Demonology: the short that’s more than a short, and less than a feature. This would be the perfect filler for an hour-long segment on PBS during a pledge drive. Clocking in at 40 minutes would allow for ten-minute bumpers of begging for pledges before and after the film. And that’s just talking about the length; the film’s plot, style, pacing, and concept pleads for the intellectual audience of Public Broadcasting.
Filmed in silent film style, Demonology‘s plot of a corrupt doctor falling in love with an innocent girl perfectly matches the visual theme. A plague falls on the land, a sign of the end times for most; but the protagonist of the film, the doctor, sees it as an opportunity to line his pockets. The doctor dresses himself in plague-protecting gear and begins to prey on the weak and dying population. His grotesque mask protects him from the plague, while keeping him distant from the patients and world he interacts with. He must be alone to complete the scams he survives off of, resulting in him leaving an adorable little tyke all alone with his demonic dead floating grandmother in the opening scene. The doctor’s corruption knows no bounds–that is until he’s called to Castle Blackwell. There he meets a beautiful and naïve Marguerite. He lowers his guard and falls into the family drama that surrounds a sick little girl. Greed and love play out in this wonderful-looking castle.
The film uses new technology to perfectly recreate the silent era film feel. From the deep starry nights to the radio signals to the dramatic set pieces, it feels like a German Expressionism film. Taking the risk of making a black and white film is too much for some young filmmakers, and the idea of making a silent film would shock them back to film school orientation. This isn’t the case with Brian Gates; he takes a huge risk and the results are obvious. Creating such a flawless simulacrum is a feat that can only cement a creative and expressive vision in a young filmmaker. Demonology is a great film, but as rewarding as the film is, following the career of the filmmaker might be the real prize.
Tuesday, November 09, 9:30 PM @ Starz FilmCenter