Saturday, October 26, 2013

Underrated Horror Gems--"The Irrefutable Truth About Demons"

     “The Irrefutable Truth About Demons” (aka “The Truth About Demons”) was made in 2000, the product of New Zealand.  In it, Dr. Harry Ballard is an anthropology professor, who in his spare time investigates and debunks supernatural-themed cults.  A cult has affected him personally, as his brother ran afoul of one and committed suicide after raving that demons were stalking him.  It soon becomes apparent that this cult, called the Black Lodge, is now after Harry, and he finds himself on the run from the viciously violent Lodge members, led by their alleged wizard Le Valliant.  A former member, a bizarre young woman named Benny, helps Harry navigate through all the evil magic scenarios.  But, as so happens in horror movies, all is not what it seems…
     “The Irrefutable Truth About Demons” (hereafter referred to as “Demons”) is a fairly brutal film.  Several characters are killed, sometimes quite graphically.  Despite it being a low-budget movie, the production values and special effects hold up pretty well.  The blood and guts are rendered convincingly.  There are a few shaky moments with portraying the demons (partially done with CGI), but these flaws aren’t major—the director wisely allows the glimpses of them to be mostly brief.  I thought the sound for “Demons” was particularly strong, too.  The background music was suitably unsettling.  And the actual sound effects were cool as well.  As I mentioned, the demons are rarely seen, but more often heard, as they roam about, prowling for Harry.  Their noises are effectively creepy.
     The acting I thought was also a cut above about normal genre fare.  Karl Urban (Harry) acquits himself well as the lead.  Katie Wolfe seems to have fun playing the cheerfully weird Benny.  Jonathan Hendry (Le Valliant) makes a good villain—smart, frightening, yet cynically modern at the same time.  Tony MacIver (Harry’s friend Johnny) and Sally Stockwell (Harry’s girlfriend Celia) play their smaller roles well, too.  And the supporting cast is fine as well, especially the cult members, who are memorably odd and disturbing.
     (SPOILERS AHEAD UNTIL NOTED OTHERWISE)  The major theme in “Demons” has to be whether all that Harry is experiencing is really happening, or if he’s gone insane.  The film explores this throughout—some events happen and then are revealed as imagination (or illusion), while others remain decidedly ambivalent.  The characters themselves comment on this—“The world is an illusion, we’re actors in a dream,” “Illusion is everywhere,” and “Demons are a metaphor for our fears, our guilt.”  Drugs contribute to this situation—during many of the worst, most surreal events, Harry is stoned on marijuana (and in one case, under the influence of the heroin the cult forcibly injected him with).  And aside from the demonic activities, supernatural and seemingly impossible events keep occurring.  Celia is murdered, then appears alive again, and in league with Le Valliant, kind of a particularly attractive and high-functioning zombie.  Richard, Harry’s deceased brother, communicates with him via dreams, and at the end has apparently come back himself, intent on doing some zombie-on-zombie violence (or at least some solid-ghost-on-zombie violence).  La Valliant pulls a  Mola Ram (from “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”) and reaches in Harry’s chest with his bare hand and extracts his heart (and therefore, as he explains, Harry’s soul, too).  Harry meanwhile continues to live, move, etc. without benefit of his heart for a day or so.  The ending comes down on the side of the theory that Harry is crazy, as we learn that Harry killed the (innocent?) cancer-ridden La Valliant (who’s allegedly Benny’s father), Benny is schizophrenic, both Harry and Benny are now confined to a mental hospital, and the demons and supernatural shenanigans were only in Harry’s head.  However, Celia asks Harry what magical secrets the “Dark Lords” revealed to Harry after La Valliant died, (and Harry showed his magical prowess), and then Harry is seen to resurrect a dead insect, indicating the events of the movie were possibly real.  Of course, Harry could have imagined Celia’s words, and the insect could have only been stunned and not dead, or something, so these bits of evidence aren’t conclusive.  Obviously the film makers didn’t want to tip their hand 100% on answering this.  Sometimes the “is the main character crazy or not?” plot irritates me, but in this case I didn’t have a problem with it.  And for the record, I tend to think the events of the film, the demons, etc., were supposed to be real, but admittedly this is largely because I want this interpretation to be true, because it makes the movie more scary and interesting.
     (END SPOILERS)  “Demons” did well in New Zealand, and also received good reviews at various horror film festivals, but didn’t seem to get the acclaim I feel it deserved throughout most of the world.  Writer/director Glenn Standring was rewarded with a comparatively huge budget (by New Zealand film industry standards) for his follow up, “Perfect Creatures” (2006), which was about vampires.  However, this one didn’t do well at the box office or critically.  Perhaps this disappointment may have been responsible for his career stagnation—aside from an episode of the new “Spartacus” series he evidently hasn’t been doing much since.  Most of the actors in “Demons” didn’t become stars, at least internationally.  I saw Sally Stockwell (Celia) in a decent horror-on-the-water flick (“The Ferryman” 2007), but the supporting cast has mainly done occasional New Zealand television roles.  Katie Wolfe (Benny) has started directing lately, both television and a feature film (2010’s “Kawa”).  Karl Urban (Harry) is the big exception to this.  His career has blossomed.  After playing Eomer in the last two “Lord of the Rings” films he went on to star in (or have significant roles in) two of the “Riddick” movies, the 2012 “Judge Dredd” remake, “The Bourne Supremacy,” “RED,” and in the two recent “Star Trek” reboots (as Dr. “Bones” McCoy) among others.
     So if you’re looking to see a nasty little chiller, one with evil magic, dismemberment, frenetic demons, and lots of cockroaches, you might want to give this Kiwi offering a look.

Also, I'm having issues getting the link back to the Coffin Hop established, but until then the address is:


  1. Going on my to see list; I'm a big Karl Urban fan.

  2. Michelle--thanks. Rest assured that the picture was a joke--no archaeologists were actually harmed, or buried. A.F.--yeah, Karl tends to do a good job, even in movies that aren't that great. I see that he's got a new television show about a futuristic cop with a robot/cyborg partner now, too. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I'll tell the kids to look for it. I can't stay in the room for a horror flick.
    I already live on the edge...
    Good piece.

  4. Thanks for dropping in, Aspen. And yeah, given your tastes, maybe "The Irrefutable Truth About Demons" isn't for you, as it's pretty intense and disturbing.

  5. Demons can add so much to a plot. Where would Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunter and Chronicles of Nick novels be without them?