Editor’s Note: Below is the first piece in a new film series here on the Jet Fuel Review Blog, written by Yana Moberg, which will focus specifically on foreign film reviews.
Demon, a Polish-Israeli film written and directed by Marcin Wrona, presents a haunting story centered around a young couple, Zanetta and Piotr (Agnieszka Zulewska and Itay Tyran respectively). Piotr’s an English-born groom just trying to fit in with his new Polish wife’s mildly xenophobic family. His attempts at speaking their language is rather awkward, but still, Piotr perseveres to become accepted in this new culture, including his insistence on moving into and renovating the rural home that the bride had inherited from her grandfather.
Piotr also plans to make a positive impression on his in-law’s by having a traditional Polish wedding reception (something the married couple never experienced because they previously only had a court wedding), which will also take place on the new property. But in the process, Piotr discovers a skeleton in the yard. From here, things progress rather expectedly.
While common horror tropes are played out by the middle part of the movie, the true nature of the film is revealed towards the end, when the overarching theme becomes clear as being a take on Jewish “dybbuk” folklore. However, Wrona only uses this to veil the horror of a deeper discussion regarding sociological ethics. Demon touches on the struggles that Poland endured in World War II, as well as a more modern urge to move forward without looking at the past — a luxury that still only a few can afford two generations following the war’s atrocities.
Wrona employs a beautiful yet gray hue here. The lighting, or lack thereof, adds a hopelessness as the viewers agonize over what will happen to Zanetta, who ultimately becomes the true protagonist in the film. Demon is also superb in terms of its acting. There are a few scenes in which Piotr awkwardly interrupts the party (possibly being an homage to The Exorcist, sans urination). I was shocked at how authentic these moments felt, not only for the actors on the forefront, but also the extras in the background. This movie is also incredibly well-balanced, being not without it’s humorous moments, such as when the father of the bride forcing more alcohol on the guests in order to distract from Piotr’s odd behavior. This humor, in addition to the horror, creates an appropriately jarring feeling.
Wrona creates and effective eeriness from a well-written plot in place of cheap jump scares, leaving me with a sense of disquiet that I have never felt from a horror movie. I especially attribute this to the film’s authenticity, phenomenal acting, and layered theme. In short, I will say that this movie is a must-see and definitely one of the best horror movies to come out in the past decade.
— Yana Moberg, Film Blogger