Gabriel Carrer’s (For the Sake of Vicious, House of Flies) film The Demolisher is an odd film, never quite sure of what it wants to be. A modern-day Death Wish? An urban Friday the 13th? Or maybe an updated Maniac Cop. Or possibly a dark tale of a disintegrating mind. It tries being all of them at various points. The result is very chaotic. What could have been a counterpoint to traditional vigilante films like Death Wish and The Exterminator ends up a jumbled collection of action scenes.
The Demolisher begins with Samnatha (Tianna Nori, Slaxx, Save Yourself), a policewoman laying on the ground, obviously having suffered a brutal beating. She lives but is left wheelchair-bound. Her husband Bruce (Ry Barrett, The Final Ride, Defective), becomes obsessed with avenging her. He takes to the streets in full riot gear, using a nightstick to dispense rough justice to members of the gang responsible for her condition.
However, it soon becomes clear that he’s having issues of his own. After he mishears an obnoxious customer he beats the man severely, it’s hinted possibly fatally. He’s seen without a mask by Marie (Jessica Vano, Death on Scenic Drive) He develops a twisted obsession with the young woman who has issues of her own. At this point the film jumps the tracks and becomes a slasher film as he stalks her, laying waste to everyone in his way. This flips yet again, though more ambiguously, as her rescuer and his friends have ill intent of their own for her. This leads to some seriously over the top violence and an ending that makes little sense.
The Demolisher’s problems begin early in the film though, in a flashback we see Samantha interrupting masked cultists performing a human sacrifice which leads to her beating. This is never mentioned again, and the gang appears to be a generic street gang with no ties to the occult. The whole scene looks like it came from a different movie.
The film also kills any sympathy we have for either Bruce or Samantha after the incident with the customer. He tells her what happens and rather than tell him to turn himself in or at least get help, she wants to know if anyone saw him. I can understand her not wanting him to end up in jail, but to be totally unconcerned that he’s attacking innocent people?
That leads into The Demolisher’s big switch in tone. I could see showing Bruce having a breakdown by having him going after the last of the gang and not caring about collateral damage. That would at least make sense. Instead, for the most tenuous of reasons he goes after Marie and anyone who tries to help her. It all leads to a rather weak ending.
The fact there are six credited writers including Carrer and Barrett may help account for the lack of focus. The Demolisher feels like it can’t pick a storyline and stick to it. The film only runs 85 minutes long but changes direction enough for a three-hour epic
However, The Demolisher does have a lot going for it too. The action scenes are well-staged, and there are plenty of them. It does deliver on the pure action level. And it looks to have used real fake blood, not CGI splatter. And there is a fair amount of splatter, although some, like a nightstick driven through a man’s chest, is a bit ridiculous.
It’s also well acted, several of the scenes between Bruce and Samantha have a solid emotional impact. Ry Barrett plays the lead with a minimum of dialogue, relying on expressions and actions a lot of the time. He does a good job even if some of the breakdown scenes are somewhat over written. Jessica Vano is also excellent as the target of his obsession. Her scenes in her support group are excellent, and she looks believable in the chase scenes.
The photography is also beautiful. The Demolisher was shot in Toronto and for once doesn’t try to pretend its actually somewhere in the US. Toronto is a beautiful city and the photography makes the most of it. And the city is often used as a beautiful background to the film’s ugly events, making a nice counterpoint. The soundtrack also matches up well with the images. In a technical regard, the film is a great success.
While not a bad film, The Demolisher ultimately is a case of what could have been. And what was to come with For the Sake of Vicious. You can check it out on DVD and streaming. The film’s Facebook page is still up as well.