Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers and descriptions of a horror film. Read with caution.
Last year when promos for the IFC film Inner Demons came out, I did my usually “NOPE” and began to post the trailers without watching them. Demon possession stories are not my type of films and for the most part I manage to avoid them. Boredom and a complete need to briefly be lethargic on the coach lead me to giving the film a shot on Netflix.
The story of a straight-A student turned heroin addict, Inner Demons features a teenager named Carson who is undergoing treatment for drug addiction. Her parents sign her up to be a guest on a television intervention show to get her help and shame her into change. After a series of fairly standard shots, she tells one member of the camera crew that she is possessed by a demon and that the heroin is the only thing keeping it from taking her over. Entering rehab begins to heighten her symptoms, even though the doctors say the heroin should finally be out of her system. Only one member of the camera crew believes her possession tale, and he decides to take matters into his own hands.
Horror movie makers, can I please ask you a big favor? Stop with the jump scares. Having a demonic girl face jump out of a mirror is frightening momentarily, but it is far less terrifying than the after effects of imagining the horrors of demonic possession. Think of it like this; Dementors in Harry Potter and Ring Wraiths in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy were terrifying because underneath the cloaks we all imagined something far worse then what might have actually been there. Black contacts are great and all, but at this point many horror fans have watched 10 seasons of Supernatural and it’s no longer really that scary. The Exorcist is truly terrifying not because of pea soup vomit and head spins, but the fact that hours later when tucked under the covers, one begins to wonder if that could happen to them. In one particular scene in Inner Demons, the filmmakers cop out and show us footage of Carson’s friends “accidentally” practicing a ritual that lead to Carson’s possession. The scene is framed as teenagers playing a joke and comes across as both campy and loaded with jump scares. You know what would have been truly terrifying? Not seeing it. It would have been more scary to imagine that this possession just happened. Sure, then we might miss out on a whole five seconds of footage of Carson attacking her friend during an intervention, but that character really wasn’t doing it for us anyway.
The end of the film features a half-assed exorcism conducted by a Craigslist hire working on the intervention show. He somehow has a book with an exorcism ritual and comments that he would have to be on a waiting list for the Catholic church to do anything. Cool, except that we all realize within two seconds that the demon is going to wreck this plan. Add into all of this Carson going crazy, stabbing a bunch of people, and then having her father shoot her in the head before shooting himself and I found myself sighing and turning off the TV.
There are moments in Inner Demons that are legitimately scary. Carson freaking out in an Addiction and Recovery Facility and telling a fellow addict that “Tina is in hell” and then giving away all of the group’s darkest secrets was terrifying. Carson telling her mother while shooting heroin that she wants to slit her throat is shudder-worthy. These moments, no effects necessary, are the true brilliance in Inner Demons. I just wish there had been more of them.
Inner Demons is currently streaming on Netflix.