Daemon is a 1985 decent made-for-television supernatural children’s film, but it’s probably a bit too creepy for its own good, says DAVID SAUNDERSON
Supernatural films aimed at children tend to be the creepiest and some of the most enjoyable. Rarely have they made me feel as uncomfortable though as Daemon, a 1985 TV film made by the Children’s Film Unit.
Daemon, directed by Colin Finbow, tells the tale of a young boy, Nick Foster (Arnaud Foster), who finds himself in a haunted, possibly possessed room, after his family move into a new posher house in a more exclusive neighbourhood.
We’re told that Nick’s dad has got a new job worth “10 times more” than he was getting before. So Nick’s been sent to a private boys school with only 200 students. Nick doesn’t like the place for some reason – yes, there is a bully – but by and large, everyone is relatively okay to him. He just feels unhappy.
Nick’s older teenage sisters – Jennie and Clare – are getting on with life in their new area, doing up their hair, playing with fashion and chasing boys, but Nick hates his new situation in life.
A strange aspect of this film is the frank conversation in his Scripture Class at school. (Note I’m probably taking the film too seriously because it’s kid’s film but bits of it bothered me for that reason!) The teacher, Mr Crabb (Bert Parnaby), seems obsessed with demonology and the occult. He is easily distracted by the teenage boys’ questions about The Omen and 666 etc. Mr Crabb seems quite happy to talk about Beelzebub and the Prince of Darkness. During the conversation, Nick quite says “Help me” in a demonic voice. But no one seems to notice.
At home, Nick keeps getting presents from his absent parents, who we never see in the film, because they are in the United States. One of the presents is a brand new Apple Macintosh computer with a disk drive and printer (which at the time my 10-year-old self would have loved!). The boy sets up the computer, and not long after, we the audience see the words “Help Me” pop up on the screen. Later on, there is an electrical short and Nick has to repair it.
Throughout the film, we realise that something is wrong with Nick’s room. There are strange sounds and Nick is starting to get blisters all over his feet and other parts of his body.
There is a strong sense that Nick is possessed, but by what we don’t know.
Nick tells his sister about his sadness and she suggests he visits her psychologist Dr Rachel King, who she saw when she was experiencing identity problems. Dr King is played by 1960s icon actress Susannah York, who is clearly there for name recognition and as a mum-replacement in the script. (Apparently, York was a patron of the Children’s Film Unit, which was a charity.)
Now I’m not going to tell the rest of the story, I’ve probably told too much already. But it’s here that things get a little uncomfortable for a kid’s show. In an adult film, this would have been par for the course. But having a teacher die and the classmates deciding to kill Nick in revenge is a little bit much to take.
The Children’s Film Unit made many wonderful films, and looking at the list of them, shows that they weren’t afraid of tackling some creepy subjects. And to be fair, this is a very interesting story. I just think the tone is wrong at times.
Daemon 1985 is a slow burn and really gets good in the last couple of minutes when the reason behind the possession is revealed. I would recommend it, just not to kids (even thought it’s aimed at them!).
Have you seen Daemon 1985? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!