Studio: Deadhouse Films
Director: Ursula Dabrowsky
Writer: Ursula Dabrowsky
Producer: Sue Brown, Julie Byrne
Stars: Sarah Jeavons, Andreas Sobik, Kerry Ann Reid, Scarlett Hocking, Todd Telford
A young girl fights to save herself and her sister when they are kidnapped by a sadistic serial killing couple.
One of the challenging aspects of being objective and impartial as a film critic is separating external conditions under which a movie is seen that might unfairly influence perception. For instance, if one were to spend an entire weekend watching the complete “Friday the 13th” series before a Monday screening of another campground-set slasher starring a machete-wielding masked maniac, chances are that latter film would not stand a fair chance of starting on the reviewer’s right foot.
Through no fault of its own other than where it landed in a screening schedule accommodating two different film festivals, Ursula Dabrowsky’s “Inner Demon” marked the fourth film viewed in three days featuring a captive trapped in a house and imprisoned against his/her will. Although instead of being burned out on the theme and rolling my eyes at another 90 minutes of kidnappers and kidnappees, having three similar films fresh in my head made it easier to realize how uneventfully tame “Inner Demon” actually is as a thriller.
Within mere moments of the movie’s start, Samantha and her younger sister Maddy are forcibly abducted by a serial killing couple in southern Australia. Sam manages to invent an exit from the couple’s car and escapes to a remote house in the forest only to pull a Sally Hardesty by finding that said house belongs to her captors. Hiding in a closet while bleeding slowly from a stomach slash, Sam now fights to evade capture once again and rescue herself and her sister before the killers can fulfill their murderous plan.
“Inner Demon” doesn’t waste time with its setup. Practically skipping a first act altogether, action is immediate as the film flies out of the gate. The consequence of the get up and go opener is that none of the characters are afforded opportunities to breathe into full-fledged personalities. These are mere vessels facilitating action, describable simply with an adjective and a noun: murderous maniac, subservient sidekick, tormented teenager, and helpless sister.
For as fast a speed as is set at the start, the tempo slows down in a hurry. “Inner Demon” loses initial urgency with meandering minutes of Sam wandering the forest before the same stretched pace continues while exploring the house. As soon as Sam finds herself caught in the closet, she remains there playing a long waiting game for the rest of the runtime, closing off the film further by confining its cat and mouse core to a single room.
Already thin as a narrative, “Inner Demon” is also largely wordless. What dialogue exists is mostly meaningless background chatter. This would be fine if onscreen activity made up the difference to move plot points forward, but excessive time spent watching Sam rifle through closet contents while peeping at a kitchen table conversation doesn’t pump blood into the movie or into the viewer. The slow moving circuit to arrive at the climax suggests the simple concept may be better suited as a short. And a music score more melancholic than manic only serves to keep suspense subdued as the film fights to fill out its content.
Even when Sam is running for her life in the woods, she appears to be jogging almost casually. The primary killer then takes a break from his hunt to blaze up a cigarette, not with hare-like confidence that he will eventually capture his prey, but because he appears indifferent to accomplishing his goal. The casual tone of the film seemingly reflects this same attitude of ambivalence towards keeping tension tight.
Although a supernatural twist swirls in to begin the climax, the late-inning intrigue arrives after tropes of tripping heroines and 360-degree spinning Steadicam shots already set a stage for conventional cinematics. “Inner Demon” starts strong and finishes stronger with a mildly unique hook for a closer. It just needs an adrenaline shot to its average midsection to pick up the pulse and give audiences a standout reason to sit up and take notice.
Review Score: 60