In recent years, Australia has proved to be a fertile ground of dynamic and intriguing horror cinema, perhaps best exemplified by Jennifer Kent’s outstanding The Babadook. Inner Demon, the work of another female director Ursula Dabrowsky, is a film that clearly desires to be the next film in this pantheon of inventive horror; however, the result is a desperately misguided and absolutely frustrating affair, unable to define a clear identity, and at its very worst, painfully re-enacting clichés in a regurgitated enactment of superior films.

Sam and her younger sister are kidnapped one night by a menacing serial-killer couple. With both their lives on the line, Sam attempts to escape their clutches…only being drawn further into their web and faced with the horror of their perverse and abusive lifestyle. While the premise initially seems ripe for a claustrophobic and tense cat and mouse horror, the reality of the events that follow is disappointingly formulaic and simply dull. The film clearly attempts to channel visual and narrative influences from films such as Wolf Creek and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (isolation, inescapability, madness of those cut off from society), but it is within the poor execution of this application of reference that the film’s fundamental flaw is revealed…it is abundantly and fatally clichéd, to the point that the film becomes predictable and without the pleasures that horror cinema thrives on, a genre in which the emotional responses of shock and surprise are stimulated so intensely. As the film develops, you can feel the boxes being ticked as it lurches from one stereotype and overplayed technique to the other.

Such cliché stretches to the characterization within the film. The lead character, Sam, is a classic girl in peril, who must overcome adversity to survive. If this is executed well, it can be an immensely successful genre trope…however, in Inner Demon, Sam is woefully underdeveloped, unable to engage with the audience. Sarah Jeavons only seems to articulate her dire situation through a look of vacant confusion rather than expressing and believable sense of fear. It’s not particularly her fault, as the character is such a blank cliché and devoid of personality that it would be a struggle to conjure any sympathy, even if her performance was monumental. It becomes genuinely infuriatingly watching the character almost invite opportunities for her to be caught and killed; such characterization feels outdated and disengages the audience completely.

The film’s strongest element is its physicality, a trait that drives the action early as weight of the heroine’s struggle creates a sense of textured realism, reinforced by the sequence in which the heroine must suture a deep wound on her waist. This is unquestionably the stand out scene of the film as the grisly detail and the context of the situation as he attempts to restrain her cries of pain and avoid detection, creating a moment of genuine tension, albeit it one that is disappointingly short-lived.

What is even more frustrating about the film’s abundant cliché is that the film features a key shift in style, designed to disrupt expectation and ignite the film with a spark of originality. However, rather than feeling refreshing, it only serves to deepen the pain as the film only shifts into another set of tired clichés, so densely packed and uninspired that the execution feels haphazard and devoid of much needed originality, the key ingredient such a conscious narrative shift demands. It becomes symbolic of a film that resembles other superior horror pictures, but has no clear identity of its own…a ghost in need of exorcising.

Inner Demon is a deeply flawed outback horror whose attempts at originality are crippled by its dependence on cliché to misguidedly establish a generic identity, and a crucial lack of characterization, depth and sense of genuine peril.

Frightfest London review: Inner Demon
1.5Overall Score
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About The Author

Matthew Hammond is a full time cinephile, specializing in cult, art house and 1980’s cinema. While film is his overwhelming passion, Matthew has been known to enjoy comic books, Sherlock Holmes stories and a good film related T-shirt. Feel free to email me with any questions or comments: mattpaul61@o2.co.uk