Eric Power’s Attack of The Demons celebrated its world premiere at the 2019 Cinepocalypse Film Festival, bringing to mind some of my fondest memories from elementary school: Arts & Crafts. I distinctly remember cutting up pieces colorful construction paper with dull scissors and gluing them together. I thoroughly enjoyed doing it, but I can’t imagine doing that full-time as an adult. To Eric Power, it’s his preferred method of making movies. In 2013, Power made his first feature, a samurai action flick called Path of Blood, using stop-motion of paper cut-outs. He enjoyed animating violence so much, he followed years later with Attack of the Demons, a zombie horror made entirely out of paper.
Music fans flock to the sleepy town of Barrington, Colorado for its annual Halloween festival. Legendary horror-punk band Banshee Riders are set to headline the night. Three former classmates reconnect at the local diner. Natalie is in town with her music journalist boyfriend, Jeff is visiting his folks, whereas Kevin never left town and is living with his grandmother. The three of them argue over the highest form of art: music, film or video games. They agree to disagree and part ways. Jeff goes to the arcade, Kevin goes to a screening of an obscure Italian horror film, and Natalie goes to see a less-popular indie rock band. Each of them realizes they are alone in their tastes when they enter empty rooms.
At the heavily populated outdoor gig, a hooded figure walks on stage and chants in an unknown language. Audience members figure it’s some kind of a performance art piece, until the stranger explodes, spewing neon pink blood into the crowd. The blood mutates everything it comes into contact with, humans and animals alike. Each mutation is unique. Those who are infected in close proximity to other people merge into each other as they change into two-headed beasts. Much like The Thing, decapitation does nothing, as a severed head can sprout legs and crawl away.
Natalie, Jeff, and Kevin reunite among the chaos, having avoided the large crowds at their respective events. It being 1994, no one has cellphones to call for outside help. The only exit out of town is blocked off by an avalanche, so they run off to a secluded cabin in the woods owned by Jeff’s uncle to get away from the hordes of the infected. But the location turns out to be ground zero for the resurrection of an ancient evil. Meanwhile, a stranger is walking about town, reading an old manuscript in the hopes of reversing the curse.
The main appeal of Attack of the Demons is paper animation. Such a medium has not been seen before, at least for an independent genre film. You can actually see the texture on every piece of construction paper, similar to the animation style of the first season of South Park. The difference is, Attack of the Demons strives for more quality and realism but isn’t really able to pull it off. The movements of each character seem rigid, from walking to blinking. It takes some getting used to. The novelty of the animation, unfortunately, wears off after the first ten minutes. It’s a shame since it must have taken Power hours upon hours to produce only a couple seconds.
There are moments when the style of animation really works though. For example, the arcade games Jeff obsesses over have the choppy and nostalgic look of 90s classics (plus, they have great original titles like Rodent Rumble and Rust Storm). Also, the mutation process is well done, complete with glowing fluids oozing out the victim’s mouth, veins popping from their skin. A lot of detail went into the backgrounds, as can be seen in Kevin’s room, Jeff’s uncle’s cabin, and the surrounding forest.
The film’s biggest downside is the voice acting, especially for the main characters. Voice acting is a difficult craft; you’re stuck in a sound booth, trying to imagine the action in your head and sound dynamic while standing in one place. But the voice actors in this movie sound bored and add nothing to their characters, with the exception of Jeff’s uncle, who has some grit in his voice. It takes away from the high-stakes scenes. Even in the face of death, the characters sound so neutral.
The saving grace is the synth-heavy score by John Dixon, giving the film an 80s monster movie feel. It’s also worth mentioning Austin, Texas collective Many Birthdays as the fictional indie band “Teek”. I would have liked to hear what the music of the Banshee Riders would have sounded like, but we only hear the closing note of their act. All in all, it’s incredibly impressive that all the animation was done by one person. Power’s vision is singular and uncompromised, but he might have benefitted had he accepted the help of a team. Still, there’s a lot of charm in his efforts, and I’m positive that one day, he will take the world by storm. Soon, all those paper cuts will be worth the trouble.
Attack of the Demons celebrated it’s World Premiere June 16 at the 2019 Cinepocalypse Film Festival. Let us know if you’re looking forward to seeing Eric Power’s zombie movie made entirely of paper over on Twitter, in the Nightmare on Film Street SubReddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club.