Morbidly Beautiful

Your Home for Horror


Though “3 Demons” is competently made, it lacks the originality or story depth to stand out from a crowded field of supernatural horrors.

When we first meet sheriff’s deputy James Fisher (co-screenwriter Peter Tell), he’s a far cry from the well-meaning, if slightly bumbling, lawman he used to be. Relaying his ordeal to psychiatrist Dr. Sawyer (Sherryl Despres), he’s cold, haunted, and frightening, his eyes betraying the horror he’s witnessed.

But I suppose, if you or I had gone through what he goes through over the course of D.M. Cunningham’s 3 Demons, we’d probably act quite differently as well. 

The film mostly unfolds in flashback, as Fisher tells his story in the leadup to a criminal trial; it’s clear from the outset that whatever happened, he’s on the hook for it.

And honestly, it looks pretty bad for him. Fisher and his partner, Sheriff Winters (Haley Heslip), respond to the discovery of a dead body at a cabin in the woods, killed in the middle of what appears to be some kind of ritual. Tasked with guarding the body until the family can come to collect it, Winters quickly has to respond to another call, leaving Fisher alone with the corpse, stranding him without a vehicle after taking the pair’s patrol car.

What seems like an easy — maybe even a bit boring — mission quickly turns into anything but as Fisher discovers strange books and scrolls in the decedent’s car, inadvertently completing the ritual and unleashing a demonic force.

From there, Cunningham keeps us constantly unmoored.

We’re locked in Fisher’s unreliable point of view as he experiences lapses in time, strange visions, and images of his dead wife and daughter, a tragedy he hasn’t begun to process. Not to mention the titular demonic entities, which exert control over his psyche, compelling him to “keep digging.”

3 Demonstechnical elements are impressive, considering the film’s low budget.

Keith Golinski’s cinematography is sharp and evocative, lending menace to the woods surrounding the cabin. And Cunningham’s editing is effectively disorienting, abruptly cutting from one location to another, continually making us question what’s really going on.

The performances are also worth mentioning, particularly Tell’s; he has to carry practically the entire film, and he does an excellent job, lending Fisher a strong sense of pathos. 

Sadly, while there are some solid filmmaking chops on display, 3 Demons is ultimately let down by its story.

It feels a bit thin on the bone, with too many elements that feel overly familiar and aren’t utilized in a novel way. Creepy cabin in the woods? Check. Evidence of occult rituals? Check. A protagonist whose immense grief makes him a prime target for demonic influence? Check.

The basic premise calls to mind one of the most famous indie horror films of all time, Evil Dead, though without the sense of gonzo ingenuity.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with using well-worn elements; horror is one of the more self-reflexive genres out there. But there isn’t enough here that makes those familiar aspects feel fresh. 

The structure starts to feel repetitive after a while, essentially moving from one fake-out to another as the demons worm their way past Fisher’s defenses.

Even apart from these issues, the action is kicked off by a couple of staggering breaches of proper crime scene procedure that feel so irresponsible it’s hard to buy even an in-over-his-head deputy like Fisher would commit them, which strains credibility from the outset.

Granted, I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to reposition the body and dig through the deceased’s car all willy-nilly, but maybe they do it differently in small towns. 

It brings me no joy to give less than stellar marks to a film made in my home state of Michigan, but alas, I can’t give 3 Demons special treatment for that.

Every indie horror movie is a labor of love. And one quick look through the credits at the number of roles played by Cunningham, Tell, and others make it clear this one is no different. 3 Demons has much potential but sadly misses the mark in its storytelling.

That said, I’d be eager to see what else this crew could come up with, possibly with more resources and a stronger script.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 2.5

Leave a Reply

Allowed tags:  you may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="">, <strong>, <em>, <h1>, <h2>, <h3>
Please note:  all comments go through moderation.
Overall Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.