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Neill Blomkamp's Horror 'Demonic' Inspired by Volumetric Capture


Neill Blomkamp is a name synonymous with the groundbreaking District 9. It's hard to believe that it's been over a decade since his South African sci-fi thriller earned a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards. Since then, Blomkamp has directed Elysium, Chappie and a host of short films under his Oats Studios initiative. Being attached to the Alien and then RoboCop reboots, there have been some rather exciting possibilities, which has unfortunately created more news than credits for the visionary sci-fi director.

His latest move is into the realm of supernatural horror and science fiction with Demonic, which was filmed secretly in British Columbia over the course of the 2020 pandemic. Influenced by the pandemic, which put Blomkamp's other projects on hold, he wanted to do something he could control and "just go out and shoot". Blomkamp decided to delve into horror with a typically sci-fi idea involving around volumetric capture and demon possession. The story revolves around an unconventional reunion between a daughter and her estranged convict mother when they become part of a medical tech firm's experimental therapy treatment.

Starring Carly Pope and Nathalie Boltt, as Carly and her mass murderer mother Angela, Demonic follows an attempt to tap into a mother's still-active brain in order to communicate after she falls into a coma. Entering a disturbing simulation, where Carly is confronted by her comatose mother's mind - she soon discovers that the grisly acts of violence her mother carried out were the result of supernatural forces.

The concept behind this visually-inventive film recalls The Cell with Jennifer Lopez allowing Carly to walk inside Angela's mind through a virtual reality that creates some engaging dreamscapes. Blomkamp wasn't going for full-blown science fiction but running with his fascination between "the brain as a computational device" and the potential for it to be "connected to other sources". Using a new technology called volumetric capture or 3D video, where actors are turned into geometry, a over 200 cameras are arranged to form a grid so they capture actors from all points of view.

Working closely with his DOP, Byron Kopman, the two discussed the lighting... moving away from the propensity for horror films to make "dark environments feel overly lit and synthetic". Opting to go for scenes with the goal of getting a real feel with as little light as possible, the filmmakers tended toward illuminating scenes with only headlights and flashlights instead of the cliché of what he calls "giant moonlight with smoke going through the air".

Leaning into the technology space, Blomkamp turned to acclaimed composer, Ola Strandh, who's best known for his video game scores. Blomkamp finds music to be a "wealth of inspiration" and makes sure to take note of new artists he admires, which is how the two formed the collaboration.

While Demonic's praised for being bold and visually-inventive, Blomkamp's low budget supernatural horror thriller has been met with mostly negative reviews so far.