Eric Power’s Attack Of The Demons uses hand cut paper animation to mix pop culture obsessed sardonic slackers, a bit of homage to Lamberto Bava’s Demons and a slick synth-heavy score into a gory neon fever dream.
It’s fall 1994 and a herd of tourists descend upon the small town of Barrington, Colorado to attend a battle of the bands, part of a popular annual music festival. When a cult takes advantage of the crowd to perform a summoning ritual and unleash a horde of demons, three former high school classmates have to figure out how to survive the night and save the world.
Kevin (Thomas Petersen) is a townie, who lives with and takes care of his grandmother. He could care less about the festival, as the town movie theater is doing a one night only showing of a rare Italian giallo called Grotesque Mirror.
Jeff (screenwriter Andreas Petersen) is visiting his weird survivalist uncle, and passing the time by playing his way through vintage video game cabinets throughout town.
Nat (Katie Maguire) rode back to her hometown with her mansplaining excuse of a music journalist boyfriend, Chet (director/animator Eric Power). All she wants to do is see her favorite indie band, Teek. All Chet wants to do is deride her for not loving more “important” music like festival stars the Banshee Riders.
With only three main characters, the film takes its time letting us get to know them before all hell literally breaks loose, and the trio spends a chance pit stop at a diner having a bit of an impassioned argument in defense of their individual favorites. It’s almost as if the filmmakers are speaking for themselves with these characters, and the spirited back and forth will be familiar to anyone who was ever the awkward kid at the back of the cafeteria debating the merits of slasher sequels or punk rock records with their motley crew of misfits.
Attack Of The Demons also slips in a bit of lonesome black comedy when each character seeks out the thing they came for. Kevin is thrilled to have the theater ticket taker mimic his enthusiasm for Grotesque Mirror, only to find out she was putting him on as he walks into an otherwise empty theater. Jeff finds the retro fighting game he’s been searching for, only to lose immediately. Teek thanks the crowd, composed of…..Nat. In a pre Internet era, it wasn’t nearly as easy to find your tribe, and enjoying the obscure often meant you were enjoying it on your own.
These establishing scenes are filled with knowing winks, from a familiar -GORIA letterhead peeking out from a stack of magazines in Kevin’s room to a near perfect recreation of the continue screen from arcade fight classic Street Fighter II, and the fact that the summoning chant used by the cultists contains an awful lot of repetitions of what sounds like “Argento, Lenzi, Bava”. There are definitely enough little details to justify multiple viewings to catch them all, and the sheer skill level and craft of the visuals only increases when the town is overrun by demonic entities.
Taking advantage of the papercut medium to make things that would be impossibly expensive in a live action film, the creature design is complex and incredibly gory, with each fallen human (including Nat’s a-hole of a boyfriend) becoming a different sort of monstrous demonic entity depending on their manner of death. If David Cronenberg had any inclination towards arts and crafts, it would likely be something as disgustingly inventive as what is on display here.
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In the back half of the film, we get introduced to a few new secondary characters, including Jeff’s mysterious uncle, and a somewhat inept demonologist named Stuart Combs (August Sargenti). While neither role is huge, the additional personas on screen accentuate one of Attack Of The Demons few obvious flaws. While John Dixon’s music score is a crisp recording, the character dialog is choppy, with slightly flat line readings from all the voice actors.
When you account for the fact that budgetary constraints mean some of the cast had to voice some of the bit parts as well as our more central characters, the flat affect and tinny quality can be a bit of a distraction from the onscreen action, as there isn’t all that much to distinguish each individual. This also tends to dull the impact of the quieter, more emotional moments in the slower paced final third of the film, which feel rather draggy, despite the film’s concise 75 minute runtime.
Slight audio issues aside, Attack Of The Demons is a blast from the past burst of black-hearted love for the horror genre, with inventive design and a labor-intensive hand cut style that has to be seen to be believed for sheer level of detail. Full of brisk energy, hidden in jokes and genuine giddy enthusiasm, I sincerely hope it finds a home for a wider release, as this much fun shouldn’t be confined to the festival circuit.
Wicked Rating – 7/10
Directors: Eric Power
Writers: Andreas Petersen
Stars: Thomas Petersen, Andreas Petersen, Katie Maguire
Release date: June 16 2019 (Cinepocalypse)
Studio/Production Company: TBD
Run Time: 75 minutes