The backwoods of Europe never really fare well for American folk. You’d think a secluded location and a creepy backstory would be enough of a red flag to tail it on out of there, but then we really wouldn’t have too many horror movies, so said American folk, Robin (Rachel Nichols) and Leo (Yohance Myles), stay put in their German surroundings in Demigod, a folklore-cum-survivalist horror film from the twisted psyche of Mile Doleac.
The reason for their visit to Robin’s family’s horror-appropriate cabin is to pay respect following the death of her grandfather (played in flashbacks by Jeremy London). It seems granddaddy dearest had his unnerving quirks though, so much so that Robin and her father left Germany when she was a young child and hadn’t returned since. Explorations of the cabin lead to Robin explaining his unique way of living off the land, setting the nightmarish scene that will befall Leo and herself on their first evening when they are ambushed and held captive by a dangerous cult.
Though folklore is very much at the film’s centre, Doleac – who serves as writer, director, and co-star – wisely doesn’t weight the film down with overt exposition. Instead there’s a hunter/prey temperament adopted that allows the film to clue its audience in on the mythology behind the cult figures whilst simultaneously indulging in the blood and gore effects that genre fiends respond to. The titular Demigod admittedly doesn’t appear as terrifying as one may hope though, but what it lacks in aesthetics it makes up for in sheer brutality.
Whilst the Demigod being and the various other witch-like archetypes that delight in carrying out his vicious biddings are very much framed as the film’s villains, Doleac’s script enjoys shading the rest of his characters in strokes of grey. Robin and Leo are presented as the film’s heroes – Leo, especially – but the connected background of Robin to the German forests adds a layer of emotionality that assists in her character perhaps not being as purely upstanding as we expect; Nichols’ own vulnerability proving an asset in aiding her performance. Similarly, Doleac supplies himself with one of the film’s more interesting support characters, starring as a German woodsman who will go to great lengths to save himself and his daughter – even if it’s at the expense of those he vows to protect.
Whilst there’s hardly any boundaries broken overall, Demigod‘s simplistic story only serves its bloodlust stronger. Though there a slew of lesser performances amongst the ensemble, Doleac’s unpredictable nature and Nichols’ continued dominance as a genre staple equally assist the film’s gory nature, resulting in a neat horror effort that feels more at ease within Doleac’s wheelhouse than his previous titles have afforded him.
Demigod is screening in select theatres across the United States and available on Digital Platforms from October 15th, 2021. An Australian release date is yet to be determined.