'Demon House': Film Review

Courtesy of Freestyle Digital Media
A scary story, but not helped by fright-flick FX.
3/16/2018

Zak Bagans, of TV's 'Ghost Adventures,' tells the story of the haunted house that messed him up.

A professional ghost-hunter buys a house said to be a portal to Hell in Demon House, a feature-length spinoff of cable TV's Ghost Adventures series. Hoping to get to the bottom of the "Ammons House" lore — and to capture any proof of a haunting on camera — Zak Bagans reports he got more than he bargained for. Or as he puts it, "This is the case that really fucked me up." Though the story itself contains enough to intrigue a skeptic, Bagans' tendency to tart things up with horror-movie techniques makes this a movie to scare true believers, not win new ones over. It should fare much better on small screens than in theaters.

Harking back to the days when celluloid showmen would promote their wares by, say, taking out insurance policies lest any audience member should die of fright, Demon House begins with a warning that may actually be sincere. It warns, among other things, that "demonologists believe that demons can attach themselves to you through other people, objects and electronic devices." So "view at your own risk."

In his grimly serious Midwestern accent, Bagans prefaces the story by telling us of a dream he had, in which he was visited by a 12-foot-tall goat-man who breathed black smoke in his face. He woke up with sore lungs, and in the events to come, others will mention similar figures without knowing of Bagans' dream. Spoooooky.

Immediately after that, he heard of the house in Gary, Indiana, where Latoya Ammons and her family claim to have experienced all sorts of haunted-house phenomena. Bagans bought the place sight unseen, and got his crew together to go investigate.

By now Ammons has relocated to Indianapolis, and won't talk to Bagans for fear that he, having just visited the house, might have brought ghosts he'll unwittingly transfer to her new home. An uncle tells part of the story he says he witnessed, and Bagans offers some pretty low-rent reenactments.

Our first few interviewees don't inspire a great deal of confidence, partly because of the film's goofy presentation. But an increasing number of outside observers back the family's account up — like the Child Protective Services caseworker who, meeting with the family in a hospital, watched a presumably possessed 9-year-old boy walk backwards up a wall to the ceiling.

Bagans takes a pause to explore the possibility of a hoax here, but quickly moves on to first-hand exploration of the house. Crewmembers behave erratically inside, and Bagans himself experiences a couple of outbursts of anger he can't explain. Then a cameraman goes seriously loopy, with aftereffects that last long after he has returned to the crew's hotel. As usual with this sort of ghost-hunter project, we meet men with sensors: Dr. Barry Taff gets lots of strange magnetic readings in the house. Taff, along with a slew of other people involved, will go on to have serious and verifiable health effects or accidents shortly after their visits.

Finally, Bagans does something he admits "sounds stupid": In order to "accelerate the situation," he screws plywood over all the windows, enters the house and has himself boarded in. He spends the night inside alone, and while nothing kills him, he comes out with enough weirdness to justify the effort.

None of the audio and video evidence seen here is so dramatic that a hardened disbeliever can't wave it away, but those who want to believe, will. Whether they'll think Bagans solved the problem when he finally demolished the problematic bungalow, who can say; but given that the place was infested with black mold and other non-supernatural problems, it almost certainly didn't hurt.

Production company: Scarecrow
Distributor: Freestyle Releasing
Director-screenwriter-executive producer: Zak Bagans
Producers: Michael Dorsey, Joseph Taglieri
Directors of photography: Chris Scarafile, Jay Wasley
Editors: Michael Dorsey, Uri Schwarz, Joseph Taglieri
Composer: Mimi Page

95 minutes

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