The documentary takes viewers inside the Gary, Indiana "Demon House” where former residents claimed to have experienced supernatural occurrences such as physical contact, possessions, and levitation.
Back in Chicago, I used to work for a theatre company which was housed in an old building, complete with a cobweb-filled basement (which had its entry from the outside in a typical city alley). The stairs were rickety and old and this is where all of the larger props and set pieces were stored. You actually had to reach your hand down to just below the first step – to flick the light switch.
It became an ongoing joke that by calling out the phrase, “devil in the basement” in a certain sing-song manner – that you would be cleared for entry.
This story came to mind as I was finishing up my screening of the new documentary Demon House, directed by Zak Bagans (star of the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures). For you see, Devil in the Basement could have easily worked as a very apt title.
There’s a house in an urban neighborhood of Gary, Indiana – which has had some problems with alleged hauntings, possessions and real-life exorcisms. To get to the bottom of this, investigator Bagans buys the house sight unseen and starts digging. Per his own account, what he finds “fucked him up”.
My biggest problems with the film, were some of the reenactments. They’re pretty bad. Thankfully, as the film progresses, these Unsolved Mysteries-esque “flashbacks” start to thin out. All of the actors in these re-creations lack a little in the “genuine” categories, and so they stand out like a sore thumb. In this case, sticking to the real people and their tall tales – makes for a much better (and more uneasy) movie-going experience.
However, there is the extra footage of a “goat-man” creature which Bagans once saw in a dream – and this monster is creepy as hell! So that stuff certainly pushed the right buttons!
Whether or not all of this is real – well, that’s up for debate. But this film is quite effective in getting under your skin. Chances are I’ll be a little paranoid/frightened when I have to make my way across the hall to the bathroom in the middle of the night to take a leak. And that tells me that the film succeeded on the most important of levels… it freaked me out.
I’ve not seen any of Bagan’s Ghost Adventure episodes, so I can’t really judge on anything but this film. I found his screen presence to be a little blah – and at times, his personality (as shown in this film) to be somewhat grating.
The film’s final moments – once the investigation is basically complete – finds Bagans alone in the house for one long night. And what makes this sequence so engaging, is its simplicity. There are no reenactments, no super fancy editing (the film’s overall editing is great) and no score to try to drum up some extra emotions (namely: fear).
I was quite intrigued by some of the more “scientific” investigations going on – like the man who said the house was filled with mold, and that certain areas of the house had carbon monoxide emitting from the walls. And upon the reveal of these situations, Bagans asks the professional if that could make someone feel euphoric or make them see things? The answer was “yes”. I think this could have been an interesting tangent for the film to take. It’s obviously not as flashy as a search for ghosts (let’s talk about carbon monoxide poisoning kids!), but it’s still interesting – just for the fact that these things can make people go a little bonkers.
What’s also impressive about the film is all of the real news reports (from places like Inside Edition) about the long history of this house and the disturbances contained therein. It’s a nice way to add some cache to the film’s story – certainly pushing the lingering question of, “Is this real?”
A bit of a SPOILER in the next paragraph – because I feel this needs to be discussed. So take heed of my warning!
There is a moment in the film’s climax, which makes me ask that same question, “Is it real?” again. As I mentioned above, Bagans is alone in the home and he’s filming with what appears to be a Go-Pro – and this is all edited with the security-cam footage from all over the house. And just as something actually “happens”, the focus on his little handheld shifts – letting us see the foreground with great clarity – as something of importance apparently takes precedence in the background. Unfortunate timing, or is something being hidden there, i.e. something fake?
This moment just really calls into question how much of this is true. Too convenient for my tastes.
I’ve never had an experience in my life – something to truly confirm to me and my own mind – that there is the presence of another side… something which I can’t quite understand. I welcome such an event, as I do think in my heart of hearts – that ghosts and demons and a spirit realm – exist.
And although this film was certainly enjoyable, wonderfully scary and nicely edited – I don’t think it makes the ultimate grade as the “proof” I so desperately wish I could find.
But I do highly recommend it for an evening screening – if for any reason – but to test your gumption at viewing such material right before bedtime. It’s a gamble, but a fun one for sure.
Rent Devil in the Basement (excuse me, Demon House) and get your scary-groove on.
And a fun bit of trivia – there’s a conversation from a big-wig Hollywood executive, who contacts Bagans (the film hides the executive’s identity) about not moving ahead on his documentary surrounding the family at the investigation’s center – because this production company wants dibs to make a fictionalized account of the haunting.
For those who have seen the film, what production company do you think it was? I have zero proof and therefore am not looking to be sued, but my fun guess? Let’s just say it has “house” in the name.
But the world may never know…
Demon House is now available on select VOD outlets and on Digital HD.