There is an excellent movie somewhere within "That Demon Within" that never quite makes it out onto the screen. The plot of "That Demon Within" involves a cop who is starting to lose his mind. You see, this cop just saved a man's life at the last second. So, why would that trouble him? Well, the cop finds out after he saves the man that the man is the head of a gang that is terrorizing the city.
The cop finds out who the man he saved was in the least subtle way possible. Another cop walks up to him and starts yelling at him for saving a murderer's life. There is no question as to the morality of the situation in the mind of his fellow members of the police force. It is because of this that the cop is never able to take the time to think about whether he did the right thing. In terms of his job as a police officer, he is told without question that he has done something completely wrong.
This is what starts a crisis within the mind of the cop. He begins to wonder whether he has done something evil. He wonders if he has helped a murderer continue to kill. He wonders if he has done exactly what his job is not about: made his city less safe. Is he a criminal himself for what he has done? Is he no different than a member of the murderer's gang by helping him continue his life of crime?
We are first introduced to this cop in a shot where he appears to be sitting in an office. Then the camera moves back and bars, like those in a prison, are revealed. Is he in jail? Is he some kind of criminal? No, as the camera keeps moving back, you see he is simply in a small office with bars on the window. Still, it raises the question right away of whether he is someone who should be in a prison. Maybe, in a way, he already is. Jobs can be like that sometimes.
After he saves the criminal, the cop begins to have visions. These visions are disturbing to him and are very over-the-top for the viewer. This move is not subtle. The score, the imagery, and the dialogue all spell things out pretty clearly. There are many over-the-top effects, especially involving fire, that fill the movie. Some of these effects, like certain explosions, are pretty fake looking and make one appreciate the big budget computer generated imagery of movies in the United States. This particular Hong Kong movie just doesn't have the same quality of effects.
That said, I appreciate the effort taken in this movie to provide creative and over-the-top imagery. This is not a bland movie at all in terms of visuals. The effects are also not so bad you can't suspend disbelief and enjoy the images. Also, some effects look perfectly fine. All the visuals, fake looking or not, are pretty creative and cool to see.
This movie also features one of the most gloriously insane car crashes ever put to screen! It is for things like this that I think the movie works. "That Demon Within" is not shy in any sense of the word and ramps everything up to the highest levels. The result is a refreshing and entertaining experience.
Well, that's part of the experience of watching this movie. You may have noticed that during this review I have not mentioned the name of any of the characters in the film. That is partly due to me not remembering the names, partly due to not being in the right place to look them up, and partly on purpose. You see, the names of the characters didn't really register much in my head. I like to think this is intentional on the filmmakers' part in trying to make the cop seem even more similar to the criminal even though I don't really believe that is the case. Either way, I'll play along.
Really, not everything was clear to me in this movie, but in a paranoid psychological thriller I can actually welcome that to an extent. I don't think this is the most well-crafted movie ever made though. It definitely has a rough feel to it at times. Not everything flows perfectly. Mostly it gets its point across though.
The acting in the film is just as over-the-top at times as the visuals. Sometimes this is fine, but at other times it can be a little too cheesy and spells things out too much to take very seriously. There is also some kind of quote shown on screen at the end of the movie that felt like overkill in that it was something that was clearly shown throughout the movie without need to actually say it.
The end result of "That Demon Within" is a mixed bag. It certainly has some excellent ideas and some of those are turned into excellent movie moments. However, the movie does feel a little rough around the edges and not everything can be taken as seriously as it may have been intended.
"That Demon Within" is the type of foreign movie Hollywood should be remaking. It is not a masterpiece, but it has potential to become one. Somehow though, I am not sure that Hollywood would produce a movie as wildly over-the-top as this one and that just wouldn't be as good. "That Demon Within" may be flawed, but it has guts and imagery you won't find in a lot of other movies. Perhaps a wild movie like this one is best left untamed, flaws and all.