Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Kate at October Coast PR, along with Dark Cuts Distribution for allowing me early access to an online screener of a new Horror/Thriller called “E-Demon”, Written and Directed by Jeremy Wechter. E-Demon is set within the wonderful world of the interweb, where a group of old friends are enjoying a video chat when things suddenly take a turn for the worse after one of them foolishly releases a demon that’s looking to spread virally. The film stars Julia Kelly, John Anthony Wylliams, Christopher Daftsios, Ryan Redebaugh, Jessica Renee Russell and Vincent Cooper.
It would be safe to say I approached E-Demon with a fair amount of trepidation. For no reason other than the fact that it’s a small independent release presented to us through the familiar medium of the lens of a web camera (or series of web cameras to be more precise). We’ve come to equate a lot of these types of films with amateur technical execution and sub-par acting so you can imagine my surprise as E-Demon rolled on and neither of those expected shortcomings eventuated. This is Wechter’s debut feature-length film after making a dozen or so shorts since 2005. The film’s foundations are deep-seated inside the parameters of the possession component of the genre. Everything is divulged through either the video chat or the eye of each persons headset and web camera. It’s a risky method for storytelling and can easily translate as gimmicky depending on its use. In this case, the live feed works and those end credits in the form of dos information was unique. E-Demon has good quality audio all around, excluding perhaps one half of a phone call that occurs toward the climax. In the beginning, there are several news reports that make reference to “The Quad Murders”, which gives you a little insight as to what’s in store. Following the initial disclaimer delivered by a mysterious hooded figure, we’re introduced (in a roundabout way) to the group of four friends. Kendra (Kelly) is an aspiring author who shares an apartment with her two friends, Taylor, and Fawn (played by Max Rhyser and Lindsay Goranson respectively), AJ (Daftsios), is a confident and charming practical joker with a new girl always on the go. Dwayne (Wylliams) is happily married with two girls, and then there’s the struggling Mar (Redebaugh), who’s just moved back in with his siblings and gamma (grandma).
Once you start to get a look at the different personality types, you can see the potential for drama to unfold amongst them when the situation inevitably escalates. Making matters worse is the parties penchant for elaborate pranks and one-upmanship. Coming in the form of an impromptu game of “Freak Out”, where the goal is self-explanatory- scare the other into thinking the action you act out is real. What I like about this addition is it creates a sense of uneasiness from the get-go, and ultimately you can see things going the way of the boy who cried wolf. There’s some effectively creepy imagery over the course of the film, most notably with AJ’s character, and Wechter does divulge the demons origin story (although stock standard in nature) to save questions being raised in the wake of all that happens. The most clever phase of the writing is incredibly subtle, so much so that I’m not even sure it was intentional. As we come to learn that the demon has the ability to change hosts without warning (well sort of), it appears to ingeniously pit friends against each other through false concern and accusation. At several points throughout the film, Kendra, AJ, and Dwayne all use messenger to type to each other. I noticed that when AJ chats to Kendra about Dwayne and vice versa, his arms and hands don’t appear to be moving… (now that’s creepy). It could just be that the image isn’t entirely clear (due to the format) but I’m going to give Jeremy the benefit of the doubt because I thoroughly enjoy finer details like that. The performances are pretty solid from all involved, particularly the three leads who have varying degrees of experience.
The frames with distorted representation aren’t something I’m really a fan of. I suppose it does create a sense of dread in a couple of the scenes, but fortunately, it’s kept to a minimum. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t catch Wallace’s dialogue in the initial conversation with Bastian (Cooper), that particular audio was quite muffled. There are a couple of minor continuity issues throughout E-Demon. In one scene, a member of the group gets involved in some commotion that involves someone being fatally wounded. A stabbing is implied but when the body is removed there’s no blood on the rug (I guess it must have been an expensive one). On another occasion, Dwayne flees the kitchen and races to the basement in order to avoid possession. We see the shaky cam from his headset point of view but when he sits down in the second location he’s looking through a webcam again. I guess we’re led to believe he has a second computer in the basement? Feasible enough I guess, but one that just so happens to have a camera as well? There are a couple of other specifics that don’t make a whole lot of sense. For one, no one seems to question why Mar’s camera is upside down for an extended period of time (even if his sister did take it), and when paramedics arrive at Kendra’s place they go on the assertive immediately, even though there’s nothing to suggest that “camera control process” (for lack of a better term) has taken place. The last five or so minutes lost me somewhat too, the people running off in different directions came across as unintentionally funny (think The Sims). Was the resistance network member AJ? That was my take on it anyway.
Much to my surprise, Jeremy Wechter’s Horror/Thriller E-Demon is a really solid first outing from some pretty inventive folks. It feels like a combination of “Unfriended” in terms of its style, yet thematically much more akin to something like Mike Boss’s relatively undiscovered “Anonymous 616”. https://adamthemoviegod.com/anonymous-616-review-it-knows-everything-about-you/ It’s a prime example of smart independent filmmaking on a budget. We’ve seen this type of presentation before but the real-time approach is well done and the audio sounds good. The characters have their individual trademarks, they interact the same as well-established friends do, and each of the performances further highlights that. The game they play serves as the catalyst for the ever-growing tension between them, that and a couple of Wechter’s creative choices are innovative and add another previously unseen layer. There are a couple of marginal technical hiccups and some continuity errors, but that’s par for the course. A few of the details don’t quite add up and I don’t think the climax is as strong as the rest of the film. The pacing is quite good but a couple of scenes could’ve been trimmed slightly. All in all, E-Demon is one of the surprises at the lower end scale of Horror for 2018. If you like these types of films conceived with a survelliance style of footage, I can definitely recommend this one. Check out the official trailer below and the film will be available in US theatres and on VOD from September 14th!
My rating for “E-Demon” is 6/10