A South African slasher film with hardly any slashing, The Demon (1979) has a bad script, clumsily abrupt editing, & barely passable acting. It leaps a half-inch off the ground right from out of the gate, beginning with a home-invasion kidnapping, but nothing in particular is seen.
Cameron Mitchell soonafter shows up, overacting as best he can in the role of the psychic detective using his E.S.P. to detect very little until he's summarily killed, but not by the psycho.
Since he had kind of seemed like the main character, the film came to a screeching halt with his demise, & fumbled around for who else could be the protagonist. Enter Mary, late in the story, played by Jennifer Holmes, who gives a better performance than anyone else in the film, despite that she's given ridiculous tasks to perform as an actor. She's the scream queen who fights back.
There's a massive amount of padding from the first moment of supernatural sleuthing as the psychic detective walks around the girl's room touching things & emoting like Captain Kirk, to every character in turn just standing & talking or walking silently on dark stairwells or streets. The cinematography is too workmanlike to be moody, but a lot of it is at night.
When we glimpse the psycho, we don't see his face, but we see rather too vaguely he has a mask, & we're led to believe he may be a real demon so his face might be strange if we ever get to see it.
But there's no payoff for that implication, & we never learn anything about his identity, motivation, nothin'. He also wears gloves with short knives (a precursor to Freddy's long-knifed glove), but we don't see those much used either. The worst we see is when the psycho puts plastic bags over peoples' heads. As a gore film, even by 1979 standards, it doesn't deliver.
Among the first & worst imitations of Halloween (1978), what passes for a climax in The Demon is a long stalking sequence through a dark house with a poor excuse for nudity thrown in.
The masked psycho, with hints of being either more or less than human, is in the end surprisingly easily overcome by the last-girl-standing. The finale encounter is massively clumsy in presentation, & then as credits role, the girl keeps screaming for no reason, as if at that moment finally being safe, she went insane.
An undeserved yet curious revisit to this film some years later makes me want to give reluctant hoorahs for two things.
One is the scene where Mary, who has been crawling naked in the rafters, decides to wear a shower curtain as a pancho.
Watch her sudden graceful maneuvers in so-swiftly adapting the plastic curtain as a garment. She also exhibits a dancer's grace while in the rafters crawlspace.
The other thing that intrigues me at second glance is Cameron Mitchell's dialog. It seems impossible a script this awful could have done anything intentionally subtle. Yet when everything Mitchell says & does with his so-called E.S.P. is added up, there remains a high probability that he's a self-deluded fraud, if not outright charlaton twinking with people, & so deserved that bullet in the brain.
Thus on second impression I'm about half willing to believe Percival Rubens isn't as moronic a writer-director as he seems at first watch, even though it remains that he made a bad film.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl