The Demons of Ludlow
aka, THE GAME. 1984



aka, THEY; or, HELLFIRE. 1974

Director: Bill Rebane

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

The GameIn The Cold aka The Game (1984), three aging dufus millionaires (two men & one woman) invite nine teenagers or potential victims to a weird old house (though the inside of the house appears to be a cheap hotel).

These oldsters offer the winner of their game a one million dollar prize, the point of the game being to face their fears. In this moronic precursor to the game show Fear Factor, the last kid to run screaming from lame practical jokes wins the bag of bucks.

The game they are playing is imaginatively called "the game" & though the geezerly trio are supposed to be wealthy enough to arrange some extraordinary stuff, the gags they set up fall somewhere between the pleasures of a white trash wedding & the terrors of a Halloween haunted house fundraiser put on by thirteen year olds.

The GameThe horrific gags include a tarantula in the soup; a fake shark in the swimming pool followed later on by a boa constrictor in the swimming pool; blinky lights to the sound of a musical saw; a dirty room with cobwebs, a pet rat, & a plastic skeleton.

The gags continue with a scarecrow hanging by its neck until dead; an equally phony-looking head swinging on a wire; a cornpone s/m bit that comes from & goes to nowhere, inclusive of a pretend game of Russian roulette; cheap masks; & the best gag, a vomitting worm puppet.

The retardedly unconvincing halloween gags turn out to be fake, which is supposed to be a big surprise, though at the beginning of "the game" it was already promised that it would be fake. The game ends & the teens are sent away, then the real ghost appears amidst dry-ice mist & freezes the old folks dead, but not really.

A voice-over at the end of the film pretty much asks the viewer if this isn't the most annoyingly ridiculous film we've ever seen, so it's not like Bill Rebane never realized what a bad filmmaker he was. It would be hard for such a director to exceed this high degree of incompetence, but believe it or not, it was capable of doing even worse than this!

The Demons of LudlowThe Cold at least had a cute ice-ghost appear at the last minute, so compared to other Bill Rebane films, it was a howling success.

The Demons of Ludlow (1983) is so chaotic in event that it is pretty much impossible to make sense of it. At heart it's about vengeful ghosts in the extremely small town of Ludlow.

The town receives as a gift for its bicentennial celebration an antique "harmonium" which drips blood when played & which according to the dialog is "made of real gold" though someone forgot to paint the prop gold.

The Demons of LudlowThe "harmonium" is really a white upright piano & not even an antique one. But since the story claims it's a harmonium, when the piano is played, organ music occurs on the soundtrack, not at all matched to the motions of the hands playing the instrument.

It is coincidentally the same "harmonium" that had been in the town at its founding & which the townspeople of that bygone era had gotten rid of because it was cursed.

Since it's the town's 200th birthday, one would suppose that anything that happened among the town's founders should've happened close to two hundred years earlier, but that would've been in the century before the invention of the harmonium.

However, according to the town's raggedy old historical scrolls (yep, scrolls), long about 1860 (perhaps twenty years after the harmonium was invented, but when the town founders would've been at least a hundred years old each) it was discovered that whenever the harmonium was played by a certain sorcerous gent, evil things happened.

The Demons of LudlowSo the guy who played it had his hands chopped off by the founders, plus his family was gunned down with a 12-gauge shotgun (though the 12-gauge didn't exist in the 1860s).

Now that the "harmonium" is back, vengeful ghosts begin appearing from time to time, dressed improbably as Elizabethans or as pirates, eager to kill all living descendants of the town founders.

The costumes were probably obtained cheap by the director who had them left over from an amateur play at one of his church's fundraises, & maybe he inherited the same amateur actors who give inane performances as ghosts.

In a typical sequence, a loopy teenager who acts like a little child torments her dolls. It might've been fun to get to know that nutter a bit better, but too soon she goes downstairs & witnesses an Elizabethan dinner party in progress.

The Demons of LudlowWhen the ghosts notice she's watching them, they tear her limb from limb, though we don't really get to see much gore beyond the blood on the ghosts' fingertips. The organ music on the soundtrack is supposed to be the harmonium.

When our hero eventually takes an axe to the upright piano, it levitates for a couple seconds, crashes halfway through the floor, then its top blows off. The pirate ghosts appear & start to have a ghostly trial but then decide not to bother & just cut off the hero's hands without a trial. For a climax there's a force-field around the town.

