Demon Hunter Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Left Films
Directed by Zoe Kavanagh
Written by Tony Flynn and Zoe Kavanagh
2016, 86 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on June 12th, 2017
Niamh Hogan as Taryn
Alan Talbot as Beckett
Sarah Tapes Jenkinson as Kudrow
Kevin O'Malley as Ethan
What if Blade was a pale Irish woman with a thing for hoodies and facial piercings? The answer to the question nobody even thought to ask comes in the form of Demon Hunter, so it does, which swaps the glamour of the two Blade movies for a film which opens with a fight in a dingy alleyway and a head in a binbag.
And what if the very first thing we saw Blade do was get arrested and sit in a police station interrogation room, while less interesting tertiary characters take the spotlight? Why, that sounds like a terrible idea for a Blade movie. Like many a modern superhero movie, Demon Hunter scatters glimpses of its heroine’s origins between scenes set in her present, as it lays out its toybox. It’s an attempt at obscuring the fact that the so-called Demon Hunter spends over half of the movie sitting at a table (hey, Deadpool spent almost as long on a bridge, and everyone loved him) or locked in a cage. For a film about a famous demon hunter, there’s not a lot of demon hunting going on.
After her sister is kidnapped, raped and murdered by a demon, moody chav Taryn swears revenge, transforming into a moody Goth to become demon hunter and get the job done. A botched deal with the a devil gives Taryn supernatural powers and half of a demon soul trapped within her. Trained up by a team of allegedly expert demon hunters, Taryn is the only one who can hope to defeat the insidious Falstaff. But, with a script that snarls things like “what are you?”/”the thing that darkness fears” with a completely straight face, Shakespeare this ain’t.
But it is the low-budget Irish answer to Buffy the Vampire Slayer that nobody ever knew they needed either. While Niamh Hogan isn’t going to win any awards as Taryn, hers is a heroine that has sorely been missing from horror for a long time now: the capable badass. I’ve called her and the film out for ripping off Blade and Buffy, but at least they and writer/director Zoe Kavanagh are trying to fill a void. More power to them, and Taryn, too.
Its low budget will likely negate such a possibility, but Demon Hunter would lend itself well to minor franchisedom; it has an exciting, consistent mythology, an ambitious story and a strong, interesting lead character one could easily see in further adventures. That’s likely not to be though, as many will be put off by the low budget, horrendously wooden acting and the occasionally tedious fits and starts of the action. I really wanted to like Demon Hunter, but it takes itself far too seriously (man, that “thing that darkness fears” line) for too little return.
For all of its faults, Demon Hunter is a strong directorial debut with an ambition and punch sorely missing from horror pictures of this scale. For giving us a horror heroine that does more than scream and run away, it should be celebrated. For having the balls to set an action horror movie on the streets of Ireland, it should be celebrated. For not being Blade Tr*nity, it should be rewarded.