Rupert Galvin -
Luke Rutherford -
Mina Harker -
OTHER DEMON HUNTER SHOWS
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Luke finds out that he is the last in the Van Helsing line, a demon killer by nature. His 'uncle' shows up from America to teach him how to harness his natural skills, an ancient vampire girl provides 'visions' that guide their quests and his spunky would-be girlfriend keeps him anchored when it all might go to his head.
The basic template here is so obviously ripped off from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER that there's little point discussing it. Besides which, there is space enough for a British version. Unfortunately, DEMONS doesn't match its inspiration on any single level. The plotting is uninspired, the dialogue is rarely sparkling and often clunky, sometimes drifting into dire.
It certainly looks good and so do the cast .Christian Cooke is a good looking hero, though hardly capable of carrying the show. Philip Glenister is hampered by an american accent that becomes a character in its own right, so much does it take the limelight. Zoe Tapper's blind pianist vampire is low-key and never really takes off. The only real stand out is Holliday Grainger as Ruby, Luke's down to earth smitten friend.
The weak characters don't help, but what really lets the show down is the villains and the action. The former don't inspire at all. They aren't scary enough for adults and probably won't engage the kids. They are played almost as pantomime when less would have been more in the fright stakes. And when it comes to smiting them, things go off the rail far too often. When there should be serious butt-kicking and demon takedowns galore, the climaxes turn out to be damp fizzles in the snow.
There is potential in the show (the template is too good to be without merit), but it will take a lot of convincing before we get excited about a second series.
Luke Rutherford is an ordinary kid with all the problems of an ordinary kid. He is also, however, something more. The last descendant of the Van Helsing line, his identity is known to the forces of the underworld and they have come to take care of him before he can learn of his heritage. Fortunately for him, his godfather Rupert Galvin is back from the US and is part of fraternity of warriors against the freaks, warriors that also include blind pianist Mina Harker. Together, they must prepare Luke for his destiny before it can kill him.
Despite the trappings of the DRACULA background (Van Helsing, Mina Harker et al), there is no doubting where the inspiration for this show came from. Take a pretty young hero(ine) still at school unaware of his/her special nature and their central place in the battle against the demons, give them a mentor from overseas called Rupert and let battle commence. This is clearly taken from the same template as BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. In this case, the naive young thing is a boy and the mentor has an american background, but otherwise the similarities in set up are hard to ignore. There's even a library.
Sadly, not much about DEMONS is up to the standard of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. For a start, the villains of the piece are less convincing and far less impressive. The CGI monkey beast that first attacks Luke is well below par for effects house The Mill who also do much of the work for DOCTOR WHO. It never looks real and sometimes doesn't even match in with the camera movement. The ivory-nosed head honcho appears late and is despatched with such ease that you wonder why he was considered so fearsome and the henchman is played more for laughs than for threat.
Christian Cooke makes for an appealing enough lead, buff enough to be stripped down to the waist for the benefit of the female viewers in one early scene, but rather lacking in real character and star appeal. Philip Glenister can handle the grizzled old hand with ease, although you do have to question why he was saddled with an american accent that wanders off all over the place. He certainly is the major asset in the show's chances of success. Zoe Tapper (SURVIVORS) makes less of an impact as the blind pianist Mina Harker than might have been expected, but Holliday Grainger's Ruby is appealingly spiky.
This is the opening episode, setting up the scene and introducing the characters, but the plot is a bit loose and doesn't always really make sense. Minutes after telling Ruby to call him in the event of anything strange, Galvin leaves his mobile in the car whilst he goes to get a hotdog? Really? Still, even BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER took a while to really bed in. DEMONS will have to try harder in future.Written by Pete Tabern
Directed by Tom Harper
Playing with her sister in a cemetary, a young girl disappears. The younger sister insists that they she was taken up to heaven by an angel, but Galvin and Luke investigate and, with Ruby's help, learn the angel's name - Gilgamel. A trip to a priest who is an old acquaintance of Galvin's, but certainly not his friend, reveals that Gilgamel is a demon, a level 9 entity and something not to be trifled with. Father Simeon shows Luke that Gilgamel was last defeated through the use of the sword of righteousness and the orb of sanctity. Galvin prefers modern weapons, but when the first encounter goes wrong the young Van Helsing is going to have to go back to basics.
The second episode of this show starts off well enough with a creepy sequence involving young children in a graveyard, a disappearance and an angel. The early investigations follow an obvious enough path, although the manner in which Ruby gets information out of the younger sister where everyone else has failed is pleasingly down to earth.
Introducing Richard Wilson as Father Simeon is a good move. He makes the crotchety old priest more lively and fun than the script deserves, something that he is used to doing in MERLIN. Less convincing is the fact that he has all the answers and just happens to possess the very weapons that are required to bring the demon down.
