Director: Marcin Wrona
Year of release: 2016
Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes
An elliptical ghost story in which the haunting spirits are deeply rooted in historical atrocity, Marcin Wrona's Demon is a horror film which manages to navigate some bizarre tonal shifts with a deft hand. The story involves Peter (Itay Tiran), a man who has relocated from Britain to a small Polish town in order to marry local beauty Zaneta (Agnieszka Zulewska), and most of the action takes place at the couple's raucous wedding in which family members (including Zaneta's domineering father) bumble about as Peter begins exhibiting some very peculiar behavior.
What makes Demon more than simply a genre exercise is Marcin's keen understanding of Jewish mythology (in this case, the notion of Dybbuk possession), and the ways in which true terror is often sitting at the bedside of macabre humor. Long-held zooms, atmospheric sound design, and some truly strange drunken dancing gone awry gives everything an air of unpredictability as the wedding becomes increasingly unhinged. Most importantly, the way people react; trying to keep the party going, no matter how chaotic and insane things become, is a source of some truly guffaw-worthy moments of absurdism. Rarely do horror films reach for this kind of tonal tight-rope without tipping their hand, and the beauty of Marcin's direction is that the intent isn't always clear. Are we supposed to laugh at the buffoonish, drunken pile of bodies raging into the night or be horrified that there's a skeleton buried inside a muddy sinkhole just outside? Demon suggests that perhaps, in this case, the answer is a bit of both.