Shudder Secrets: Sorry about the Demon Explained
Horror comedies are tough to get right. For every Shaun of the Dead, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, and more recently, the two Scare Package films, there are plenty of duds. It’s challenging to strike the right tone and not allow either genre to overwhelm the other. Yet, if there’s a trend to horror in 2023 thus far, it’s that horror has become, well, fun again. Just look at the box office success of M3GAN as an example. It’s too early to tell if this is a reaction against the “elevated horror” trend of the last few years (I hate that term), but Shudder’s latest, Sorry about the Demon, is a near-pitch-perfect horror comedy.
The feature’s 30-year-old writer/director, Emily Hagins, has been making movies since she was a pre-teen. Yes, you read that correctly. Her first film, Pathogen, premiered in 2006. More recently, she’s done work on the V/H/S TV mini-series and Scare Package. Sorry about the Demon demonstrates the skill of a filmmaker who really knows her stuff. The feature has some generally creepy moments, all while hitting the right comedic beats. It’s a strong and entertaining movie.
Sorry about the Demon’s Everyman
Produced by Aaron B. Koontz and Cameron Burns, two of the guys behind the Scare Package films, Sorry about the Demon stars Jon Michael Simpson as Will, an incredibly relatable character who’s heartbroken because the love of his life, Amy (Paige Evans), dumped him. You see, Amy is going places and recently obtained a promotion. Will, however, is a 27-year-old who works a minimum-wage customer service job for a toothpaste company. He’s not initially the best boyfriend, either. For instance, moments before ending the relationship, Amy asks Will why he didn’t attend her celebratory dinner. He doesn’t exactly have a good excuse, and instead of actually listening to her, he bakes cake pops for her, all while wearing a headset and taking customer service calls at 1 am.
That said, Will is relatable because he’s a generally nice guy, even if he doesn’t realize at first how he messed up the relationship. Further, you must feel a little sympathy for him because his life isn’t moving forward. While Amy receives a promotion, Will seems stuck in the same dead-end job with no clear plans for his future. Most of us have at least been in a relationship where it feels like the other person is changing and pulling away, be it due to their career or something else. To add, Simpson does an adequate job in the role to sell his character, endowing him with an “ah shucks” kind of vibe that makes you feel for the guy. Again, he generally comes across as a friendly and compassionate dude who just needs a kick in the rear to get his life on track and to pay attention to Amy’s needs.
Sorry about The Demon Isn’t Your Typical Possession Movie
Sorry about the Demon’s first sequence very much feels like a cold open, something that you’d see in an anthology horror film, but it sets up the rest of the film well. Parents Ken (Dave Peniuk) and Tammy (Sarah Cleveland) Sellers make a deal with the demon Deomonous to spare their daughter Grace (Presley Allard) from eternal damnation. In return, the demon, voiced in hair-raising fashion by Tony Vespe, demands a human sacrifice.
This is where Will comes in. The Sellers rent him the house hoping the hellspawn will take his soul, thus saving their daughter. However, because Will’s such a loser, the demon passes on him and tries to possess everyone he brings into the house. This includes his childhood friend, Patrick, played by Jeff McQuitty, and his romantic interest/co-worker/exorcist-in-training, Aimee, played by Olivia Ducayen. Together, the trio forms a rag-tag sort of group that works to expel the evil.
Not only do the comedic beats continually work well in the film, but so do the scares. Hagins understands restraint. There are no pea soup moments here. There are, however, a few genuine frights, like when one of the two ghost children occupying the house can be seen in a mirror as Will works out. Likewise, there are no long, drawn-out exorcism scenes in the last act, either. This makes the feature that much better. Hagins understands that sometimes, more is less. It’s what separates her film from the countless run-of-the-mill exorcism/possession films out there. Vespe’s voice work is also chilling and mirrors that gravely pitch of Pazuzu that possessed Regan (Linda Blair).
Sorry about the Demon as a Perfect Valentine’s Day Movie
With Valentine’s Day inching closer, Sorry about the Demon could also work as a perfect date night movie, at least if you’re partner is into horror comedies. Ultimately, beneath all the ghost and possession stuff, the feature is about a guy trying to win back his lady. As the story unfolds, you’ll want Will and Amy to get back together, but it’s also nice to see Will’s character evolve to the point he understands people do change. Scares and jokes aside, Sorry about the Demon is a movie about a relationship and the way that two people change as the relationship progresses, which poses its own challenges. This is what Will slowly starts to understand. While Amy advances in her career, he’s trapped in the past, to the point he lives in a house with 90s relics, like a cassette player and old TV that he uses to watch VHS tapes of 90s teen soap operas.
Sorry about the Demon possesses Shudder on January 19. It’s a perfect blend of horror and comedy with much heart. I can’t wait to see what Hagins does next. Keep up to date on the streaming service’s latest originals and exclusives by following my Shudder Secrets column.
Brian Fanelli is a poet and educator who also enjoys writing about the horror genre. His work has been published in The LA Times, World Literature Today, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Horror Homeroom, and elsewhere. On weekends, he enjoys going to the local drive-in theater with his wife or curling up on the couch, and binge-watching movies with their cat, Giselle.