The feature directorial debut from Irish filmmaker Zoe Kavanagh, Demon Hunter tells of Taryn (Niamh Hogan), a young woman whose sister is kidnapped and ritualistically sacrificed by members of a creepy demonic sect. Taryn joins forces with a gang of demon hunters to rid Dublin of the diabolical fiends, but when she is arrested for murder, the covert operation is at risk of exposure and she must convince a cynical cop of the existence of real evil before it is too late.
Despite its arguable status as a B-movie, Demon Hunter takes itself surprisingly seriously. While the occasional one-liner may raise a smile here and there, the tone Kavanagh seems most intent on conveying is one of darkness and dread. The screenplay creates an intriguing universe in which demons have walked amongst unwitting humans for centuries. This lore cries out for deeper exploration, for while it feels epic in its scope, the basic story and low budget tethers it to the perfunctory.
The slick cinematography however belies the low budget and there are a number of striking shots and visuals throughout. Sometimes Kavanagh’s preference to film action up close and personal detracts a little from proceedings, notably the scene in which a particularly nasty demon infiltrates a police station — mirroring similar moments in The Terminator and Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday — and violently slays the entire police force in a bid to reach Taryn. The scope of the action is stifled somewhat as it’s too tightly framed for it to feel as epic as it should.
With its compelling super(anti)hero protagonist (complete with tragic backstory), frenetically cut fight scenes, hordes of demonic entities and a narrative constructed around flashbacks, Demon Hunter echoes the likes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Blade, and possesses a strong comic book aesthetic. Whether she decides to continue and expand upon the story she started with Demon Hunter, or tackle something completely different, there’s no doubt that Zoe Kavanagh is a visually assured director to keep an eye on.
Sarah Tapes Jenkinson
12 Jun 2017