From time to time when I see a film I get the distinct impression I missed something. Usually when this happens I’ll go back and rewatch part (or all) of it and I’ll also spend a little time exploring the web to see what the rest of the world is thinking. This doesn’t always benefit me, especially if a film is new or screeners are limited. In the case of DEMONS INSIDE ME, formerly known as “Jade’s Asylum” and originally released in 2019, I was relieved to see I wasn’t the only person who watched this film and thought…what was that?
To briefly sum up what could very loosely be described as the “plot,” a handful of rich playboy types take a bunch of girlfriends (or something) to Costa Rica for a weekend getaway. Jade (Morgan Kohan) smells blood in the water and calmly asks her boyfriend for cab money to the airport. She’s already seen him flirting with other girls, plus his friends make fun of her a well as put moves on her. She’s over it and just wants to go home. It turns out, though, that some of her suspicions may be nothing but paranoia and what she thinks she’s seen might all be in her head. This realization sends Jade spiraling into a psychotic episode, reliving moments of childhood while fighting with the literal and figurative ghost of her dead, abusive father. At the same time, bizarre forest creatures begin to reveal themselves and take victims along the way. Jade must survive not just these demonic beings, but also the demons inside her as she struggles to make her way home.
DEMONS INSIDE ME is a timeline jump catastrophe. I am not exaggerating when I say that every two to three minutes you’re either jumped to another period in the storyline or shown the same few clips over and over again. I understand this is an attempt to drive Jade’s mental breakdown home, but instead it just reads as lazy and uninventive storytelling. There’s very little new information as the story progresses, considering we are shown the same things repeatedly, and there’s no inventive or creative new twist to those same story moments when they’re repeated. There’s just not enough aesthetic value to make this feel as nightmarish as it could. Instead, we are left scratching our heads wondering what exactly we’re meant to learn from the same boring lines of dialogue repeated four or more times throughout the movie. There’s such a minimal story outside of these timeline jumps you won’t have to worry about keeping track of the plot. In fact I found myself wondering, “Did anything actually happen? Has anything happened this whole time? WILL anything happen?” The cast are all good enough and the setting is beautiful, but the story doesn’t live up to expectations–not even close.
One incredibly strong point of DEMONS INSIDE ME is the stunning practical makeup effects work by Marissa Clemence and Carla McKeever. The demonic forest monsters are remarkable, high fantasy creatures–the kind you’d expect to see on HBO or in a big budget feature. Deep, intricate textures and colors create something you can’t take your eyes off of. I found myself looking forward to another shot of them as I trudged through the rest of the movie. Unfortunately, in stark contrast to these beauties are some mediocre and distinctly low budget looking effects like burying actors’ feet rather unconvincingly in dirt and covering their legs in fake blood to simulate feet being cut off (another original title of this film was “The Feet Collectors”). The cognitive dissonance of remarkable creature effects against some of the most low budget and least effective on-screen tricks I’ve ever seen is boggling.
DEMONS INSIDE ME will give you emotional, mental, and thematic whiplash. Some might call it a “rollercoaster ride” and since it made me motion sick while begging to get off they may be right.
2 out of 10 Stars