For a horror film, Demonte Colony starts harmlessly enough — the four leads are introduced with a scene each and in this one scene, we are able to get an idea of their characters. Raghavan ( Sanath), an aspiring filmmaker, goes to narrate a horror film to a producer, who, instead asks for a comedy. In what appears to be a subtle dig at a real-life actor, the producer asks for a story-less film in which the hero and the comedian should keep talking throughout the film, and audiences shouldn't be able to figure out who the actual hero is. Sajith (Abhishek) is an electrician and a loser in life, while Vimal (Ramesh) is a graphic designer. Then there is Srini ( Arulnidhi) who provides companionship (in a non-sexual way) to Jillu, a married woman, in return for money.
Out of false bravado, the four decide to check out a dilapidated mansion in the titular Demonte Colony, a place where a Portuguese lord murdered all his servants after his mentally unstable wife becomes pregnant during his absence. The friends manage to come out unscathed or so it seems until the next night, when eerie things begin to happen in their room — the TV doesn't switch off, and instead of the DVD that they had inserted plays their own conversations; the windows and doors do not open; their cries for help are never heard outside; they learn a startling fact that one of them has been dead since the previous night! Why the evil spirit is after them is the mystery.
Horror comedy might be the flavour of the season, but debutant Ajay Gnanamuthu's Demonte Colony is a refreshing change — it is a pure horror film with no frills attached (forget comedy, the film does not even have a heroine!), and this alone makes us want to appreciate the director. The film does indulge in the cliches that beset the horror genre but it is the way in which the film is made that gives it a different tone. The film takes place over the course of two days and the entire second half takes place inside a single room but with the help of his cinematographer, Aravinnd Singh, Ajay manages to keep the film visually appealing — the orange glow of a streetlight in the background provides a stark contrast to the saturated tone that is used for the room and the interesting angles in which the cinematographer frames the action (a must in a horror film) adds to the thrill. The background score is just a bit loud but the sound effects team gets things right. If the constant patter of the rain outside enhances the hopelessness of the situation in which the protagonists find themselves in, the vibration that we feel when a gun is repeatedly banged on the floor elevates the tension in the scene.
But despite the visual flair, Demonte Colony at times gets bogged down by predictability and the lack of a genuine sense of dread. The film also throws up questions that aren't convincingly answered, like why the evil spirit waits for a day to hunt them down and what/who is the good spirit that communicates with them through an ouija board. And the climax is a bit of a letdown. It doesn't feel like a twist but more like a cheat where things are shown to have happened one way and then revealed to have happened in a completely different manner.