Moving Pictures
Feb 01, 2023, 05:55AM

Sorry About the Demon Is a Charmingly Clumsy Horror Comedy

This is a film that lacks direction and conviction—though not in a bad way.

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When horror is funny, it crosses genres with action comedy, creating slapstick gross-out classics like Evil Dead or Big Trouble in Little China. Emily Hagins’ Sorry About the Demon, in contrast, has its horror film feast on the heart of a romcom, or maybe vice versa. Either way, the hybrid is as lurching and awkward as you’d expect. This is a film that lacks direction and conviction—though not in a bad way. It slouches towards hell with such demonic inadequacy that it’s hard to not be charmed.

Appropriately, the main character Will (Jon Michael Simpson) is an underachieving loser who works as a remote customer service agent for a toothpaste company. In his spare time he half-heartedly pursues hobbies like woodworking, candlemaking, and baking. His inability to do, well, anything drives off his longtime girlfriend Amy (Paige Evans).

And so Will has to find a new house. He rents a vastly under-priced mansion—which turns out to be haunted by ghosts and a demon named (unimaginatively) Deomonous. You’re probably thinking that Will has to defeat the demons as a metaphor for winning back his love. And you wouldn’t be wrong. But the genres are mixed together as haphazardly as Will’s candle formulas. The texture is lumpy. The color is off. The smell is—weird.

For instance, the movie opens with a kind of Exorcist riff, as the demon possesses Grace (Presley Allard), the daughter of the family that lived in the house before Will. But Grace’s family is less upset about losing their daughter than the fact that the demon’s messing with their dream home. Which leaves the demon non-plussed; it agrees to abandon Grace for a different victim almost out of pique.

The movie subsequently goes through the usual haunted house narrative beats of escalating tension, as Will watches cabinets open, furniture moves around, and ghosts suddenly appear at his elbow. But you’ve already seen the demon, and it’s just not that scary. How frightening is a demon who can’t decide who it wants to possess?

It does know it doesn’t want to possess Will. It never exactly says why, but the implication is that Will’s just too much of a sad sack to bother dragging into the pit. Instead of terrorizer and terrorizee, the vacillating guy and the vacillating demon (with its ghostly minions) turn into roommates. They fight over what to watch on TV. They yell at each other to leave. They bake evil black monster cakes (okay, it’s mostly the demon who does the last one).

The romcom plot is just as meandering and unmotivated as the horror. Amy drops out of the narrative for long stretches. In her place, we inexplicably spend time with Will’s nebbish lawyer friend Patrick (Jeff McQuitty) and Patrick’s co-worker who's also named Aimee (Olivia Ducayen.) The second Aimee has some experience banishing spirits, and she and Patrick come over to help Will, though they’re not very effective. Will decides he should just spend his life guarding the demon since it won’t possess him. Then the first Amy finally shows up again. And then we mosey slowly towards the denouement which occurs at precisely 3:15 a.m., because nobody told the demon that midnight, not 3:15, is supposed to be the witching hour.Like the weirdly-timed opening of the hell gate, a lot of the final fight with the demon doesn’t make much sense. As with the horror, so with the romcom; we don’t see enough of Amy and Will’s relationship to know why they want to be together or whether they should. None of the genres work like they’re supposed to.

But it doesn’t matter. The fun of the film isn’t in the skillful fulfillment of expectations, but in the ham-handed klunk as frights and jokes and romance all stumble into each other and bunch up in the haunted basement with a giant case of foul-tasting but unexpectedly essential toothpaste. This isn’t a film that seizes hold of your heart and soul. But, as you survey its odd clutter, you might enjoy living with it for a while.


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