Piotr moves to Poland to marry his long-distance girlfriend Zaneta whose immediate family is less than thrilled with the situation but still supportive. As the wedding day approaches, Piotr finds bones in the yard of his marital home. Things take an odd turn and a restless spirit, or dybbuk, possesses the groom. Co-written by Pawel Maslona and director Marcin Wrona, Demon is a slow burn drama with horror elements. The title leads one to believe it would be more straight up horror film but the reality is that it’s a drama about a wedding or marriage that may have been a bad idea to start with and as the film advances and the spirit manifests itself it becomes a battle between people’s feelings and beliefs and people searching for the truth.
The characters in the film are interesting but little background is given for them. The viewer is supposed to care about Piotr and Zaneta but little information is given on how they met, what they do, etc. The characters are clearly in love but without background, making it a bit more difficult to root for them and their love. The family dynamic is however interesting with some secrets clearly long buried which ads interest to the story. Playing Piotr, the man coming from England to marry his girl, is Itay Tiran who gives an involved performance. He takes his character and elevates him, making him a loving, worried character trying to fit in until his possession when his whole demeanor switches. His take on the part and the possession are interesting and keep the viewer watching. Playing Zaneta, the bride, is Agnieszka Zulewska who shows love for Piotr and a nice range of emotions as her new husband becomes taken over by something unexplained.
She acts as the emotional anchor once the possession starts. Another performance worth watching for is Wlodzimierz Press as Teacher, an elderly professor of Zaneta’s who is a great source of information but is also losing his mind probably due to old age. His performance is touching and adds an old world vibe to some scenes. Framing these characters and the beautiful grey Polish countryside is the cinematography by Pawel Flis who shows the solemn beauty of the area and the contrastingly bright wedding reception. The images set the tone early on, as soon as the opening and they work with the story and scenes all the way until the end.
Demon is more drama than horror but it works. It’s a very slow burn of a film that takes a long time to get really started with not as much action as expected with this subject. It however shows the type of possession well and the reactions to it are natural. The acting is quite good with Itay Tiran doing a less extreme but still effective possession victim. This version of such a story feels more like how some may imagine this would happen in real life and is an interesting take on the dybbuk. The film is slow but not boring with an interesting epilogue and ending.