Studio: 101 Films
Director: Rand Vossler, Bob Gill
Writer: Rand Vossler, Tracy Morse
Producer: Bob Gill, Tracy Morse, Albee Patnesky
Stars: Annamaria Demara, Kati Sharp, Grant Alan, Eileen Dietz, John Savage, Jamie Strange, Michelle Nunes, Kate Siegel, Cortney Palm, Nancy McCrumb, Angelina Lyubomirova, Matthew Currie Holmes
A secluded cabin getaway is disrupted when a Ouija board invites evil demons to possess the bodies of five sorority sisters.
“Demon Legacy” opens with a title credit identifying the story as “Based on an Original Screenplay by Tracy Morse.” Once “Demon Legacy” sinks scalp deep into its tale of five sorority sisters trapped at a secluded woodland cabin after inadvertently unleashing malevolent demons, the realization dawns that Tracy Morse’s name could just as easily be replaced by Sam Raimi’s, Joss Whedon’s, or anyone else who has previously made a movie mixture from the same ingredients.
After kicking her live-in boyfriend Randy to the curb, Michelle decides that a better prescription for the post-breakup blues than her anti-depressants is a getaway at her family’s remote mountain cabin. Michelle’s four gal pals from Delta do what besties do best, and that is to bring the booze, fire up the hot tub, and take Michelle’s mind off her troubles with a weekend of girls-only good times.
And then troublemaker Sharon has the bright idea to dig up a Ouija board from the burned-out basement and all hell breaks loose. A secret family history of occult practices courtesy of Michelle’s clairvoyant grandmother positions the cabin on top of a portal between two worlds. When the girls open that doorway, they open up themselves to evil entities hungry to possess their human host bodies.
Given the derivative nature of its premise, “Demon Legacy” has no right to be any good at all, and some moviegoers are likely to conclude exactly that. However, casting director Jeff Hardwick earns praise for assembling a lively quintet of young actresses who keep the first third of the movie surprisingly energetic for segments that are mostly conventional exposition and routine college girl behavior.
All five ladies strike a balanced blend between attractive actresses and realistic young women. The dialogue establishing their personalities is typically empty sorority girl chatter with a streak of cattiness, but it reads as genuine interaction between five girls who have known each other for years and were friends before the camera turned on.
Kati Sharp in particular runs away with her role as just one of the five who could have easily been a flat stereotype, but real commitment to the material keeps the performances as good as the script permits them to be. “Demon Legacy” is not ashamed to amplify its marketability by costuming everyone in short shorts and nightgowns, or not dressing them at all, but the sex appeal rarely becomes a lecherously exploitive distraction.
Yet once “Demon Legacy” concludes the introductions and gets on with the hellraising horror, it turns into a film with a fractured focus while descending into second and third acts that fall back on hollow kills, mindless mayhem, and odd plot developments that thematically alter the entire atmosphere. The movie’s best assets are its five leading ladies and four of them either disappear or morph into spider-walking creatures good only for growling and biting before the plot hits the halfway hump. New characters appear from thin air, including a couple whose sole purpose is to fill two more body bags, and a derelict army ranger who confusingly becomes the demon-killing hero instead of Michelle. Something is amiss in the way the film’s resolution appears pulled together out of perceptible desperation.
Feeling like “Demon Legacy” finishes as a different movie than the one it starts as, I thought back to the “Based on an Original Screenplay by” title card and the fact that two different names are credited as directors. Was this a true collaborative effort or did behind-the-scenes drama necessitate a forcible torch passing?
Other clues did not add up either. Michelle’s boyfriend appears with a full head of hair in his introductory scene, yet reappears in the film’s back half with a full-on buzz cut. The copyright also indicates that the film was made under the title “See How They Run.” There had to be a story behind why “Demon Legacy” was so disjointed in its story and in its tone.
Spending some time on the film’s Facebook and Kickstarter pages filled in a few blanks. From what I could piece together, cameras started rolling on production all the way back in 2008. A colossal snowstorm halted filming six days into a 15-day shoot and it would be nearly a year before the project was put back on track. That track was derailed again when a forest fire made mincemeat of another call sheet, setting the stage for a round of second unit coverage that took place in 2010. By this time, the final third of the script had no choice but to undergo a rewrite accommodating actor (un)availability. Post-production started in 2011. The Facebook page went up in 2012. A Kickstarter campaign to complete finishing touches went live in early 2014 and then finally, five and a half years after the first frame was filmed, “Demon Legacy” at last made it to a DVD release.
Even by following a familiar path, “Demon Legacy” had enough of a head start with its likable cast to remain engaging as a throwback thriller. Perhaps with some cleaner digital effects, like a ghost that didn’t look like the hologram message Princess Leia sent to General Kenobi, it may have won an upturned thumb on fun factor alone. Given how nature conspired to keep the movie from seeing the light of day however, this was a project whose worthiness was sadly destined not to be.
Under the circumstances, benefit of the doubt suggests “Demon Legacy” did everything conceivable to make lemonade out of blizzards, brushfires, and expired contracts. Yet while that satisfies as an explanation for the film’s schizophrenic delivery, it doesn’t salvage the mediocre entertainment value.
Review Score: 50