By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ***1/2 out of *****.
Demon Hunter (2016), the feature debut of co-writer and director Zoe Kavanagh, effortlessly shifts between riveting Underworld (2003) style action and genuinely atmospheric horror. These gear changes happen spontaneously. They also arrive at generally unpredictable intervals. This is noteworthy throughout the brisk and efficient 85-minute runtime. But, they blend together seamlessly. In turn, these elements create a sleek and largely diverting endeavor. This is even if Kavangh’s otherwise sturdy exercise gives way to an all-too-familiar battle of opposing forces finale. Such an expected conclusion seems to defy the unique structure and storytelling that is evident beforehand. Nevertheless, the afore-mentioned qualities are stalwart enough to overcome such obstacles.
In a plot that is honed from a tried and true setup, Kavangh follows the heroine of the tale, Taryn Barker (in a captivating depiction from Niamh Hogan). Barker is still seeking answers to and suffering from the rape and murder of her pre-teen sister, Annabelle (in a stellar representation from Aisli Moran). This transpired seven years earlier. In the originating stages of the arrangement, Barker is brought into questioning. This interrogation, overseen by Detective Ray Beckett (in a solid depiction from Alan Talbot), involves a decapitated man. It is one who Barker claims was an unholy fiend. In so doing, Beckett soon realizes this is the same individual he promised he would find and incarcerate. This was in a failed attempt to bring Barker justice. When Barker warns Beckett of a brute by the name of Falstaff (in a wickedly terrific representation from Michael Parle), who is accused of trying to steal Barker’s soul, the stakes rise. It isn’t long before Falstaff makes Beckett’s dealings personal. From herein, the duo become bent on breaking up a malevolent cult. These worshippers of Satan are intent on unleashing an ancient menace on the world.
This is a solid foundation for an outing of this ilk. Kavanagh punctuates this attribute with a guidance of the piece that is claustrophobic and eye-popping. Her meticulously paced screenplay, which was co-penned by Tony Flynn, develops the archetypical characters of the account in a satisfactory manner. The structure, especially in the early moments, is alluring. This is as Kavanagh readily alternates between past and present situations. The dialogue is appropriately straight-forward. Still, it is suitably delivered by the cast.
Furthermore, the musical contribution from Scott Tobin is an overall success. This is even if it is initially off-putting in the pulse-pounding and claustrophobic opening sequences. The retro effects are charming. Luca Rocchini’s cinematography is brooding and immersive. The previously undeclared depictions, including Nic Furlong as Barnes and Saorla Wright as Jess, are just as victorious.
Correspondingly, Kavanagh has crafted an exciting bit of escapist entertainment. Those who enjoyed Paul W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evil (2002-2017) series, or any related video game to film adaptation, should also be able to appreciate Kavanagh’s latest labor. It is both visceral and visually appealing. The often gory exertion is also full of nail-biting delights. Though we have seen it all before, it is still a tough, taut and well-made entry. Audiences craving a good midnight movie should be more than satisfied.
(Unrated). Contains adult content, profanity and violence.
Demon Hunter will be available on digital and Video on Demand platforms August 15th, 2017.