Attack of the Demons
2020, NR, 75 min. Directed by Eric Power. Voices by Katie Maguire, Thomas Petersen, Andreas Petersen, Eric Power, August Sargenti.
REVIEWED By Matthew Monagle, Fri., Oct. 30, 2020
Horror and animation have always possessed near-untapped potential. While an R-rated animated feature may be something of a tough sell, animation is a medium that has the power to dramatically translate nightmarish imagery – and explicit violence – to screens across the world. So it’s hard not to be curious about Attack of the Demons, the second animated feature from Austin-based artist Eric Power.
The year is 1994, and horror fan Kevin (Thomas Petersen) is enjoying his favorite holiday. Each year, Barrington, Colorado, becomes home to a Halloween film and music festival. People come from across the country to hear bands play, and Kevin is soon joined by former high school acquaintances Jeff (scriptwriter Andreas Petersen) and Natalie (Maguire) as they find themselves back home for the weekend. But just as the three begin to settle in for an enjoyable weekend, the town of Barrington is suddenly overrun by demons in search of their master. If the trio is not careful, they may find their souls forfeit and the world overrun.
For more than a decade, Power has carved out his niche as a purveyor of cutout animation. From features to commercial videos, each project stands as a labor of love, with countless animation hours visible on the screen. In its best moments, Attack of the Demons is a testament to the power of this lo-fi filmmaking. The film shines brightest when Power can replicate lo-fi horror concepts with his layered style of animation. Band posters, arcade consoles, and the vibrant Seventies-esque colors of an Italian horror film are ever more present because of the film’s analog animation style. In one standout sequence, each of the main characters spends a quiet moment with their entertainment of choice, a nice nod to anyone who has cared about something enough to enjoy it alone.
Certainly, as a showcase for Power’s work, the film is impressive. But no animated feature, no matter how creative its approach, can be judged on production values alone. Much like the low-budget horror films Power seeks to emulate, Attack of the Demons fails to translate its practical concepts into a compelling feature. From the amateur quality of the voice actors – each performer trying much too hard to adopt an air of disaffected youth – to the clunky storyline, Power’s film unironically shares many of the same issues found in its live-action predecessors. While the creature design and endless “cardgored” residents of Barrington will certainly appeal to a certain caliber of horror fan, this is certainly more concept than composition.
Attack of the Demons proves that there is certainly value in a feature-length film shot with cutout animation. In its use of texture and its recreation of beloved pop culture items, Power’s film is a fascinating slice of Nineties nostalgia viewed through a cardboard lens. But when the bodies hit the floor, you will wish for a little three-dimensional storytelling in this two-dimensional world.
Attack of the Demons will be conjured up in Virtual Cinemas starting Oct. 30, and then you can possess it on DVD or digitally starting Nov. 3.