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3 DEMONS (2022)
Directed by Matt Cunningham.
Written by Matt Cunningham, Peter Tell.
Starring Peter Tell, Haley Heslip, Sherryl Despres, Laura Golinski, Zoe Cunningham, Jovonnah Nicholson
Writer Peter Tell plays Deputy Fisher, an officer assigned to watch over a dead body found in the middle of the woods until the paramedics arrive. The body looks to be part of some kind of ritualistic murder and when Fisher finds a strange scroll, he moves the body and accidentally unleashes what seems to be a trio of demons. Deputy Fisher finds himself trapped in a never-ending nightmare forcing him to confront what the ritual has unleashed and sins from his own past.
There’s an absolutely likable sense to this weird little film. In many ways, it seems like it takes inspiration from EVIL DEAD 2 as most of the film focuses on one man’s battle with supernatural forces bent on driving him insane and stealing his soul. Peter Tell has the same kind of mix of comedic leading man goofiness mixed with a very strong dramatic edge that Bruce Campbell had in Raimi’s sequel. Numerous times while Fisher battled these weird creatures and is forced to confront his dark past, Tell’s reactions felt inspired by the sometimes humorous, sometimes dynamic way Ash did the same.
There are an awful lot of fun and simple horror tropes used deftly in 3 DEMONS. The titular monsters are comprised of a ghost made from the dead body covered in a sheet, and two other more woodland creatures that linger in the woods around him. Utilizing these low budget practical effects, some creative camerawork and edits, and soaking in the ambiance of the surrounding dark woods proves to be a compelling equation for a solid amount of creeps and scares. Director Matt Cunningham seems to know what he’s doing in terms of creating the right mood, mixing comical beats with legit scare sequences and repeats this numerous times in 3 DEMONS.
If there’s a weak spot in 3 DEMONS it is that it plays so much with dream sequences, flashbacks, mental breaks, hallucinations, and possible supernatural experiences that it made me wonder what was real and what wasn’t. This most likely is the intention of the film, but 3 DEMONS never comes to a concrete conclusion, leaving you with the same ungrounded feeling that pervades through the entire film. This vague way of wrapping things up makes for a “what the hell did I just watch” feeling by the time the credits roll and sort of undercuts the quality dramatic performances made.
Peter Tell gives a very strong performance. His co-star, Haley Heslip who plays Deputy Winters also stands out as one of the film’s strong points. Not only is she a strong actress, but her no-nonsense but caring attitude bounces well off of Tell’s Barney Fife like behavior. All in all, 3 DEMONS is a wonderful variety of compelling and genuinely scary scenes. It’s doesn’t stick the landing, but the trip to the dramatic and tragic end is worth it.