As social media becomes more prevalent and accessible in people’s everyday lives, a new subgenre has emerged. Dubbed ‘screen recording’ movies, these are an offshoot of found footage films but aren’t entirely the same thing. In The Blair Witch Project, the audience is viewing assembled footage that has been located near the disappearance site of the main characters. In Unfriended, the viewer is watching a live video chat with a group of high schoolers, when one by one they get killed off.
It might be a minor difference, but it does change the way the audience interprets each scene as the films plays out. In 2018 already, theaters have seen Unfriended: Dark Web and the highly acclaimed Searching (which I have yet to see) released to surprising success. Now comes Jeremy Wechter’s e-Demon, which despite a few stumbles here and there, is the most engaging, intense, and interesting screen recording movie to come along to date.
Kendra (Julia Kelly), Dwayne (John Anthony Wylliams), A.J. (Christopher Daftsios), & Mar (Ryan Redebaugh) met at Ohio State University. The four of them quickly became inseparable friends, but after graduation, they drifted apart. On a designated night, each of them logs into a video chat to finally catch up.
As oppose to rekindling the once wonderful relationships, successful, well-off A.J. instantly starts berating one of his old friends. Mar was a psychologist, whose practice petered out, and now he lives with his parents. Mar claims he moved back home to take care of his grandma (Waltrudis Buck) and brings his webcam to her room.
“…anyone who comes into contact with her starts acting in similarly strange fashions.”
He gets her going on some old story about a cursed chest that entombs a demon. To prove she is beyond all reasonable help, Mar heads to the attic and opens the box. He takes out the contents, which include a mirror with a sigil drawn on it. He then falls down dead.
After Kendra and Dwayne freakout, A.J. and Mar begin to laugh uproariously. When attending OSU, they would continuously pull pranks on each other, and Mar thought it would be hilarious to do something outrageous tonight. However, in the process of fake dying, the mirror is broken. Hearing the commotion, Mar’s younger sister Suzie (Jessica Renee Russell) comes to check if everything is okay and cuts her foot on a shard of the mirror.
She then begins to act out of character and turning deadly violent. Soon enough, anyone who comes into contact with her starts acting in similarly strange fashions. Only Taylor (Max Rhyser), Kendra’s roommate, was watching when Kendra kills Mar. When the other friends return, they see Taylor begin to turn violent, and he attacks Kendra. Now, no one is sure whom to trust, as there is no explanation for these random attacks. As tensions escalate and the body count rises, it is clear a malevolent entity is intent on killing everyone in its path.
Jeremy Wechter makes his feature-length debut with e-Demon, and he hits the ground running. While it may seem overwhelming, having to follow four separate screens of action and conversations at one time, things blend together beautifully. The biggest screen on the computer everything is being viewed on is for the main action, such as a grisly death or daring escape. The thumbnails of the others on the call are used for strategic reaction shots and also is where most of the horror lies. Everyone being uncertain who is, or isn’t, infected builds up to a crescendo as characters are killed and new characters are brought into the madness (i.e., cops responding to a 9-1-1 call are taken control of).
“…nor hinder the pulse-pounding atmosphere that is generated.”
The characters, all perfectly acted by an incredible cast whose chemistry does make them seem like old friends, are three-dimensional, and you come to care about each of them, foibles and all. Each person behaves realistically and comes to the most sensible conclusion and call to action based on the knowledge they have at their disposable.
As e-Demon continues, it boils down to Kendra, Dwayne, and an occult specialist, Wallace Crenshaw (Cedric Cannon). However, the more people that are infected, the less time they have to discover a way to stop this fatal epidemic.
While there’s a whole lot of good qualities listed there, the movie is not without its faults. The middle portion, after the first handful of possessions but before things escalate into pandemonium, could be trimmed down a bit. The waiting game of who is or is not under Viralesmalum’s control is ripe with eerie potential, but there is only so much confused shouting from the horrified friends that one person can take. I can see this particular issue boring certain audience members, who would then tune out.
Additionally, the introduction to the occult specialist is too convenient and contrived, especially for a movie that has unfurled mainly in a natural, logical progression of events. Neither of these issues brings the film to a dead stop nor hinder the pulse-pounding atmosphere that is generated.
e-Demon is original, told in a striking, engaging manner, with stellar acting, and a good number of scares. While the few flaws might frustrate a select few, they do not lessen the impact of the film’s rather remarkable ending.
e-Demon (2018) Directed by Jeremy Wechter. Written by Jeremy Wechter. Starring Julia Kelly, John Anthony Wylliams, Christopher Daftsios, Ryan Redebaugh, Jessica Renee Russell, Cedric Cannon.
9 Gummi Bears (out of 10)