Also not very convincing is the final facedown with the demon. The creature itself is nicely rendered (certainly better than last week's efforts) in both angel and demon form, but the action finale could be kindly described as anticlimactic.
There is potential in this show, but there is a long way to go to seeing it realised.Written by Pete Tabern
Directed by Tom Harper
Galvin gets wind of a half-life in the city going by the name of Mr Tibbs. This is the being that killed Galvin's wife years before and so he sets out to get his revenge. Instead, he gets Grace, a girl who has been in Tibbs' cages for a long time. He takes Grace to the underground HQ of the stacks, but she turns out to be on the side of the rodent and soon Mina is only minutes from being blown to bits and both Galvin and Luke are about to drown in Mr Tibbs' rat trap.
This third episode is the best to date because it concentrates on the characters and what their new lives mean to them. Luke is caught up in what he has to become and the threat that this brings to his family and friends. That means pushing Ruby away. Ruby, on the other hand, is in love with the blissfully unaware Luke and wants to stay, but sees that she is putting him in danger simply by being around. Galvin is distracted by his lust for revenge and makes fairly basic mistakes that put everyone's lives in danger. All of this is aided by the fact that the central quartet are managing to gel quite nicely and the relationships, especially between Ruby and Luke, are sparky, quirky and nicely written.
The only real problem with the whole thing is, once again, the villain. Mr Tibbs is not a nice rat, but he just isn't convincing. The makeup is fine, but as the apotheosis of evil he just doesn't really come across. This is the problem that the show really has to come to terms with. DOCTOR WHO manages to walk the tightrope between having real threats and not scaring the kids to death, but DEMONS is using villains that look like they're out of a pantomime, quite frankly, thus undermining the threat of the situation. It's an intrinsic flaw that needs to be addressed.Written by Lucy Watkins
Directed by Matthew Evans
A group of vampires come back to London to stay. These vampires have a history with Mina, a history that goes back a century and a half. In order to kill a vampire, however, you either have to be a vampire or you have to bring the vampire back to life. Can Luke and Galvin count on the conflicted Mina, though?
Luke and Ruby finally find out about Mina being a vampire by reading Dracula, a story that they clearly weren't familiar with, but the question we're left with is how many people show up after each of her recitals asking if she is the Mina Harker, vampire.
At least Quincey the vampire is a credible villain, the most believable to date. The fact that he has a lackey vamp called zippy whose head unzips entirely somwehat undermines that, but the lack of dodgy CGI, false noses and silly clothes means that hean be a real threat.
The twisted family relationship between Mina and Quincy adds an emotional depth to the storyline and gives another dimension to Mina, but once again the final confrontation fails to impress.Written by Lucy Watkins
Directed by Tom Harper
There is word of a half-life that is coming in vengeance against Luke, vengeance for a past wrong done to a family member. Luke is caught up in a relationship building with the new girl at the college, Alice. When the half-life turns out to be a Harpy, part-woman part-flying monster everyone puts the pieces together, but she still might have the drop on them.
This starts off well enough, but soon develops some serious credibility issues when this ages old monster who has had it in the for Van Helsing family for some time finds herself alone with the target of her vengeance on a number of occasions, but doesn't do anything about it. Instead, she waits until she is discovered and everyone is armed and ready for her. For a 3,000 year old that's pretty dumb.
Apart from that, the usual flaws are all in place with the dodgy CGI harpy being on screen for too short a time to be a real problem, but with the final face off on top of a nightclub turning into an almighty damp squib.Written by Howard Overman
Directed by Matthew Evans
Following a sliming as a result of a battle with a clown-shaped half-life, Luke starts to have dreams of a child in a burning car with a shadowy figure watching him. A TV medium helps Luke get in touch with his dead father, who he recognises as the injured man at the wheel of the car. His dad warns him to beware of something nasty posing as something nice. It's clear, when Father Simeon turns up dead, that Galvin is killing to hide a guilty secret. Or is he? And whose secret is he protecting?
And so ITV's BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER clone comes to a close without hitting any of the highs of its inspiration. This final episode is a particularly muddled affair. Sure Luke is disorientated after being hit with the demon slime, but the paranoia that sets in is too quick and too complete. That he starts to lose faith in Galvin is OK, but that he loses faith in everyone is a bit too over the top.
The revelations about the past and about Luke's father that come out are excellent and establish some sort of mythology for the show, but there hasn't been any hint of them before and so their sudden blurting out at the denoument fails to impress at all. Like much of the show, the idea is great, but the execution is off. That is seen most in the big face-off, traditionally something that the show has botched over and over again. Here it does so in spectacularly muddy fashion. Villain and hero square off with Galvin in the middle waiting to see whether he's going to get shot by his protege or not when Mina goes all vampy, bites someone who turns into a pool of goo and no closure is brought to anyone or anything.
There isn't even much of a cliffhanger to hook us into a second season.Written by Pete Tabern
Directed by Matthew Evans
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