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“INNER DEMONS” (Film Review)

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It’s no surprise that indie horror has embraced found footage, considering the leeway given by the shooting style and low budgets. For every independent release, there also seems to be a new justification for the found footage element, often times presented as a gimmick to differentiate from the fan-repellent studio fare. Sometimes, that gimmick is precisely the reason why the film is so effective; not just in ingenuity but in execution as well. Such is the case for Seth Grossman’s INNER DEMONS, a found footage possession film that is a little familiar and a little goofy, but also genuinely engaging.

Grossman, who comes from a background of both horror and reality television, combines both aesthetics for INNER DEMONS, offering a tale of demonic possession that coincides with documenting a young girl’s battle with addiction. Of course, this allows the director to recapture the moments so familiar to the possession genre in a new light, an all too common sight in found footage. But by creating empathetic and charismatic characters, Grossman offers a realistic emotional gravity to the film that elevates the generic scare sequences into something creepier.

While the serious concept is rich for the genre mining, that doesn’t mean INNER DEMONS is without silliness. More than a few plot points introduced in the second and third acts are nonsensical or downright laughable, especially when it comes to the reality show element. In fact, a casual presentation of a completely absurd newspaper headline in the film’s opening may just take the cake for the hardest unintentional laugh of the year. But for every moment of odd humor, there’s one of sincere character-building; the script from Glenn Gers satisfyingly and refreshingly makes sure to add dramatic tension to the family dynamic.

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Perhaps the reason INNER DEMONS finds a way to work is Grossman’s visual style, bringing a realistic and consistent look to the film via his experience from reality television. Alongside cinematographer Chapin Hall, Grossman wisely presents the found footage in a believable way while weaving the horror little by little throughout the visual space. And though the scare scenes aren’t necessarily the most original in nature, Grossman brings out such great performances through Hall’s realistic lens that they work nonetheless.

Speaking of performances, INNER DEMONS wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining had the cast not stepped up to the plate. Lead Lara Vosburgh wavers between unsettling and charming with confident ease; in fact, this writer would not be surprised to see the young actress work consistently in horror given her displayed duality. Colleen McGrann and Christopher Parker are also phenomenal in the parental roles, bringing a pitch-perfect reality to their deliveries which firmly helps ground the film as a whole. The only real wild cards are Morgan McClellan, Kate Whitney and Brian Flaherty as the reality TV crew; while their performances are strong, the material they work with often serves them with the more predictable and over-the-top personalities.

Overall, INNER DEMONS is a fun yet admittedly flawed found footage creeper, making the most of its premise while also leaving several missteps in their wake. The film can be quite engaging and scary at times, save for some of the more derivative and goofy moments throughout. Between Grossman’s unique approach to the material and the solid performances on display, INNER DEMONS is unexpectedly memorable, however especially considering the downtrodden and surprising note on which it ends. While it may not be a cult classic in the making, INNER DEMONS is fun, freaky and even provocative in equal measure, which is more than I can say about many of its contemporaries.

INNER DEMONS is now in select theaters and on VOD from IFC Midnight.

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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