jokes, and even less of its horrors.

Vicki (Yanxuan Vicki Yang) suffers from intense paralysis. In an early anecdote, she remembers trying put her hand up at school to go to the toilet. She couldn’t do it, wetting herself in the process. The young woman feels much the same way around Daniel (played by one of Singapore’s most successful theatre directors, Glen Goei), a domineering and abusive man who turns Vicki’s life into a living nightmare. Trauma becomes a fact of her everyday life, resulting in an immersive, surrealist, and very strange cinematic experience.

It’s easy to see what Demons is trying to do here. The abuse of power is an already absurd fact of life that has been accepted as a necessary part of the myth of the male artist. Director Daniel Hui gave himself the same name, making Demons something of an autobiographical portrait of the trauma a director can cause, intentional or not, when making a work of art. Why not turn it up a notch to see just how stupid the whole myth really is?

For example, one particularly absurd scene sees Daniel give Vicki a fish, telling her it’s a hat. Everyone goes along with it, making for one of the best laughs in the movie. Yet, unlike a Yorgos Lanthimos movie, we never truly know the rules, making it hard to be immersed in this bizarro world. Additionally, instead of tying the absurdity to a fundamental reality of human life, it stretches off into realms that seemingly bear no relation to this original power dynamic. This is especially true when the plot switches things up entirely halfway through, imagining what it would be like if Daniel were in Vicki’s shoes. At first, seeming like a necessary investigation into the relations between the sexes, the film cannot tether this change to real emotion, and loses the thread entirely.

With a boxy, 16mm aesthetic that recalls the lost film documented in Shirkers, Demons utilises its small frame to really focus on the human face. But these actors, although admirably chewing into the material with everything they’ve got, prove rather distracting. It’s hard to tell if they are intentionally hammy, or the players are genuinely that poor; either way, they get tiresome quickly, overacting every scene like they’re in the final school play.

With Crazy Rich Asians, Shirkers, and A Land Imagined, the tiny island nation of Singapore is finally having its long-awaited moment in the cinematic sun (it helps internationally — as in for America — that most of the nation speaks English as either a first or second language). By casting Glen Goei, director of Forever Fever, the first Singaporean film to ever do well internationally, Demons is forging new ground while paying homage to the past. Sadly, this film seems unlikely to be popular outside of the small sovereign city-state.

The 69th Berlin Film Festival runs February 7, 2019 – February 17, 2019. Visit the festival’s official website for more info.

Written By

As far back as he can remember, Redmond Bacon always wanted to be a film critic. To him, being a film critic was better than being President of the United States

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Facebook

Trending

Review Bombing Review Bombing

The Rings of Power and Review Bombing: The Online A-Bomb

Culture

HBO MAX/DISCOVERY HBO MAX/DISCOVERY

WTH is Going on with HBO Max/Discovery?

Culture

Best AEW Dynamite Matches of 2022 Best AEW Dynamite Matches of 2022

Best AEW Dynamite Matches of 2022 (So Far)

Wrestling

BEST AEW PPV Matches 2022 BEST AEW PPV Matches 2022

Best AEW PPV Matches of 2022 (So Far)

Wrestling

Project Wolf Hunting Project Wolf Hunting

Project Wolf Hunting is a Bloody and Entertaining Midnight Delight

Film

While We Watched While We Watched

While We Watched Reveals the Destabilization of Democracy in India

Film

TIFF 2022: Our Most Anticipated Films TIFF 2022: Our Most Anticipated Films

TIFF 2022: Our Most Anticipated Films

Culture

The Rings of Power “A Shadow of the Past” The Rings of Power “A Shadow of the Past”

The Rings of Power “A Shadow of the Past” Sets up Middle Earth’s Second Age

TV

Best AEW Rampage matches of 2022 Best AEW Rampage matches of 2022

Best AEW Rampage matches of 2022 (So Far)

Wrestling

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law episode 3 review disney+ She-Hulk: Attorney at Law episode 3 review disney+

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law Episode 3 Can’t Tip The Scales

TV

Actor Dylan Smith (center) Actor Dylan Smith (center)

LOTR: The Rings of Power: An Interview with Actor Dylan Smith

Features

L.A. Confidential Directed by Curtis Hanson L.A. Confidential Directed by Curtis Hanson

25 Years Later: L.A. Confidential is Hollywood’s last great noir

Friday Film Noir

Eastern Promises (2007) Eastern Promises (2007)

Eastern Promises at 15: Cronenberg’s Gangster Triumph 

Film

Best AEW Moments of 2022 (So Far) Best AEW Moments of 2022 (So Far)

Best AEW Moments of 2022 (So Far)

Wrestling

Marvel D3 2022 Marvel D3 2022

A Breakdown Of Every Marvel Studios Announcement At D23

Culture

Anvil! The Story of Anvil Anvil! The Story of Anvil

Anvil! The Story of Anvil — The Inspiring Story of the Canadian 80s Metal Band

Film

Connect