The Demon, not to be confused with the Polish arthouse horror film Demon from the same year, is, according to what I could find out, a Cambodian film but shot in Mongolia and in the Mongolian language. I had seen a couple of excellent Cambodian action films, The Prey and Jailbreak but no horror films. And I hadn’t seen anything from Mongolia, which was a good enough reason to watch it. The fact that it was set on New Year’s Eve and I needed something to watch on a midnight to 8AM December 31st shift was just icing on the cake.
Just a note, the IMDB listing for The Demon didn’t give character names and I couldn’t find much else about the film. Since I can’t read Mongolian the credits weren’t much help either. So excuse the lack of character names and any I get wrong.
The Demon begins with Mayagmar emptying a bedpan off his front porch, which I should have realized was an omen. The pan belongs to his wife Sunjid who seems to be in some kind of coma. Taking care of her is taking a toll on him and one day he leaves and stays away long enough for her to die. Unsurprisingly, her spirit returns to haunt the place. On the advice of a priest he moves and leaves the house sitting vacant.
Some years later his nephew decides to throw a combined New Year’s Eve/birthday party there despite his objections. And just after the stroke of midnight the ghost makes its objections known. They’re about to be cliched to death.
Going into The Demon I had no idea what to expect, but I figured it would at least be a change from all the generic US and British haunted house films I’d seen lately. What I got was a generic haunted house film with subtitles.
Writer B. Tsogt-Erdene and his co-director O. Munguntulga had previously collaborated on The Vault, based on a best selling Mongolian novel. The Demon seems to have been pieced together from a multitude of haunted house films. We have the annoying young adults partying in the house with an evil past. A very familiar looking angry ghost. People being dragged into dark rooms. Cell reception suddenly becomes non-existent and the house locks itself up. Attempts at Evil Dead style camera movement. Possession. You get the idea.
Now if the filmmakers had even put a regional spin on these events it could still have worked. But apart from the holy man at the beginning not being a Christian one The Demon plays out like a Western film. Granted none of the partiers are smoking pot, but they are drinking plenty of American booze. And there is sex and even a bit of nudity.
Another problem is the subtitles. Saying they’re amateurish is an understatement. When somebody knocks on a door it’s subbed “Door knocking!”. And while you can get the idea of what the characters mean, gems like “So do we are all gonna be dead.” don’t make it easy.
The film also could have used a bit of dubbing. One of the women is named Minjee, but it’s pronounced “minge”. Granted it does pretty well describe her personality, but it’s a bit hard to establish a creepy atmosphere with guys running around shouting “MINGE!” or asking “Have you seen Minge?”. My inner 14 year old laughed its ass off however.
As inadvertent as it is that’s about all the entertainment The Demon has to offer. It just plods along listlessly. The one attempt at a gore effect, a decapitation, looks like they used a mannequin. It’s still better than CGI though.
Digital Media Rights have made The Demon available to stream on Tubi and other platforms. They didn’t think it was worth the time to make a trailer for it, you’ll be better off using the time to go get some Mongolian BBQ.