Thursday, May 3, 2018

Demon House (2018)

Directed by:
Zak Bagans

Imagine you move into a new house and find yourself unnerved by strange noises, objects moving and numerous other unexplained events. Now imagine your children suddenly becoming possessed, turning vicious and violent, walking up walls backwards and speaking in deep, demonic voices. While making arrangements to move the hell out of there, what else might you be doing? Note that these supposed events aren't taking place in the 1970s but in 2012. You know, when everyone has a phone with a camera and hardly anyone can get through a single day without documenting their kids, pets, what they'd doing, where they're going and what they're having for dinner. Here we're basically asked to believe that the haunted woman in question, Latoya Ammons, and her family suffered through months of demonic activity, possession and supernatural terror and not once thought about picking up a camera to film any of it. Color me skeptical.

But what could possibly (no pun intended) possess people to just make up some story like this? Well, considering these filmmakers couldn't even get an on-camera interview with Ammons herself as she'd already sold her rights to her story to someone else, we already know the answer to that, just as we also know it's been proven countless times over that most people will exaggerate events once a camera is pointed at their face. Seeing how Ammons lives in an impoverished area of Gary, Indiana, this has the potential to become a gravy train for her and her family, just as similar stories have proven to be highly profitable for people like Ed and Lorraine Warren and the Lutz's of Amityville Horror fame.

Outside of hearsay and a few sketchy witnesses (one that Bagans himself admits on camera wouldn't talk until he paid him!), there's no concrete evidence nor anything substantive to back up Ammons. In lieu of that, our trusty filmmakers have decided to film reenactments of all of the events and add spooky sound effects and music. After endless interviews, our egomaniacal host and his crew then decide to investigate the home with their EMF meter and other gadgets and, again, provide no real proof of anything unless you count fuzzy "enhanced" EVPs and videos that mysteriously go out of focus when shadowy "black masses" appear. This is all tied together with Bagans' awful narration, which is horribly written and read in the flattest, most monotone manner imaginable.

After purchasing the supposed demon-infested home and filming enough material for this, "Demon House" was deemed "a portal to hell" and just "too evil" to remain standing and Bagans had it destroyed. Uh, so he destroyed a hotbed of demonic activity that would be invaluable for future theological and paranormal studies? And destroyed something that could conceivably prove something that 16 (!) seasons of Ghost Adventures never could: that supernatural forces and the afterlife do indeed exist? Sure, makes perfect sense. I first thought the home destruction was both a publicity stunt and a means to cover his own tracks to prevent further investigations into the home and Ammons' claims, and perhaps it partially is, but another motive is revealed in none-too-subtle fashion at the very end when Bagans announces that he's kept some haunted artifacts from demon house. And what a coinkydink, he's also recently opened his own "Haunted Museum" in Las Vegas where you get to pay 44 dollars to see them.

There are a number of anecdotes provided either by the supposedly afflicted or Bagans himself about visitors being affected by the home's demonic power. These include everything from having a bicycle accident to being diagnosed with cancer and prostate infections to getting evicted to quitting a job and moving to having to seek therapy to being compelled to tattoo 666 on their hand, start abusing eyeliner and taking a bunch of "Goth" photos of themselves. One crew member reports throwing up blood and bleeding from the ears, yet the film crew doesn't actually, ya know, film any of that. And then you have another woman who looks on the verge of laughing recounting a story about her daughter having the number 6 "engraved" on her back after having contact with the home. Naturally, she also forgot to take a picture of it just as anyone whose child miraculously woke up with a 6 carved on their back would just point, say "OMG!" and then go about their day without snapping a single photo. Seems legit.

Just when you think this can't sink any lower, Bagans also attempts to link the demons in this Indiana home to the murder/suicide of former GA contributors Mark and Debby Constantino. In 2015, Mark murdered Debby and a male friend of hers before committing suicide during a police stand-off. The couple had a long and well-documented history of domestic abuse, battery by strangulation, knife attacks, rape accusations and even kidnapping; much of which stretched further back than Ammons' fantastical stories. Now Bagans wants us to believe the Constantino murders were caused by demons; these demons? Honestly, does it really get any more pathetic than to degrade and demean victims of murder and domestic violence by scapegoating an abuser / murderer to help sell your stupid fucking pseudo-documentary?

I often wonder what the appeal of stuff like this is, but it's really not all that complicated. Some find is ridiculous and pitiful and unintentionally funny. Some approach this stuff apprehensively but with an open mind to evaluate the evidence presented. And there are people like me who get suckered in through our love of horror movies and love of movies involving ghosts, demons, etc. But there's also this other group who can't just rest easy in their own faith and are so desperate for proof of the afterlife they actually eat this embarrassing junk up simply because they want to believe it. Things like Ghost Adventures and this documentary provide them with the affirmation they desire.

Just as false prophet televangelists convince their flock that God speaks to them, comes to them in their dreams and wants them to hand over their money, Bagans has a similar scam going where ghosts contact him, he has visions of things like a "12 foot tall goat figure" (lol) in his dreams and then he makes a shit ton of money off of it. The real phenomenon here that requires further study isn't the supernatural, it's the people made of flesh-and-blood willing to buy what he's selling. Another study should be done as to why IMDb was flooded with 10 star reviews that were mysteriously sent in large numbers on the same exact days and with the same exact grammatical errors.

Speaking of IMDb, they've also removed their message boards to help minimize viewer dissent along with implementing an easy-to-abuse favorable / not favorable system to downgrade inconveniently negative reviews. But we're smarter than all that and not so easily fooled, right? And we also aren't fooled by genre sites like Dread Central praising this idiocy either, right? This is the same Dread Central that was actively promoting this swill for months prior to its release with a bunch of "exclusive" articles, a podcast interview, a Demon House "Artwork Premiere," an "Exclusive Q&A" with Bagans, various promotions of his Vegas "Haunted Museum" and more. In light of all that, their glowing review shouldn't come as much of a surprise, should it?  Actually, it's downright shameless, as is the fact the review is then allowed to factor into Rotten Tomatoes to boost its score. When reviews from supposed film experts and professional "critics" can be factored into a film's PR budget, that's just one more nail in the coffin as far as unbiased film criticism is concerned.


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