Demigod (Movie Review)

The year of 2021 has been a productive year for indie Horror. The industry seems to have come out swinging with pandemic restrictions being lifted in various ways, and VOD and film festivals giving audiences access to a deluge of new content. A film needs an interesting premise to stand out in such a field, and such is the case with Demigod, the story of a woman who returns to her ancestral home in Germany’s Black Forest only to be caught in an ancient supernatural event. Intrigued? It arrives to digitally and in select theaters on Friday, October 15, 2021 thanks to Gravitas Ventures.

Demigod still

While its premise is a good start, under the hood Demigod has some problems. As Horror fans, we know that many of the stories we engage with will have a certain amount of overlap. Tropes are nearly impossible to avoid completely, but it’s how they are played that makes all the difference, and Demigod makes some narrative choices to its own detriment.

The film stars Rachel Nichols (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra 2009, The Man in the High Castle series) as Robin, and Yohance Myles (Created Equal 2017, Gothic Harvest 2019) as her boyfriend Leo. Robin’s grandad has passed away, leaving her the aforementioned ancestral home, which turns out to literally be a cabin in the woods; a nice cabin, though. It’s a familiar setup we have all seen countless times before, but what makes Demigod interesting is the villains. Demigod takes its title from the Celtic entity Cernunnos, a subject explored few times, if any, in previous Horror films. This nature God has its own agenda and servants, and they don’t bode well for our protagonists.

Unfortunately, the critical villain department is where Demigod falls flat. Nichols and Myles are both good actors, but the same can’t be said of the servants of Cernunnos, a small group of witches and a large, brutish enforcer. Their dialogue is less than good, as is their delivery, and it brings any momentum the story has to a halt whenever they’re on screen. This is perhaps the biggest problem the film has.

Demigod still

It’s not only the villains’ screen presence that bring the story down, but the narrative choice of separating Robin and Leo about halfway through the film is a mistake that it never recovers from. Their chemistry and story are the best things about Demigod, but once that is gone, the flimsy agency of the villains is exposed and isn’t enough to fill the void it leaves. This despite solid performances from the lead couple, who are about the only ones who feel tangible.

There is also the problem of an overall lack of dread or foreboding that should be present throughout a story like this. There’s just not enough emotional or psychological punch behind what the story sets up. Cernunnos himself ends up being less terrifying and a good deal more mouthy than anyone would expect him to be. While he’s not as bad as his servants, he still doesn’t possess the sense of awe that a being of his kind ought to. From the second act until the end, there is a constant feeling that things should have a heavier impact than they do. 

Demigod is directed by Miles Doleac (The Hollow 2016, The Dinner Party 2020), who also co-wrote and stars as a supporting character, Arthur, a hunter and single father who lives in the wilderness with his young daughter. Arthur is the only other solid character in the story, and Doleac is good in the role. He is actually scarier than Cernunnos in his own way. Doleac makes the most of a clearly limited budget, and aside from one quick, ill-advised shot of Cernunnos fighting like a character in a bad made-for-TV movie, does a commendable job behind the camera. He is a director who knows how to work around limitations, and makes things feel more vast than they really are. It’s a shame the story isn’t up to par to support his efforts enough to recommend the film. 

Demigod still

Overall, Demigod falls victim to the old adage of ‘the villains make or break the story.’ Despite strong lead characters and actors, and a clever director who provides good support on and off screen, the underwhelming villains and questionable narrative choices take the legs out from under whatever was built up. It was a good premise, but misses the mark in some of the places it needed to hit. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Demigod 2 out of 5 stars. 

Gravitas Ventures

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Roger MaléspinAuthor posts

Roger is a Writer and Editor born and raised in New York City. A lifelong bibliophile, he spends most of his time delving into stories or honing his craft. When not flexing the pen, he can be found in any number of bars and coffee shops around New York, drawing inspiration from the kaleidoscope of stories and experiences that make up the greatest city in the world. His love of the written word is nearly matched by his affinity for Horror movies, and he can quote from the classics up to today's films. Holding strong convictions rooted deep in the religion of Metal, do not be surprised if you run into him, literally, in a circle pit during a Metal show somewhere in the city.

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