Friday, August 12, 2016


Felix, a bright ten year old boy, absorbs pretty much everything around him in his quiet outer neighbourhood of Montreal and it makes him worry. His observations of his father's intimacy a female family friend stop short of anything damning but not knowing all of it only makes it worse. He worries about his own sexuality as he puts a more gullible boy through an increasingly edgy role play game. He worries that that experience might have given him AIDS. Worse, the boy he played that game with (and who is subjected to a cruel prank later) is abducted, raped and murdered by a local paedophile and is haunted by the boy's gaze in the dark of his room at night. The demons of the title are made of this.

And so on. Woven through this are scenes of genuine warmth and others of astutely observed behaviour with the sense of a continuum between childhood and adulthood increasingly evident. There is real energy at work to this. One scene involves Felix and his two siblings physically coming between their parents during a severe shouting match which travels from room to room until collapsing in a believable group hug of regret and exhaustion. It's not just the impressive choreography involved and the expert lensing but the question that arises in the viewer about what he or she would have done as a child in that situation. The paedophile's seduction of the boy is appropriately nauseating as it begins to take and the predator's power engorges.

But that's what this film cannot transcend, a group of serious and impressively managed scenes that hit their targets before flatly moving on to the next. There is an overall arc which ends in a poignant moment of affirmation but it left me shrugging. Why? Because this is cover version of early Michael Haneke. One take scenes, often with ostensibly neutral setups, sudden and puzzling use of sourced music, and the overall sense that the chief motivation for every action is pain. I'm not a fan of Haneke but I appreciate the effort he puts into adding real weight to his pieces, building dread with great competence. Here we have dread-shaped Lego blocks arranged in an appealing diorama. But it's still just Lego and we indulge it, perhaps even admire the skill involved. The problem is that where once it was just blocks, Lego developed into a vastly enabling library of figures and movable parts so that we expect the slickness. And the hobby kit arms race just promises greater authenticity while really only delivering more plastic lookalikes. Like this.

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