Is there really something evil inhabiting this eerie house in Gary, Indiana? Demon House investigates the evidence…
**A screener was provided for the purposes of this review.**
Written by Maisie Williams
From TV presenter and paranormal investigator Zak Bagans, this film-length documentary follows him as he investigates the notorious ‘Demon House’, a regular suburban property in the small town of Gary, Indiana, that is claimed to house around 200 demons and was part of a media sensation. Filmed mostly in 2014, Bagans and his crew follow up on claims that the house was affecting its ex-residents and visitors like a disease, causing strange and seemingly random behaviour or devastating acts to happen from or to its supposed victims. Described as being a ‘portal to hell’ by neighbouring residents, Bagans follows up on the reported experiences of ex-residents the Ammans family, as well as interviewing local police officers, priests and other ex-residents who had lived at the house over the years.
The Ammans family claimed that their three young children expressed behaviour similar to that of demonic possession, including speaking in Latin, their eyes rolling to the back of their heads, aggressive outbursts, violent and random attempts at self-harm, and even boldly stating that the youngest son walked backwards up a wall once when admitted to hospital. Leading up to these harrowing events in April, 2012 the mother, Latoya Ammans, claimed that strange goings-on had been happening in the house including lights flickering, hearing footsteps, stairs creaking and flies swarming around the property.
The film includes rather tropey visuals of crucifixes, deserted suburban areas, biblical imagery of angels and demons – even a costumed man appearing in doorways and hotel corridors as a large goat-like man demon with twisted horns that Bagans claimed appeared in his dreams before hearing the news break the story of the Demon House, and which later one of the ‘possessed’ crew members describes seeing. All this creates an unsettling and creepy tone that would appeal greatly to the fans of the horror genre, and whilst adding something different to a documentary film this does conform heavily to the cliched conventions of ghost-hunting TV shows.
Although the viewer will come to understand that Bagans is a true believer of the paranormal, it’s interesting to see him question whether the claims of demonic activity made by members of the Ammans family are legitimate or part of a money-grabbing hoax, as many had suggested. However, over the duration of the film, Bagans and his team find very little evidence to support this either way. Another frustrating element of this documentary is the use of the telling of events rather than showing, which at a point becomes rather ridiculous as Bagans describes events that happened to people who had spent a period of time in the house off camera. If multiple cameras are rolling to try and capture evidence of demons being present, why do all these strange phenomena occur when no one is filming?
Bagans also tries to suggest that the accidents and illnesses experienced by individuals who had previously visited the house, such as a home investigator developing cancer, are due to them coming into contact with demons present there. These bold statements caused me to roll my eyes and even laugh at the absurdity of these remarks. Especially when Bagans stated that evil spreading out from a possessed area can have negative impacts on the locality, hence the high poverty and crime rates in Gary town, which shows a complete ignorant disregard for the socio-economic factors at play.
The film builds to the climax of Bagans boarding himself up in the house with CCTV and a camcorder overnight in an attempt to confront this demon. Adopting well-known tactics such as shaky footage and night-vision lenses, we see no hard evidence of a demon, despite Bagans clearly showing that he is being somewhat physically affected by staying inside the house. Whilst somewhat entertaining by providing some debatably convincing evidence from the retelling of individual’s experiences with the house, the film takes itself far too seriously in places, sometimes coming across as pretentious.
At a time where shows like popular YouTube series Buzzfeed Unsolved and The CW’s Supernatural are available, it seems as though this film does try hard to appeal to a niche group that truly believe that these occurrings are connected to a form of biblical evil. Ultimately, it’s up to individual viewers to decide whether they want to believe whether the supernatural events happening within the Demon House are real or not.
Demon House is available on VOD and in theatres from March 16th.