3 Demons is writer/director Matt Cunningham’s (Decampitated, The Mangler Reborn) latest release after delivering one of last year’s better surprises, The Spore. That was a low-budget science-fiction/horror hybrid with great effects but whose episodic storyline kept it from reaching its full potential. This is a pandemic shot supernatural tale that he’s referred to as a “ Lynchian possession movie.” and backed up with a trailer that oozes Evil Dead influences.
Dr. Sawyer (Sherryl Despres, Accidental Exorcist, Bigfoot, UFOs, and Jesus) is interviewing James Fisher (Peter Tell, The Spore) in his prison cell as part of a psychiatric evaluation. A former cop, he was assigned to babysit the corpse of Matya Abelman (Laura Golinski).
She was found in a circle of stones in front of a remote cabin. The family and their lawyer were quite adamant that there was to be no autopsy and that nothing should be allowed to happen to the body. It was to be “protected at all costs”, but they didn’t specify what it needed protecting from.
Almost immediately after his partner Winters (Haley Heslip, Case 137, Papers XIII: Blood Currency) gets called away strange things start happening. An out-of-place flower with special significance to him is one thing. The dead body appearing to breathe is a whole different matter, however. Worst of all a bird craps on his face.
The goal for 3 DEMONS is to create a horror film that is terrifying and aesthetically pleasing. A film that keeps you thinking once you leave the darkness of a theater. Did he or didn’t he? What does it mean?Matt Cunningham
Cunningham and co-writer Tell start 3 Demons off slowly, building a chain of small, possibly illusory events that result in Fisher finding some relics he shouldn’t have and doing something he really shouldn’t have with them. But rather than simply unleashing some generic demons, he unleashes something that seems to be keyed into his past and knows his secrets.
How much of this is real and how much is Fischer’s own mind working against him is the issue here. Because even Matya’s corpse gets up and walks around and a strange creature watches him from behind the trees he sees something else. The spirits of his wife Lucy (Zoe Cunningham, The Spore) and daughter Mary (Jovonnah Nicholson, The Spore). Is it guilt over their deaths pushing him over the edge? Or are there demons in the woods? And who is the voice on the radio claiming to be a friend?
Regardless of what the answer is, 3 Demons builds an eerie atmosphere even in the bright sunshine. Once night falls the tension rises significantly. Although at one point it seems not to actually be night, and surely after he and Winters were missing for a second day there would be other cops up there looking for them. Again what is real and what isn’t aren’t always obvious.
It helps that despite an overall lack of experience, the cast of 3 Demons are all very convincing, especially Fell who is in almost every scene and has to make us unsure if he’s being stalked by a demonic force or merely insane. And that is something that becomes harder as the final act goes on.
Heslip is good playing both the actual Officer Winters and various demonic versions of her. Despres has considerably less screen time, but the segments with her and the questions she asks serve as 3 Demons’ voice of reason, trying to offer rational ideas in the face of what we see.
3 Demons doesn’t have a lot of effects, and they’re concentrated in the last half of the film. The demons themselves look creepy and the film’s couple of gore scenes are practical and messy, which is always a good thing.
My one major complaint with 3 Demons comes at the end and I won’t spoil it. Especially as it works dramatically until you realize the situation would never be allowed to occur. But apart from that, the film does a good job of messing with your mind.
Uncork’d Entertainment will release 3 Demons to DVD, Digital, and VOD platforms on July 5th. You can keep an eye on their Facebook page for more information. FilmTagger has some suggestions for what to watch while you wait.