Directed by Ryan Callaway [Other horror films: Cursed: Sheol (2011), My Origin (2012), The Watchers (2013), The Diabolical (2014), The Girl in the Cornfield (2016), The Watchers: The Beginning of Sorrows (2016), Where Demons Dwell: The Girl in the Cornfield 2 (2017), The Yearly Harvest (2017), Messenger of Wrath (2017), Let’s Not Meet (2018), One Winter Night (2019), The Ghost in the Darkness (2019), Let’s Not Meet in the Woods (2020)]
I have somewhat mixed feelings over this one. Fundamentally, I think The Demon’s Waltz is a decent movie, but elements, be it some spiritual themes or the length of the film, make it somewhat difficult to get a good handle on my feelings.
Regardless of my feelings, though, the movie is certainly impressive. The cast primarily consists of younger performances, the budget is limited, and there’s not much in the way of special effects – with all of these factors, they still manage to create a somewhat compelling mystery behind a missing TikToker (I’ve never used TikTok in my life, nor watched a video, so if this isn’t the proper term, please accept the apologies of an old fogey) that spans almost two hours.
As it is, though the movie is an hour and 56 minutes, it’s hard to say that it should have been cut anywhere. Personally, it never felt like the movie was dragging at any point, and while I had some personal qualms about some of the religious themes here and elements of the ending, the fact that they managed to keep my interest for the full two hours with what they had is somewhat impressive.
When it comes to the religious themes, my main point of contention is that I find many religious individuals hypocritical. In this film, there is a character who wants to be healed of an ailment – they first go to a church for some faith healing, but when that doesn’t work, they turn to a more unsavory worship. Or so some characters say, because from where I stand, this isn’t really logical.
Here’s the thing – putting aside the fact that faith healing is trash, why would anyone blame this individual for seeking out alternative methods of healing? Logically, if God (Jesus, in this case) had just healed this person, then they never would have potentially caused trouble down the line seeking help from another deity. As far as I can tell, if there’s anyone to blame for the problems that plague a pair of sisters past a certain point, it’s God’s – if He has just healed this individual, what followed wouldn’t have happened.
It doesn’t seem the case that anyone blames God, though. It seems like they blame this individual for the logical search for another way to be healed. I know that logic and theism are sometimes in complete opposition, but it seems so obvious to me. Now, to be fair, a point is made that the faith healing church is a “bad church”, but I find the belief system as a whole negative, and that doesn’t seem to come up at all, which I was troubled by.
It’s at this juncture that I wanted to mention that the director, Ryan Callaway, also made a movie called One Dark Winter. Now, I’ve not seen it, but I have been tempted – it apparently deals with an Orthadox Jewish mother and her daughters dealing with malevolent forces. The film is also on the longer side – according to IMDb it’s two hours and ten minutes – and the fact it also deals with characters of strong religious beliefs intrigues me. Based on this film, it may well be worth trying out.
Back to The Demon’s Waltz, though, I want to make clear that while I have some issues with some of the characters’ positive attitudes toward Christianity, I don’t hold that against the movie. Obviously if some of these characters are Christian, they wouldn’t see things the same way I do, as I’ve been an atheist for most of my life. It’s just something that stuck out to me, and I wanted to point it out.
The performances here are all pretty solid. Really, the three most important are Kailee McGuire (The Ghost in the Darkness), Briana Aceti (The Girl in the Cornfield), and Sophia Zalipsky (Let’s Not Meet in the Woods). Aceti amusingly reminds me of a younger A.J. Cook, and though it wasn’t the easiest imagining her as a private investigator, it’s cool. Zalipsky’s character was bratty at times, but given she was playing a teenager, I get it. McGuire was perhaps my personal favorite performance, especially with the final scene, being somewhat emotional. Lastly, while she didn’t get a ton of character, Breanna Engle (Let’s Not Meet and One Winter Night) was solid.
Overall, I found the mystery decent. I appreciated throwing in the idea of the worship of older Gods, a dance going viral which is meant to summon them, and all that. It’s nothing exactly amazing, but I did think that it worked decently well, so kudos there.
I don’t think The Demon’s Waltz is going to amaze many people, but I do think it might surprise some. For the length of the film, it’s rather competent, and despite the lower-budget nature of the film, I was fully engaged. In truth, I’m actually somewhat interested in checking out more from the director – as you can see above, he has a decently-sized filmography, and if they’re around this same quality, I can imagine some are quite good.
As far as this one goes, I don’t think it’s a movie that I’d really watch again anytime soon, but I do think it’s decent. Perhaps still below average, but like Venom Coast, it’s close, which is an accomplishment in itself.