Monday, April 9, 2018

Horror Film Review

Demon House (2018):  Documentary horror from Ghost Adventures creator Zak Bagans that details his  unnerving experience with a house in Gary, Indiana.  Allegedly a portal to hell, the house was the site of a widely-reported demon possession and exorcism.  So of course Zak buys the place sight unseen.  Through extensive interviews with everyone from squatters to the local police, we hear harrowing, if not outlandish, tales of paranormal activity.  Thing is, as disturbing and downright scary as these stories are, what cranks them up to 11 is the fact that you know they're all true.  This isn't a mockumentary or fictional found-footage flick, folks.  It's the real deal, and that's why I found Demon House so unsettling and, frankly, terrifying.

The film begins with a warning.  We're told to watch it at our own risk because it's cursed.  Zak explains the troubled production took four years to complete due to complications and setbacks that were, to coin a phrase, legion.  The warning is a clever marketing ploy but I feel the "cursed" label was well earned given the crazy shit that went down.  The family at the center of possession/exorcism media frenzy agreed to be interviewed by Zak but then changed their mind.  It seems Hollywood wanted to make a movie based on their experience and so deals were made, money changed hands, etc.  Then Zak was threatened by lawyers representing the movie people.  If you've ever watched Ghost Adventures, you know Zak doesn't threaten easy and this time was no different.  He moved forward and lucked out when another family who used to live in the house showed up unannounced.  They walked through the house while Zak interviewed them.  Later, Zak received a call from the mother saying one of her daughters began acting strange after they left and subsequently attempted suicide.  They contacted the local priest who had conducted the original exorcism.  Whatever darkness attached itself to the daughter bailed in a hurry when the padre started in with the ritual.  The girl remembered nothing.

Zak's crew installed cameras throughout the house and most everyone carried a hand-held whenever venturing inside, thus we're witness to the odd behavior displayed by members of the crew as well as invited experts.  Zak expresses sudden and violent mood swings while others fall ill and still others become disproportionately fixated on the basement where someone died years earlier and evidence of rituals and digging was discovered.  A scientist specializing in geo-electromagnetic fields is called in to discern if there could be a non-paranormal explanation for what the residents experienced or thought they experienced.  He found the readings to be normal for the most part but his instruments went ballistic around Zak at the times when Zak felt not himself.  Eventually, the scientist begins to fall ill and leaves.  We later learn he was hospitalized when all his organs began shutting down.  The doctors had no explanation as the man, prior to entering the house anyway, was perfectly healthy.  The number of mishaps and misfortunes that plagued those who stepped foot in that house are alarming and not possibly coincidental. 

Finally, Zak decides to spend a night in the house alone.  In the dark.  With all the windows and doors boarded up from the outside.  Stupid?  Brave?  I know I sure as hell wouldn't have done it.  And if Zak could have known the outcome, I don't think he would have either.  Not much happens in the first few hours of his solitary investigation.  Then something does happen that will test your bladder control.  Sitting on a bed with a hand-held camera in the dark, Zak hears noises and his camera captures a giant shadow pass in front of the doorway.  He recoils in terror, drops the camera, and screams at it to leave him alone.  We next see Zak in the kitchen complaining of a terrible headache.  He's later examined by top specialists who discover he's inexplicably developed a rare condition affecting his vision and must now wear special glasses in order to see.  They can't explain how it happened.  In the end, Zak decides the house poses a threat to anyone who enters and has it razed.

Demon House wormed its way under my skin and gave me a case of the willies.  In the nearly 300 horror films I've reviewed, only a handful have managed to do that.  Fewer still managed to genuinely freak me out.  This documentary did both.  Kudos to Zak Bagans for his directing skills but also for his tenacity in bringing this story to our attention.  I look forward to his next project. 

Rating:  5 out of 5

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