It's not easy to come up with a fresh spin on the "group of friends tormented by a demon in the woods" plot, but while writer-director Alexander Babaev's "Bornless Ones" doesn't do anything radically new, it deepens its characters and situations enough to be distinctive.
Margaret Judson stars as Emily, who buys a house sight-unseen through the Internet so she and her boyfriend, Jesse (Devin Goodsell), can live near the institution where her cerebral palsy-afflicted brother Zach (Michael Johnston) is going to reside. To help with the move, Emily's fun-loving chums Woody (Mark Furze) and Michelle (Bobby T) tag along, bringing booze.
Because these people are a little older than the average horror movie cast, with a more mature set of concerns — including pregnancy, health-scare woes and various tragedies in their respective pasts — "Bornless Ones" has a richer perspective than other similar supernatural thrillers. The demons take over by whispering into the subconscious, promising to heal their victims. And these five folks have a lot of damage that needs fixing.
The setup to "Bornless Ones" is clunky, but once Babaev has everyone's back story in place, he's free to spend the last half hour on a relentless assault of demonic possession and gory splatter — all with some impressive makeup and digital effects.
This movie is still, ultimately, a generic shocker. But the amount of care lavished on the character-building and scene-setting is impressive, even if it doesn't add up to much.
Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica