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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 12.09.15] Canada thriller drama



Philippe Lesage's second feature film The Demons opens with a movement from Jean Sibelius' "Finlandia" which is a rather great encapsulation of the movie which begins with a beautiful easy going introduction which crescendos carefully before exploding and then concluding as quietly as it began.


The Demons starts with an introduction to a group of children in an early summer setting. We are lulled into the normalcy of life with observations of school activities, first crushes, bullying (some instances of this more dramatic than others) and afternoons at the pool. Lesage captures all of this with the keen eye of a documentarian; observations of events that are generally overlooked by most filmmakers but which are essential to Lesage's storytelling.


This picturesque living is at the centre of most of the movie. The Demons is entrenched in realism and for most of the movie's running time, we follow the children as they go through their daily routines and because we're mostly focused on the kids, the world we see is largely seen from their perspective. There's very little here about the parental relationships and what's going on in the outside world through from the edges, a feeling of unease begins to spread.



There's background news reports of kids going missing and perhaps a killer being on the lose in the area, there are parents who seem to be going through a rough patch and all the while the kids keep being kids whose biggest worry is not getting picked last in gym class. The Demons goes on like this for most of its running time with a hint of something nefarious just beyond what we're seeing and then the movie takes a strong turn for the creepy before going head first into thriller territory. The problem is that for some, the payoff might come too late.


The dramatic turn late in the movie's running time is effective but feels like too little too late. Though I largely enjoyed the meandering first act of the movie (which is also great at dulling the audience so the climax is that much more effective), the complaints that it's simply too slow and that nothing happens are valid, especially if you're not interested in how kids view the world around them, something which Lesage takes great care to capture; there's an innocence throughout The Demons that's usually missing from movies with kids as the central characters.

It'll never be a widely viewed, populous movie but The Demons is not only a beautiful movie that captures the simple realities of youth, it also taps into some really troubling observations about young predators.


Philippe Lesage is a director to watch.



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