Directed by Zoe Kavanagh. Starring Niamh Hogan, Alan Talbot, Michael Parle.
The Plot: Taryn (Niamh Hogan) is haunted by the death of her younger sister several years earlier through mysterious circumstances. Keen on vengeance, she makes a pact with satanic cult leader Falstaff (Michael Parle) to track down the man responsible. Believing that she needs to fight fire with fire, she goes on a roaring rampage of revenge on the streets of Dublin, decapitating demons while being pursued by cop Beckett (Alan Talbot). He’s wracked with guilt about the one case he couldn’t solve. Now the pressure is on him when Falstaff kidnaps his daughter. He will have to team up with Taryn to confront Falstaff. However, Taryn is half-demon herself and Falstaff wants her back in the fold…
The Verdict: Demon Hunter is the feature debut of writer/director Zoe Kavanagh. It’s an independently-made horror film with high ambitions. It’s admirable in that respect, given how hard it is to get funding for a genre film in Ireland, let alone to sell it to an audience. She’s something of a one-woman show too, having spread herself across several departments. Like The Gift and In View recently, this is an independent Irish film that might otherwise be left on the shelf. It’s a small miracle that it’s coming out in commercial cinemas in the same week as The Mummy reboot.
That said though, Demon Hunter struggles to make a strong impression. It’s not so much the Irish Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but more like a lo-fi Blade. Budgetary constraints are evident throughout, particularly towards the end. A transformation from a human to a demon takes place offscreen and feels like a shortcut. Inexpressive demon masks look generic, like something bought at a Hallowe’en store. Most of the acting is also noticeably amateurish. Newcomer Hogan stepped in two weeks before filming began after another actress dropped out. She’s OK, but lacks presence. Parle does what he can with his cardboard villain role.
Despite taking place in Dublin, there’s an odd mix of accents throughout the film – perhaps an attempt at international appeal? Sound levels also seem to drop and rise from scene to scene, making some dialogue inaudible. Some parts of the film don’t make any sense either. Guns are ineffective against demons earlier on, but later there’s a scrap in a field involving machine guns which are effective. Hmm… It’s clear that there’s a good idea in here somewhere, as the film has an interesting heroine to get behind as she battles her inner demons and the ones without. Kavanagh shows some occasional visual flair in her direction, but sadly the budget just isn’t there to tell this story properly. A commendable effort, but not a film to recommend.