Produced by the same team that created the successful post-apocalyptic film ‘Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead’ in 2014, brother duo Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner have released ‘Daemonrunner’, a short film that packs more punch than your average sci-fi and horror feature film. 

(Please note, this review will mention spoilers and personal theories about the creation process. We recommend you watch the short film before you read!)

Let’s face it, if the Ghostbusters reboot had been this spectacular, maybe die hard fans of the original movie wouldn’t have minded the gender-swap. The Ghostbusters inspired short film does everything in its power to leave the viewer sitting on the edge of his or her seat. The visuals and sound effects are stunning and the creature designs are down right terrifying.

The story follows a small group of badass female ghost hunters in a depilated city overrun by demons. If that weren’t scary enough, these supernatural forces have evolved with the times and hold the abilities to travel through electricity and any hand held electronic device. I.e., your smartphone. Long story short, one stray demon manages to transport itself through an unsuspecting woman’s phone and possesses her through her lock screen. In a series of confronting shots, the now demonised woman spider-crawls her way through her apartment like something from the ‘Exorcist’, and violently kills her boyfriend by ripping out his tongue. I could tell you what happens next, but then I’d be spoiling it! After four minutes of sumptuous sci-fi horror goodness, viewers are cruelly left with a cliff hanger, leaving us wanting more.

For the past few years, sci-fi and horror films have been the go-to choice in cinemas. TV and film fanatics alike have wondered how these two genres can work together so well. If I could give the perfect representation of this co-existing relationship, ‘Daemonrunner’ would be at the top of my list. It felt more like a preview to a feature length film than a short. But, what makes this short film so special compared to the other sci-fi/horror films out there?

Let’s take a step back into history for a moment.

Since the early 19th century, science has been paired with horror and is still is a popular trope in fiction writing. Take Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for example. Throughout history, scientific knowledge has garnered a reputation for dealing with the ‘unknown’. When people wish to acquire and discover new findings, these ideas can become potential catalysts to fear. In fiction novels, science is often linked to dangerous situations such as death, future events, disease, you name it. This concept alone is terrifying in itself. There is also the theory that if you base an event on scientific evidence, it gives it a sense of realism, therefore making a plot line more believable. Throw in the tendency to irrationalise scientific evidence and you get the perfect sci-fi horror story, which is Daemonrunner.

Daemonrunner ticks several boxes in terms of overall narrative and effects. Money was obviously not a production issue as visual and sound design is spectacular. I’m glad they threw in a little extra because it made the short more believable than most indie films.

What’s interesting is how the Roache-Turner duo approached these matrix level visual effects. Instead of using special effects to replicate the supernatural, they become a tool to help viewers distinguish how these demons and ghouls are projecting themselves onto unsuspecting citizens. What makes this even more terrifying is how the scientific elements are being represented literally. The creators make use of technology that is familiar to us, like electrical charges and smartphones. From what viewers gathered from the opening scenes, these ghosts appear intelligent. If they have the ability to manipulate technology for their own benefit, then these ghosts have evolved somehow. Freaky!

The narrative was something I also found extremely well done. The throwback to Ghostbusters and the Matrix was a nice touch too! You can read full interview about their inspiration here. Personally, I thought the use of ’cause and effect’ made a successful and streamline narrative, but left enough room for interpretation. From the get go, viewers are given how, when, what, why etc. We know what the heroines’ mission is just based on their costumes and the gear they use. By sticking to one underlying theme, we become aware of the main antagonists and their affect over other characters. What I thought the most successful with the narrative is that the theme of technology isn’t thrown into your face. The simplest things, like a technical glitch becomes the unforeseen harbinger of horror. Props to the creators for great writing!

According to the Roache-Turner brothers, they are more focused on further developing their Wyrmwood franchise. However, the duo also shared the possibility of expanding the Daemonrunner universe and informed fans to ‘Watch their space’.

Article and review by Jasmine Cottan

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