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Demon

Year: 2015
Production Co: Telewizja Polska
Director: Marcin Wrona
Writer: Pawel Maslona/Marcin Wrona
Cast: Itay Tiran, Agnieszka Zulewska

First of all this review must refer you to the Family Guy gag where Peter and Brian go the movies and every time Peter thinks the movie's starting it turns out to be another production company ident. You've never seen so many producers and backers credited at the beginning of a film – there were at least eight, and it actually gets quite funny.

Nevertheless, this Polish festival hit is a strange hybrid of horror and barely discernible black comedy as a young couple are visited by an unwanted presence on their wedding night. No, it's not about a ghost who appears beside them as they get busy in the marital bed, it's during the actual wedding.

In the days leading up to the ceremony, Piotr (Itay Tiran) and Zaneta (Agnieszka Zulewska) are trying to clean up the country house in the woods where they intend to hold the reception. While driving the digger around the yard to move some rubbish one evening, Piotr knocks down an old tree, and when he gets out to investigate the hole underneath the root system, he's horrified to see bones that appear human.

He keeps it to himself, covering it over and trying to forget all about it, but like the best 80s straight to video monster/slasher flicks, Piotr's unearthed something inhuman. In this case it's not a creature who gouges out throats, it's a dybbuk, the Jewish legend of a spirit who's died but wants to stay around and cause havoc.

The lead-up to the reception is as stressful and joyous as expected, but it's when the guests descend on the rustic house the night of the reception in the pouring rain that Piotr starts to exhibit strange symptoms. At first it's simply a few antisocial tics and unexplained headaches, but the spirit soon has full control of the sweating, frantic groom and the inner circle of his new family take him to a downstairs room and try to figure out what's going on.

The black comedy comes principally from the father of the bride who leads the charge to hide the entire fiasco from the assembled guests. While the man of honour is downstairs being possessed by an evil spirit, tearing at his clothes and crying, Zaneta's father seems intent on making sure everyone stays to enjoy the festivities, telling them repeatedly Piotr's only indisposed for awhile with a stomach flu or sore head.

The progression of the spirit sinking its claws deeper into Piotr's soul and the rapidly disintegrating party atmosphere upstairs are an interesting duality that makes you curious how it will all be resolved. Unfortunately and very disappointingly, director and co-writer Marcin Wrona doesn't resolve anything at all.

When Piotr disappears from the basement of the reception house, it seems to be the inciting incident that will prompt an even more fraught climax as his wife, brother in law and the few other guests in on the secret search for him in the nearby woods and try to bring the situation to a head.

To say what does (or doesn't) happen instead would be to blow the ending, but it's a particular letdown because until then, Demon has used the story and tone to set the scene so well you really invest in the people and what they're trying to deal with. For a foreign arthouse horror film most of Demon is surprisingly accessible, but the end feels like it would if a Marvel movie would if they ran out of film and ended the movie right before the climax.

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