A walking, talking cliché with little to say about truth or fiction.
The horror genre is peculiarly reliant on realism. For audiences to be given night-terrors they must first be lulled by the familiarity of the mundane before the pretence of comfort is stripped away. To suspend disbelief, the viewer first has to believe.
This genre prerequisite has led to the well-worn cliché of horror being set in small town America, or the safe rural hideaway, places where horrific events seem inconceivable. When horror has moved to the city – as in the zombie genre – realism has added an extra undercurrent of social commentary, not least the alienating influence of the metropolis and the ever-present undercurrent of violence.
Demons Never Die attempts to relocate one of the 'small-town America' horror genres - the teen slasher movie – to inner city London. There is obvious contextual territory here for the film to explore – not least knife crime and gang violence – but Demons Never Die ups the ante by centring its narrative on a teenage suicide pact, a relatively recent focus of media angst.
Horror is frequently self-conscious, witty, ironic and smart. With its 'authentic' cast of up-and-coming actors from the inner city (Ashley Walters, Tulisa Contostavlos, Jason Maza, Reggie Yates) and first-time director Arjun Rose, Demons Never Die might have been a fresh British twist on a tiring genre. Instead it wallows in cliché to little effect.
Sadly, the film fails to utilise the horror genre's latitude, and the wealth of talent available, to say anything interesting or intelligent about its setting beyond suicide being bad, and friends being good.
The film borrows heavily, inevitably, from the Scream series – directly replicating a number of scenes and plot devices to sow confusion about the killer's identity. It's tempting to see this as an homage, just as it is tempting to see the poor scripting, weak characterisation, laboured acting and increasingly implausible plot as tongue-in-cheek.
However there is an earnestness about Demons Never Die which suggests there is little ironic intent. In one glimmer of self-knowledge a character states 'a good story has to have a beginning, middle and end with some nice character arcs in between'. Whereas Scream's self-referential moments highlighted the film's intelligence, in Demons Never Die this statement only serves to highlight the film's dramatic anemia.
A genre twist, and an impressive cast could help define a new generation of British talent.
Neither homage or reinvention, A walking, talking cliché with little to say about truth or fiction.