Review: DEMON HOUSE
Documenting ghost hunting is a tricky thing. Their seem to be two schools when it comes to the supernatural hobby. While some take a very researched approach, almost through collegiate levels, like Ghost Hunters, some just pick up a camera and go. This is exactly what Zak Bagans did. In 2004, Bagans teamed up with friends Nick Groff and Aaron Goodwin and made a documentary film, entitled Ghost Adventures, and shopped it around. Eventually, The Travel Channel picked it up and it was wildly successful, lasting nine years, spawning two spin-offs, a novel and now a film. That film is Demon House.
n 2014, Bagans got a call that one of the most haunted houses in America was on the market. A small house in the outer suburbs of Gary, Indiana was for sale after years of the Ammons family claiming that purely chaotic and evil happenings occurred in the house, including (but not limited to) one of the children walking up the wall backwards, levitation, the residents being pushed by seemingly nothing and the haunting commonality of cold spots, weird noises, and strange feelings. So of course, Bagans bought it. Demon House is the documentation of Bagans time in the house.
While Ghost Adventures is a fun ride, with Bagans and crew decked out with full ghost hunting regalia, Demon House is not so flashy. Bagans has instead approached things from a much more grounded point of view. Without the time constraints and pressure of weekly quests, Bagans was able to really delve into the history of the home, interviewing handfuls of people who had experience with the home, with the Ammons family, and with other residents.
While The Ammon House was truly a supernatural phenomena that was a media firestorm in the mid 2010's, it's hard to set yourself apart from the crowd of other horror documentaries, especially of the ghost hunting genre. What Bagans does with Demon House to set it apart is come at it with a very open mind. He isn't here to convince you that this house is haunted. He's just here to tell you about how some people had terrifying experiences, how some people had none, and then share his own. It's a refreshing method, allowing the viewer to truly get absorbed by the film because you'll never feel like you're being force suggested to hear something on a playback of an audio file that just sounds like white noise.
While much of the film contains dramatizations of the most frightening stories, which don't really work, the true horror comes into Bagans interviews. Bagans makes sure to cover his bases and talk to literally anyone who had contact with the house. The Ammons family and their accounts are harrowing but what's more spine tingling are the chilling retellings of stories from priests, Child Protective Service employees and police officers. While it's easy to shrug off someone looking for attention and making up some poltergeist-type activity, it's hard to look past a group of unrelated professionals detailing the strange supernatural occurrences that they experienced as well.
It's a well paced film, with Bagans and crew doing there legwork and properly building a "world" for the viewer. By the time Bagans stays the night at the house, you'll be primed and ready. Now listen, I don't want to spoil anything for you, but I will say this: Demon House is one of the most frightening documentaries of modern times. The sense of of dread that is slowly built up from the opening prologue and carries through until the night Bagans stays over. While it's not a mile-a-minute thrill ride, Demon House is smart, charming, and scary as hell.
Bagans is every one of us. He's the monster kid who wants to believe, just picked up a camera, and went for it. It's what makes the movie that much more accessible, believable, and ultimately more harrowing. While it has it's moments of silliness (a phone call Bagans makes to a producer about film rights is goofy but not off brand), Demon House is ultimately a documentary that will stay with you well after the watch.
The film will be available from Freestyle Digital Media, available in limited release theaters as well as VOD and digital HD on March 16th, 2018.