A teenage girl is abducted by a serial killer couple and manages to escape and find refuge in an isolated farmhouse, only to discover it is home to greater horrors and a malevolent spirit.
Whenever a film gets hyped to the max nine and a half times out of ten I end up let down and/or frustrated. On the flip side, nothing beats catching a film with no foregoing buzz or expectations which turns out to be a pleasant surprise. Whilst that’s not entirely the case with Inner Demon – due to a couple of unfortunate execution flaws – director/writer Ursula Dabrowsky still manages to forge a disturbing and refreshingly unconventional grindhouse revenge-cum-supernatural shocker.
Early allusions to abduction cases such as the late ’70s Truro Murders clearly reveals how much Adelaide’s horrific history inspired Dabrowsky. The abductee in this case is Sam, played by Sarah Jeavons who shows exceptional range, especially at such a tender young age and with no previous acting credits. She nails her Carrie-esque metamorphosis from the innocent older sister we are first introduced to into her relentless “inner demon” personification when revenge becomes the only retort.
Plaudits also to Dabrowsky for boldly allowing the audience spend some “quality” time with the antagonists as these moments really help you get inside their deranged/confused minds rather than just having your typical silent sadistic slashers. Said supporting cast are fantastic, particularly Kerry Ann Reid as Denise when tentativeness about what she and her partner Karl (Andreas Sobik) are up to sets in.
For a modestly budgeted film it’s superbly shot and, surprisingly, much of what goes on takes place in broad daylight but never dilutes the sensation of trepidation. Whilst the film eventually holes itself up in a cupboard with Sam, there are some particularly well-staged sequences early on with a memorable chase through the woods executed to perfection. Once we get to the perpetrators’ abode the film becomes a totally different kettle of fish as we spend the rest of the film cooped up with Sam but Jeavons conveys her ordeal so well that it really feels like we are sharing that same cramped cubby hole with her.
Inner Demon also boasts some strikingly savage practical effects, a standout being a particular scene where Jeavons stitches up a rather gruesome gaping gash using the next best thing to a needle: a fishing hook (hence its depiction in the film poster). Unfortunately, where the film really comes a cropper is when the CGI effects clock in as they sadly fail to cut the mustard. Whilst they don’t take up too much screen time it felt like such a betrayal to everything the cast and crew had intended and achieved up until then. Thanks to Jeavons’ performance keeping things flowing the film’s credibility isn’t lost entirely but it just felt such a shame that a great first three quarters ended in disappointment.
Warts and all, Inner Demon is still a compelling and relevant film, providing audiences with much more to mull over than your average genre flick. Having a young and innocent girl violently turn the table on her abductors might not be a new notion but Dabrowsky’s deft execution and Jeavons’ top notch performance ensure that Sam’s claustrophobic and horrifying predicament never loosens its grip on the audience’s engagement. Despite the film stumbling over the final hurdle there really is a lot to admire here and I really hope Dabrowsky achieves the heftier budget she wants for her next film so we get to see her really unleash her inner prowess.
Words: Howard Gorman (@HowardGorman)