Inspired by this film, Judge David Johnson has decided to test the waters of the Demon Slaying career. Short haircut? Check. Black leather jacket? Check. That should be about it. Satan: Bring. It. On.
In the final war between Heaven and Hell, pray he's on your side.
You say Constantine didn't satiate your hunger for "loner-demon-slaying-curmudgeon action/horror films?" Thankfully, Anchor Bay's got your back.
Facts of the Case
Sean Patrick Flanery (Boondock Saints) is Jake Greyman, a demon-spawn half-breed mercenary for the Catholic Church; when something sinister lurks, Jake is the man they bring in to clean it up. A botched exorcism? He's there with his pointy-ended cross to bury it into the slime-spewing little bastard. A brethren demon spawn causing trouble? Bet on Jake to unleash his "Hell-fu" and beat the living sulfur out of the offending bloodsucker.
When Jake's latest job ends with a dead, formerly-possessed young girl and a slain priest, he travels to the local diocese to find out what's up. There, he and the Cardinal fearfully realize that there's something big at work, that a force more powerful than the usual grade-Z lower demons is forcing its will into the world.
Jake is paired with the naive, but earnest, Sister Sarah (Colleen Porch), a moralistic nun who sees redemption in the eyes of her short-fused partner. He, of course, is unwilling to accept that, and instead focuses on the diabolical scheme before them—that a fallen angel (one of the big-shot demons) is trying to spread his seed and raise up his own evil offspring to do his bidding on earth.
It falls to Jake and Sarah to defuse this ticking theological time bomb that could possible plunge the word, or at least L.A., into a battlefield between angels, demons, and, perhaps more dangerously, human beings who will surely flip out and start killing each other.
Demon Hunter is a short, supernatural procedural, with flashes of coolness intermingled with stretches of laugh-inducing crappiness. I tend to get a kick out of these "demons and angels" flicks (I was probably one of maybe six who really liked Constantine), so I went into this one with a moderate amount of expectations. An enigmatic bad-ass demon killer dressed in black that spouts off theological gobbledy-gook? Derivative, sure, but something I can get behind.
Well, that's the high point for the film, Flanery's Jake Greyman, who, despite the idiotic last name (Get it? Greyman, as in not black and white, but somewhere in between?), ends up being a pretty dope anti-hero. Flanery has charisma and brings it to this film, whether it deserves it or not. He can handle himself well in an action sequence, his haircut is cool, and when he starts with the dogmatic lectures, he manages to make them sound interesting.
Unfortunately, he's surrounded by characters and situations that range from clichéd to flat-out dumb. While Porch is decent as the wide-eyed helper nun, veteran Billy Drago hams it up something fierce as the big bad fallen angel. His helper, the Succubus (Tania Deighton), is just as over-the-top, but bolstered by stilted line-readings and some really bad "demon horn" makeup. William Bassett plays Cardinal White, the guy giving the orders to Jake, and it's obvious from the get-go that, yet again, we're dealing with a secretive Catholic cabal harboring dubious intents; what do you expect when the man is guarded by priests carrying handguns?!?
There are four genres playing together in this film: action, horror, erotic, and mystery. Of those, only the mystery portion really succeeds. A nice twist waits at the end, as Jake discovers the true nature of his mission, and on the way there, the plot brings him into some colorful locales and a few messy murder scenes. Secretive meetings between the Cardinal and his subordinates add to the suspense.
The action stuff is serviceable, hindered by some ill-timed slow-motion effects and blah fight choreography. Horror-wise, gore-hounds will surely be disappointed; the most blood-soaked parts of the film come when Jake discovers the corpses after the fact. Worse, when our hero is about to get his pointy-cross-stabbing on, the camera cuts away to a cheesy visual effect. Finally, the naughty bits—we're talking brief shots of pointless and surprisingly graphic sex, which all pretty much happen during one hallway sequence when Jake and Sarah are checking out demon HQ. It's less erotic and more "Hey were those two girls making out with each other? Rewind it dude!"
Not awful, but far from great, Demon Hunter, ironically, lives in a grey area of mediocrity and disposability.
This being Anchor Bay, you can count on a decent DVD treatment. The 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is crisp and clean and is supported by a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix. Writer Mitch Gould and actor Nancy Yoon deliver a feature commentary, highlighted by the duo's awkward discussion of Yoon's sex scene with Billy Drago in a crypt. "Demons Among Us" is an impressively robust making-of documentary that runs 44 minutes long, or, more than half as long as the entire film's runtime! For everything you've ever wanted to know about the behind-the-scenes of Demon Hunter, here you go.
Sean Patrick Flanery does his best, but in the end Demon Hunter is about as unremarkable as its generic name would suggest.
The accused is rapped on the wrists with a ruler by an ornery nun.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
• Commentary with Writer and Actor
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