There are some films that are better after you reach a certain level of consciousness that is most easily attained with certain chemicals if you get my drift. While I did not partake in such shenanigans before watching House of Demons, I am sure that the film will be infinitely more enjoyable with a little buzz.
I mean the fact that the film's plot is heavily centered on mind-enhancing pharmaceuticals to reach higher levels of consciousness makes you wonder what the filmmakers were smoking when they were making this film. And yet, House of Demons is a film that strikes out on its own path to create a truly unique film that hits as many high notes as it misses.
The film follows a group of estranged friends who reunite to attend a wedding. It turns out that they share a life-defining moment from their past and now they will confront the demons from their past over the course of one evening in an isolated cabin in the woods.
Sure, with just that simple synopsis, it would be easy to dismiss House of Demons as just another cabin in the woods horror flick when it's anything but. No, rather, the film explores some weighty themes from the loss of identity in cult-like settings to the predetermination of our future. Oh, and yes, there is plenty of weird horror moments that will mess with your head.
I don't want to get into too many specifics because I don't want to ruin your trip but the film has a few different ambitious storylines that become muddled at one point, but that's sort of the point. It turns out that the cabin they are all staying at was the home to a Mansonesque cult that experimented with LSD to heighten their consciousness. These experiments result in some crossover from the past to the present and that's when the weird trip really kicks in.
While it is true that we all have "demons" from our past, sometimes it takes a real creepy demon to force you to confront the issues that are preventing you from reaching your true potential. The film plays with various themes by blurring reality in much the same way alcohol or drugs blur our perceptions. As the audience is taken on its journey, it is like we have been slipped a Mickey and trying to figure out which way is up, but in a good way.
There is also hints that alcohol may have played a role in the life-defining event in their past and the very real consequences of that night continue to echo in both their real and fantasy perceptions. In fact, there is so much going on that my main criticism of the film is that they don't spend enough time with each character developing the demon from their past. Of course, with a running time approaching 90 minutes as it is, I'm not sure that they would want to risk losing their audience by adding more running time.
At times, the acting is a bit film school experimental project, especially during the bar scene at the beginning, but the film hits its stride when they retire to the cabin for the night. As a tangent, I'm still not sure why they all decided to stay in a creepy cabin over say a nice Holiday Inn, but I digress.
The best characters in the film are the cult leader and his chosen "angel," played to perfection by Buffy's Amber Benson. It's been a hot minute since I had seen her in anything and I was curious about what she's been up to lately and apparently, she's taking bit parts in horror films these days. She has the most gravitas of any actor in the film and when she's onscreen, the film is just that much better for everything that she brings to the screen.
House of Demons is far from perfect and there are some things that don't work and other things that made my head hurt from trying to understand them (see the above comments about watching in an altered state of mind), but I applaud them for telling a unique story in a weird way. They went for it and while they didn't hit a home run each time, they made contact more than they whiffed.
If you like trippy films and horror films, then you will most likely enjoy the ride, however, if straight ahead narratives are more your jam, then you might want to pass on this one. I enjoyed the film and it will find a home with a certain audience and they will relish the film's quirkiness.
House of Demons is now available on DVD.