Cinemetal Review: Inner Demons is 95% Good, 5% Great
Without giving too much away, let me say this: the last five minutes of Inner Demons, the not-specifically-related-to-metal-but-definitely-metal-friendly (peep that poster!) horror movie which IFC releases today in select theaters and on VOD, are friggin’ AWESOME. It’s the kind of conclusion which kicks you in the ‘nards and makes you seriously reconsider the entire movie you just saw, the kind of conclusion every horror filmmaker in the world strives to create.
I’m just not sure it’s quite enough to justify the first eighty minutes of the movie.
Don’t get me wrong: Inner Demons is not bad. It won’t bore you or make you feel like you wasted your money seeing it — but it probably won’t make you run out and recommend it to your friends, either. It is, in a simple phrase, good but not great.
But those last five minutes… wow. Just… wow.
The premise of the film is a clever-enough twist on a familiar trope: an Intervention-style reality program is documenting a family’s attempt to get their once-devoutly-Christian, straight-A-earning sixteen-year-old daughter, Carson (Lara Vosburgh), off of heroin and into rehab*. Carson being a junkie, she is, needless to say, reluctant to make any attempt to kick her habit, and this being a horror movie, it turns out that, needless to say, she’s using for reasons other than that she likes to get high — specifically, shooting up is the only way to keep the demon that has possessed her at bay. (In other words, the metaphorical “inner demons” of an addict are quite literal here. Sure, the metaphor is a tad on-the-nose, but it actually works pretty well.) Of course, only the reality show crew’s greenest member, Jason (Morgan McClellan), believes Carson at first, but as the story progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that her claims are not false. And then, of course, the story turns into a battle to save Carson’s very soul.
The film has the same issues as almost every low-budget horror flick ever made (the acting and effects are hit-or-miss, the budgetary constraints are sometimes not well-masked, etc.), but that’s not what trips up Inner Demons; what trips up Inner Demons is that a lot of it feels less-than-inventive. There’s a scene where the demon inside Carson suddenly becomes angry and throws someone across the room without so much as touching him, and a scene where Carson’s reflection is magically out of sync with Carson herself, and a foreigner who just-so-happens to know a whole lot about what is happening to Carson and how to stop it and… well, you get it. In the hands of director Seth Grossman (The Butterfly Effect 3) and writer Glen Gers (Fractured), it’s all competently executed — but that doesn’t change the fact that you’ve seen it all before. It’s hard to imagine, for example, anyone not being able to predict that Carson’s reflection is gonna do something funky the moment she steps in front of that mirror. Even the film’s attempts at satire/media critique are kinda tired (e.g., Jason’s co-workers on the reality show crew are totally insensitive assholes who care more about the success of their program than they care about Carson’s well-being).
But, oh hey, did I mention that ending? Yeah, it’s spectacular, but it also confused me — and not because I was unclear what had happened. It’s basically impossible to discuss without venturing into spoiler territory, but suffice it to say, a big part of the reason it works so well is precisely because it takes a really cliché moment we’ve seen in a billion other movies (right down to the very mawkish dialogue) and turns it on its ear in a big, big way. Which made me wonder: was all the boilerplate stuff that came before it deliberate? Was the film intended as one big, Andy Kaufman-style joke on the audience? Have Grossman and Gers been in on the gag the whole time?
The fact that the filmmakers’ intentions are a little unclear is problematic in and of itself… but even if they are in on the gag, I’m not entirely sure it justifies 95% of the film’s running time being eaten up by a scenes that feel so commonplace in these kinds of movies.
On the other hand, I rewound my digital screener of the film and rewatched the ending three times. So Inner Demons obviously did something right. It may not be the greatest horror movie ever made, but I’m more than a little curious to see what Grossman and Gers do next.
*Yes, this is a found footage movie. I can already hear some of you groaning. The thing is, there’s really nothing wrong with found footage movies in and of themselves, and to say otherwise is to mistake form for function. Even though there are definitely moments in Inner Demons where you’ll think “Why the hell doesn’t that dude just drop the camera and run?!?”, none of the film’s problems stem from its format.