Animated horror is often only found in either anime series, such as Parasyte and Death Note, or children’s films, such as Coraline and Monster House. It is shocking that there aren’t more animated horror films, as the medium lends itself so well to horror as strange monsters and creatures can be more easily actualized onto the screen. Animation lends itself even better to body horror, where the human body can be warped and torn apart in even more demented ways. Director Eric Power fully taps into this potential with his animated horror feature, Attack of the Demons.
It is 1994 in Barrington, a small Colorado town known for their Halloween music festival. Hundreds of tourists flood the town, and with those tourists come a few cultists seeking humanity’s destruction. While cultists work to awaken a massive demon, three high school friends are reunited. Kevin, who has stayed in town, sees old classmate Jeff and tries to start a friendship. As they head to dinner together, they also run into another old classmate, Natalie, who’s attending the music festival. As they reconnect and reminisce, the cultist eventually gets access to a microphone and unleashes a chant, which begins the demon’s awakening. The entire town of Barrington, except these three friends, are infected. Kevin, Jeff, and Natalie must band together to fight back against the apocalypse and save the world from an icky demonic death.
Power’s animation style is cut-paper, which means everything is done with stop-motion and construction paper figures and background, not unlike the style seen in South Park. However, Power’s aesthetic is much more detailed and colorful, which helps make Attack of the Demons unique and creepy. Every character is beautifully designed and each of their movements are enthralling sheerly due to the love and effort poured into them. On top of the character design are the impeccable backgrounds that capture the essence of 1994 pop culture and young adult life. Power lingers on the details of every backdrop, such as a room full of Fangoria magazines and old movies to an arcade full of vintage favorites.
Power also creates some horrifying demon creatures that give John Carpenter’s The Thing a run for its money. Humans instantly transform as they come in contact with demon blood or vomit. Their skin peels off, they turn blue, their eyes glow red, and they can even combine themselves into terrifying hybrid monsters with multiple heads, sharp teeth, and more. Power recognizes, well, the power that animation gives him and he utilizes it to its full, and disgusting, potential.
Attack of the Demon’s setback, though, is its dialogue, both in its writing and delivery. Every conversation feels forced and almost disconnected. This is partially due to the voice actors, who sound disinterested or confused in how to convey emotions solely through words. It is also due to dialogue that feels like it was hastily written; it feels like an afterthought to the animated world that Power creates. Fortunately, I didn’t come to this film for dialogue. I came for stunning and disgusting visuals, which Attack of the Demons delivers in spades.
Its iffy dialogue doesn’t take away from the film’s story about needing to find friends and support, through the apocalypse or just through a rough patch. In Attack of the Demons, passions and hobbies can only get you so far until you feel utterly alone in the world. Power shows each of these three friends indulging in their niche loves, from old 70s horror movies to rare arcade cabinets to small indie bands. But in their solitude, they realize their loneliness, which strengthens their friendships and their eventual demon-ass-kicking teamwork.
Attack of the Demons is an accomplishment in the realm of animated horror. Power’s aesthetic is gorgeous, immersing you in the fictional world of Barrington, Colorado. It is disgusting eye candy that, despite its rocky script, will satisfy any body horror fanatic’s appetite. Even if you are not a fan of gore, the fact that this is all very obviously paper may help remove the gross factor. Though it is surprising what Power can do with paper. In short, Attack of the Demons is a nightmare disguised as an animated dream.