Review: Although there are some highlights in terms of tone and style in Emily Hagins’ “Sorry About the Demon,” the story becomes rather forgettable compared to the rest of the moving parts. Notable performances and set pieces help pull this one from the depths of Shudder’s deep library.
Every year there are a handful of Shudder releases that pleasantly surprise me and find their way into my year-end lists. Last year, for example, spooky hits like “Mad God” and “The Sadness” were two successfully ridiculous entries into Shudder’s streaming library, so this year I’m making an attempt to check out as many of them as possible – starting with “Sorry About the Demon.”
This may be an easier task for the earlier months of the year, especially given the lack of new releases in theaters and other streaming services during the early quarter of 2023. Shudder seems like one of the only streaming platforms interested in pulling in viewers in January as they have a few highlights (old and new) now available to stream at any time. But much like Shudder’s larger competitors, it’s all about the quality. I’ll keep checking them out if they keep pumping out marginally successful material – at worst.
Which brings me to “Sorry About the Demon,” which serves as Emily Hagins’ first solo effort for the platform and her second streaming effort in general after “Coin Heist.” I wasn’t all too familiar with her style prior to “Sorry About the Demon,” but I was curious given her previous directing credit on Shudder’s “Scare Package” anthology series.
The film also stars a few blind spots in my own viewing experiences in Jon Michael Simpson, Olivia Ducayen and Paige Evans. Needless to say, I didn’t have much to go off of besides a wacky poster, some morbid curiosity, and a synopsis that references a demon named Deominus (?).
And while I don’t think “Sorry About the Demon” is necessarily a good film, I see the potential in many of the moving parts here. It’s incredibly winking and has such a solid grasp on its own tone. It’s unabashedly wacky in a way that I have to give props to because it’s obvious from the beginning what sort of silly nonsense the movie is going for.
Jon Michael Simpson is a perfect casting for this as the lead character Will, who goes house hunting when he breaks up with his girlfriend and is forced to move out. As he reconciles with his own fallacies and issues, he begins to realize the house he now rents is haunted by the childishly zany demon named Deominus. “Sorry About the Demon” relies heavily on its own bubbly charm and self-deprecating charisma.
To add to those positives, they are backed by wonderful supporting performances and a score that backs its events quite nicely and appropriately. But even with these stylistic moments that fit the film well, “Sorry About the Demon” is unfortunately light on any real stakes or memorable plot to tie it all together. The idea of what “Sorry About the Demon” could’ve been ends up being much better than the film actually is, and by the time the film finally ends, it comes off being remarkably bloated and unremarkably entertaining.
While I mentioned Shudder has some real hidden gems in their own catalogue, they also have many films like “Sorry About the Demon” – they aren’t relatively great films, but you can see new filmmakers getting a footing for their own styles and interests. Emily Hagins is surely going to go on to make films better than this one, but it’s fun to see her working with a lighthearted premise and silly execution. The result feels like a feature length Halloween episode of a cable sitcom.
The film nearly pushes the two hour mark, and one of my main criticisms is that I wish they cut some of the fat out of this one. A 90 minute harmless experience would’ve worked much better than the one that goes about an hour and 45 minutes.
In its final moments, I was surprised how remarkably unremarkable “Sorry About the Demon” actually was. I liked many of the stylistic choices and tonal elements that came together in a neat way, but it’s overpowered by a story that lacks any real teeth or grit. With that being said, I’m interested in the future career paths of both director Emily Hagins and leading actor Jon Michael Simpson. There’s enough in this movie to build on in future releases. Some finetuning to story and themes may push both of them to further heights in the future with better outcomes.