The Unusual Tale of Demonik, the Game Featured in That Stoner Comedy
I was 15 once. I understand the appeal of the stoner comedy. Harold and Kumar, Road Trip, Euro Trip, other dubious trips. It was all hilarious. It might still be hilarious, but I doubt it. I refuse to go back and watch those films again because I’m sure they’re absolutely awful when seen through a 2021 lens. One move sticks out to me, though. One movie covered video game production (badly), and I was a huge fan of it in 2006 when it came out. I was 15 and I thought that I, one day, might design cool video games and do drugs and have adventures. I only accomplished like, one of those three things. The movie I’m talking about is Grandma’s Boy, and the game I’m talking about, which featured heavily in the plot for that film, is Demonik.
Demonik is a cancelled horror game from the minds at Terminal Reality. Terminal Reality, if you don’t remember, developed the original Bloodrayne and it’s sequel. They were also signed up to be the first developer to work with Guillermo Del Toro on a game. Way back before Hideo Kojima forced Death Stranding on an unprepared world, Terminal Reality was working with Del Toro on Sundown. While there aren’t a lot of details about Sundown, it was supposed to be a zombie game. I think they deserve props for reaching out to Del Toro so early, before anyone knew that he could possibly be mocapped in to provide some exposition.
Grandma’s Boy tells the tale of a game tester named Alex, who is forced to move in with his grandmother after his roommate spends all their rent money on…*checks IMDB plot page*…prostitutes. Really? Wow that’s starting off bad. Either way, the company he works for hires a developer wunderkind named P.J., who is a mix between Cliff Blezinksi and the fashion aesthetic of The Matrix. P.J. is developing a new sequel called Eternal Death Slayer 3. This is just kind of the beginning of the movie knowing absolutely nothing about video games. Little does P.J. know, Alex is developing his own game: Demonik.
We get to see some gameplay from Demonik and it looks pretty bog-standard third person Xbox 360 action game. This is the company that made Bloodrayne, so you should imagine it was that kind of combat. In fact, the game that character P.J. is working on -Eternal Death Slayer 3- is actually just a modified version of Bloodrayne 2. There was a lot of Terminal Reality nonsense happening in Grandma’s Boy. In actuality, most people didn’t realize the game was actually real. If Grandma’s Boy was supposed to be a promotional vehicle for Demonik, it failed terribly.
Demonik was actually supposed to tie in with the film Demonik, being made by Clive Barker. That’s right, all roads lead back to Clive Barker. When Barker dropped out of the Demonik film, the game was left without an anchor point, and instead of being a tie-in game with a horror film, it ended up being a featured game in an utterly forgettable stoner comedy. I can’t think of a worse death for a game. I would be tempted to lay a chunk of blame on Majesco, who published the game. Their previous publishing duties on Psychonauts resulted in such terrible promotion that we just now, 16 years later, got a sequel.
Unfortunately, Demonik is a footnote. A bit on the IMDB trivia page for Grandma’s boy, right next to “The doll to which Alex masturbates is actually a modified Barbie doll, instead of the Tomb Raider character Lara Croft, due to licensing reasons.” What a way to go. Some theorize that the game was recycled into Predator: Concrete Jungle. While the games do look similar, Concrete Jungle was a different team altogether. Why was Demonik cancelled anyway? Was it because of the utter disdain that moviegoers had for Grandma’s Boy? Nah. Publisher Majesco cites “financial reasons” for the downfall of Demonik.
I’ve previously covered tombstone marketing and body part scavenger hunts. Next week I want to cover bad music tie-ins. I just want to say that Demonik is probably one of the saddest ones for me, because of how much I enjoyed the movie as a teen. I was excited for Demonik. It was the first time seeing a game in a movie that looked like, well, a game. Most of the time film and TV production slap the fakest-looking game, or just an established game in their scenes as a throwaway. For as much as Grandma’s Boy got absolutely wrong about game development, game testing, and pretty much everything games, it did a good job of showing off how cool Demonik looked.
2002-2010 felt like the wild west of games. The games were weird, the marketing even weirder. That’s why I keep going back to look at these disasters, because they’re disasters from my formative years. It’s things that I never thought I’d be writing about. Bits of memories that I occasionally dredge out of my brain and think, I gotta tell people about this. In a way, it’s me preserving video game history, no matter how ugly it can get. Nowadays, people seem to be very focused on successful marketing campaigns. I think a big part of a successful campaign is seeing how badly other people did it. We have to learn about these mistakes, so we don’t repeat them.