Britain sure has ramped up its fantasy stories lately.
The revival of Doctor Who has reverberated throughout the industry with hit shows including Primeval, Merlin, Torchwood, Being Human and several more. It’s not exactly new so much as a vote of confidence. Most of the time we’ve reaped the rewards of their spacemen, monsters, ghouls and dinosaurs.
Not so in Demons.
This one really should have succeeded. ITV’s supernatural series has quite a pedigree including Merlin’s Johnny Capps and Julian Murphy as creators. In a central role is the esteemed Philip Glenister (Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes, Cranford).
Christian Cooke plays Luke Rutherford, the good-looking teen hero of the tale, who learns he is a descendant of Dracula’s vampire hunter, Van Helsing. For lucky Luke it’s his destiny to save the world from demons. From the opening scenes he sees “really weird stuff”, including a ghoul that leaps about his apartment.
Glenister plays his godfather, Rupert Galvin, an American demon hunter who becomes his very own Karate Kid teacher. There’s just one problem. Glenister isn’t remotely American. He sludges through this labored script feigning an American accent and trying to impose a mood that is uniformly incredulous. With a cowboy swagger, he even uses the old Danny Glover line “I’m getting way too old for this.”
Galvin introduces Luke to a secret lair, with a dusty old video where his late father tells him he is now owner of a vast library of evil-fighting resources. Despite learning his family heritage, Luke is reluctant to take up the challenge.
Thrown into the mix is Luke’s best friend Ruby (Holliday Grainger), who we know is his other destiny. She resents a second authority on half-lives, the blind concert pianist Mina Harker (Zoe Tapper).
In the first episode Ruby becomes the victim of the demonic Redlip, who has possibly stepped out of Oliver, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, A Clockwork Orange or all three.
It will be up to Luke to save her and fulfill his destiny at the same time, whilst trying to complete his studies as a mild-mannered student.
Demons also features animatronics for its ghouls as it mixes reality and fantasy. Mackenzie Crook has a bit of fun as Gladiolus Thrip, a pompous, theatrical villain.
Despite all these ingredients, including its likable hero, it just doesn’t gel. Everything has been done before, and with more imagination. Glenister, who is so captivating as Gene Hunt in Ashes to Ashes, is miscast here. He isn’t light enough for this genre, and the phony accent gets in the way of everything.
You can’t help but wish they’d just remade Van Helsing in the first place.
Demons premieres 8:30pm Thursday on Sci Fi.