Do I believe there are demons and devils living among us in parallel realms, just waiting to be summoned by a wayward soul whose heart has been consumed by darkness? I remain a cautious skeptic, because I’ve seen too many horror movies to know the (implicated) risks that such investigations carry, but I do believe there are “demons” swimming inside every one of us. Addiction, rage, jealousy – it’s our inner demons that loom like threatening storm clouds, something writer Glenn Gers and director Seth Grossman acknowledge by slamming emotion and the occult together in a thunderous boom. Their film, Inner Demons, captures one unlucky addict’s battle with narcotics and the occult during an Intervention-esque reality program, making way for a found-footage watch that’s deeply rooted in a hazy reality.
The film follows Carson Morris (Lara Vosburgh) and her struggle to kick a nasty drug habit, scheduled to be the next episode of an intervention reality series. Carson’s case has more intrigue than most though, as she introduces talk of demons living inside of her that the drugs currently keep at bay. Believing that the “demons” are manifestations of her current state, she checks into a rehab clinic where her habits are monitored 24/7. As sobriety kicks in, Carson starts to develop wild mood swings with violent implications, until finally the showrunners realize that something wicked may truly be at play.
Inner Demons is an expected mixed-bag of found footage generics and wickedly chilling scares, with all the typical genre components making themselves known early and often. Cameras glitch whenever Carson wants to get sinister, scares are typically of the “jump” fashion, and everyone wants to play hero for the camera instead of contact the proper authorities. Shame on Grossman for utilizing a rubber ball for a daytime jolt, but where I’d be lambasting other filmmakers for stooping so low for scares, I’ll instead admit that the director makes up for miscalculations through a few expertly-crafted nightmares that had me screaming for my Mommy. Carson has fun acknowledging mounted security cameras when at her vilest, and these moments achieve chills far beyond staring into her dead, cold eyes as she glares directly into the camera, like she’s about to jump out of the screen. When in proper form, Grossman orchestrates chilling terror that’s worthy of a hearty slasher-victim-scream.
Lara Vosburgh plays teen-addict Carson, the lone bright spot amidst a cast of characters who are practically begging for death. Vosburgh is not only tasked with playing a junkie, but she’s also called upon for demonic scenes influenced by exorcism classics, pulling double-duty on an emotional front. While her rehabilitation doesn’t seem to alter her mood much, it’s Carson’s sinister side that highlights Vosburgh’s best work. All of the most horrifying scares stem from Vosburgh’s groundwork, peering through her jet-black hair with a devilish glare and ensuring that horror always remains on the audience’s mind. Vosburgh’s hypnotic eyes have the power to freeze onlookers in paralyzing fear, as Medusa’s gaze once turned unfortunate souls into stone, making an indie-horror icon out of Carson Morris.
As for the cast of television stereotypes surrounding Carson, we’re treated to a group of greedy showrunners far too goofy for a proper Hollywood satire. Featuring a host who only cares about manipulating anything for ratings, Gers loves taking jabs at the corrupt nature of reality television, but the commentary isn’t very poignant. In fact, the jabs come off as a bit juvenile and wholly ineffective, losing any social value the found footage nature might have been able to convey. Only one person seems to care about Carson, actor Morgan McClellan’s PA character, but his saving graces turn into nothing but an overblown witch hunt once he decides to foolishly take matters into his own hands – because one schmuck with a camera is always better suited for action over proper religious and governmental authorities.
Inner Demons doesn’t rewrite the book on drug-fueled horror, but there are a few monumental scares worthy of young Lara Vosburgh’s haunting performance. It’s hard enough to play a convincing addict, let alone become a convincing horror villain, yet Vosburgh is able to channel her inner Linda Blair for a role that’s equal parts tragic and terrifying. While the concept may be a little lackluster, the efforts of Vosburgh unite with a booming ending to make Grossman’s rehabilitation haunter worth a trip down the rabbit hole.
Lara Vosburgh gets the job done for Inner Demons with a few ghoulish scares that are worth the price of admission, but not much else.