Starring: Robert Sheehan, Jennie Jacques, Jason Maza, Ashley Walters, Reggie Yates, Tulisa Contostavlos
“The truth is we’ve all thought about it at some point – death that is. Life can be painful, we’d like to know that we can end it all if we had to. The warning signs are there if you look hard enough. Those pretty girls who seem to have everything – smiles on the outside, but inside they’re broken.” (Bates, Demons Never Die)
Slasher films have been ten-a-penny since the early ’80s but Demons Never Die is to be commended for trying something different – it’s a slasher film where the victims actually want to die.
Set in London, Demons Never Die tells the story of a group of college students, depressed for various reasons, who have all agreed to carry out a suicide pact. They decide that they’ll all meet up somewhere in the near future and overdose on pills together. While they’re in the process of arguing the whens, wheres and hows of this grim little arrangement however, someone in a mask is offing them one-by-one anyway, annoying the other members of the group who think their chums are killing themselves on their own instead of sticking to the pact.
It’s an interesting idea (at least initially), but one that throws up its own problems. Many slashers suffer in their inability to make the audience feel empathy for its characters – in between all the killings and screaming it’s often hard to develop a character enough that the person watching grows to like them and doesn’t want them to die. Since the characters here all start off wanting to die anyway, it’s very hard to build up some sort of sympathy for them and think “oh, I hope they don’t get killed”, since you know they’re going to run off and have a hundred Nurofen later anyway.
It does create some unexpected sympathy for one of the characters in the group as her reason for wanting to commit suicide is revealed. She’s been doing modelling on the side and she’s been suffering from bulimia for a couple of years, and she’s unable to deal with it. The revelation of this truly tragic motive does shock you into actually caring for her, but it turns out to be a little too late by that point (without going into too much detail).
The film seemingly realises it’s hard to be concerned about the well-being of suicidal people as the final act begins and the majority of the group all suddenly decide “actually, let’s not go through with this”. I’m not going to go too much into whether that possibly trivialises the idea of suicide, as I’m currently not suicidal myself and can’t comment on whether it would possibly feel a little insulting to watch a film in which a group of characters with similar thoughts decide they can just turn those thoughts off and decide just to live instead. In the context of the film it helps because while it does then become a standard slasher from that point, it does at least introduce some tension as the characters now have something to lose.
The cast are all believable and carry off their roles perfectly well, in particular the male and female leads who fall in love and question whether life’s really worth losing when you find someone special. Don’t fall for the film poster and DVD/Blu-ray cover trumpeting N-Dubz and X-Factor star Tulisa Contostavlos as the main billed actress though, because while she does a good job she literally appears for the first two minutes of the film and is then gone, very much replicating the Drew Barrymore role in Scream (but even having much shorter screen time than her).
In fact, it’s clear that Scream is the template for a few of Demons Never Die’s set-pieces. One scene in particular, where the lead female is chased by the killer for a while and manages to escape before her boyfriend suspiciously turns up immediately after the killer disappears, is straight out of the first Scream.
I couldn’t decide what I thought I about Demons Never Die. A lot of the time I respected it for bringing the typical American slasher bollocks to a setting that would be far more realistic and identifiable to British teens, and the fact that all the characters were suicidal anyway – though handled sloppily – at least threw up some interesting questions. The night-vision stuff near the end is also effective. At the same time though I was frustrated by a few things, mainly the lack of tension in the scenes with the killer, the extremely underwhelming ending and the fact that the film is constantly broken up with Hollyoaks-style music montage sequences (leading to the suspicion that the film’s trying almost as much to sell you the achingly hip soundtrack, replete with tracks from Jessie J, Dionne Bromfield and Rizzle Kicks, as much as it’s trying to tell you a story). It’s certainly not a brilliant film then, but it’s at least worth a watch because it does try to take an overused genre and present it in an underused setting.
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