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Daemos Rising
cast: Miles Richardson, Beverley Cressman, and Andrew Wisher

producer and director: Keith Barnfather

53 minutes (PG) 2003
Reeltime DVD Regions 2 + 4 retail Also available to buy on video

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Steven Hampton
SPOILER ALERT!
This Doctor Who spinoff by indie filmmakers at Reeltime Pictures features two supporting characters from earlier Reeltime production, the yetis tale, Downtime (1995), while revisiting the backstory of BBC adventure The Daemons, a five-parter made in 1971 during the Jon Pertwee era. Daemos Rising is basically a low-key sequel written by David J. Howe, the Who expert behind the line of Telos' original Doctor Who novellas, and at least a couple of companion books to the popular TV series. In following up strands from both the official BBC works and fandom by-products, Daemos Rising marries these two distinctive worlds of Who, clearly intending to celebrate the Time Lord's 40th anniversary in style, whether the eternally hesitant BBC produce anything new to mark the ocassion, or not.
   With voiceover narration by Ian Richardson (last seen - in genre material - to good effect in From Hell and Strange), Daemos Rising opens with a black magic ritual, and the subsequent arrival at a small railway station of Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (Beverley Cressman), daughter of UNIT leader, the Brigadier (best portrayed on Doctor Who by Nicholas Courtney?). She finds her friend, ex-UNIT Captain Douglas Cavendish (Miles Richardson), living alone in a haunted house, stalked by the mobile 'gargoyle' statue ("I dunno what this thing is, but I'm never gonna touch it again.") from a woodland clearing, and about to be taken over by evil alien forces determined to conquer humanity...
   The story plods for half an hour, as several threads are established, and then it picks up considerably to become engrossing for about ten minutes in the middle, when the psionic powers close in suddenly - to attack Kate and compel Cavendish to summon the Daemon. With the appearance of a computer-generated monster, the rest of this short film lapses into studied theatricality again, with drama that's dominated not by acute terrors or hectic action in a race against time but by the overly talkative villain. With no supporting characters or scene 'extras', there are no expendable souls on hand for the supposedly menacing Daemon to kill, so it fails the Who acid test of being a typically homicidal threat to planet Earth.
   Director Keith Barnfather's filmography includes Mindgame Trilogy (1999), the aforementioned Downtime, and numerous video volumes in Reeltime's Myth Makers biography series. Depictions of the dark dimensions (murky fogs peopled by cloaked and hooded figures) are sinister enough, while the cottage and cavern locations provide a striking metaphor of conflicts between ancient and modern ages, as if the time zones are colliding into uncanny disturbances and demonic possession. There are plenty of wry in-jokes to please diehard Who fans, such as the lockup garage apparently stuffed with props from the Doctor's TV adventures. And yet, in the end, this 'episode' is nothing more than a mishmash of familiar sci-fi trappings and supernatural lore, and sub-generic borrowings from The X-Files, Sapphire And Steel, and other older TV shows like The Twilight Zone, and The Omega Factor.
   What Daemos Rising has in its favour is the performance of Miles Richardson as Cavendish, the traumatised ex-soldier who's just seen too much weirdness. He excels the material in a masterclass example of pitiable human wreckage, standing timidly in corners, jumping at shadows, and breaking down in anguished tears. Within the constraints of its PG certificate, this offers a surprisingly mature and affecting treatment of alcoholism, depressive loneliness, and a compelling study of creepy dementia. It's a great shame that Cressman (a rather less experienced performer than her co-star) isn't up to the task of matching Richardson's depth and commitment to role-playing here (she never seems as threatened or scared by the goings-on as she really ought to be), but Cressman does manage to bring a contrasting lighter touch to the scenes of sombre drama by injecting some levity and welcome good humour into proceedings. Standing out in the garden while a haggard Cavendish struggles to explain his mortal fear of returning indoors, our heroine Kate delivers the authentically British quip, "We can't make a cup of tea out here, can we?" with good comic timing.
   Daemos Rising makes the most of its sometimes painfully obvious low-budget but probably doesn't get the best out of its promising script. Gripping suspense and tension are sadly missing, and the 'seduction' scene is stilted and faintly embarrassing. In an ideal world there'd be a bigger market for homegrown horror movies (teen and adult rated) and more funding available for genre productions. Meantime, we will have to make do with this, until the next Hellraiser prodigy, or Hammer revival, comes along.
   The DVD boasts crisp Dolby digital 5.1 audio (but no subtitles), and an outstanding package of bonus featurettes. Behind The Scenes (20 minutes) looks at the seven-day shooting schedule - revealing both location difficulties and creative solutions. (Day one of filming is captioned "16th September 2004" - suggesting the makers have their very own Tardis, perhaps?) Cast And Crew (nine minutes) has a split-screen presentation displaying selected footage alongside video interviews. The creature-maker Philip T. Robinson, and the composer Alistair Lock, are both interviewed, and so are Barry Letts and Robert Sloman (pseudonymous Guy Leopold), writers of the original BBC story The Daemons. There's also a brief but interesting factual item about Kents Cavern (the show's atmospheric location) in Torquay.
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