If it's okay that a film is unutterable nonsense; if a viewer doesn't mind bad acting, bad direction, bad cinematography, & a "story" that seems to have been made up as it was filmed with no working script, well, in that case, you very likely still won't like this turd.

The Alpha INcidentIn the pisspoor Z budget sci-fi horror failure The Alpha Incident (1978), no doubt inspired by The Andromeda Strain (1971), a virus from Mars is being shipped by rail for underground storage in the Rockies.

A nosy hick on the train manages to unleash the super-contagion. The outbreak is isolated to a small rural train stop, while the victims die off one by one, not all from the contagion however since that would've required special FX.

Bill Rebane never made a good film, but in this one he got better actors than the material merited.

The Alpha INcidentIn particular, Stafford Morgan as the sure-shot government biologist has a commanding voice & presence, & George "Buck" Flower as the hillbilly train worker is by turns amusing & pitiful.

Buck's a good character actor in B & Z pics, often seen playing a wino or tramp, occasionally with a substantial role. He's much too good for a Rebane movie.

Indeed the acting overall, though hardly mainstream quality, is good enough that for the first hour, there seems to be some likelihood that something interesting might eventually happen.

From lab experiments on hamsters & rats we know that post-mortem, the brain expands & cracks open the head. The virus does not activate until the infected person takes a nap, so everyone tries not to sleep. This could have been quite a set-up for gory FX of exploding heads, but we don't see any expanding human brainmatter until the 125th minute of film time, & most of the rest of the film is just jabber jabber jabber endless inane dialogue. Essentially nothing happens for an hour & a half then it just ends.

Invasion from Inner EarthRebane's ouvre is so unbelievably void of skill or imagination that it's impossible to pinpoint which film may be his worst. In the running, however, would be Invasion from Inner Earth (1974), so called even though it opens with a picture of the Earth viewed from deep space.

It is also known as They or Hellfire. The directorial credit is to "Ito," which would be Rebane's pet name for his pecker.

Certainly it has the silliest UFOs ever fobbed off as special effects. The first one appears briefly & looks like a crumpled goucho's hat slathered with whipcream photographed out of focus. Later we'll see a completely different UFO which looks like a plastic picnic plate that got bent while in the garbage where Rebane found it, lacking the budget to get a brand new plastic picnic plate.

Invasion from Inner EarthAlso amazing if only for the boldness of its plagiarism, a trashy synthesizer score rips off whole passages from The Good the Bad & the Ugly as though no one would recognize it.

Sarah & her brother Jake live in the chilly northern wilderness. Jake makes a living with a small plane that brings people into the wilderness then takes them back to civilization.

We first meet brother & sister in their cabin with Jake blathering on & on about how Sarah should move to town & try to find some guy to marry. She gives him distasteful glances & asserts that she prefers utter isolation.

So Jake intimates she might want to get it on with Eric, one of the scientists who are Jake's current slug of clients. No doubt Jake has drilled a hole in the ceiling crawlspace over Sarah's bed.

Invasion from Inner EarthThere'll be lots more dumb conversation because Rebane has to fill up the time somehow & it sure won't be with anything interesting.

When it's time to take the scientists back to civilization, they discover at the first lay-over that a plague has killed everybody.

The radio can't reach far enough to find anyone alive, so they figure at minimum the plague has a three-hundred mile radius.

They're lucky to find enough fuel to fly back to the cabin where they hope the isolation will save them from the plague. There's nothing coming in over the radio, so they suspect UFOs, cuz who wouldn't assume that.

Invasion from Inner EarthThey walk around outside in the snow or they sit in the cabin. When they see one of the aliens, it's a red light flashed on the wall. "Where did it come from? What could it be?" Most likely it came from a flashlight, buckeroos.

The other exciting event is the robotic voice that talks to them briefly on the shortwave. All such nonsensical moments provide excuses for further moronic conversations.

The character Stan gets the best lines because he keeps fabricating "explanations" like he's the intellect of the gang, sounding more like the most doped out stoner.

I swear to god this isn't a spoof review & this film does actually exist. And it really does end this way: Everyone in the world dies except Adam & Eve.

See also Rebane's
The Legend of Bigfoot (1979)
Blood Harvest (1987)

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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