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Demonwarp
(1987)
(The filmed results)

Director: Emmett Alston
Starring: George Kennedy, David Michael O'Neill, Pamela Gilbert


The movie Demonwarp ended up, for the most part, to be filmed exactly as it read in its revised screenplay, right down to the characters using the same lines of dialogue. However, the process of transforming this story into a visual and audio medium did not keep the story at the level of being tolerably mediocre - to say the least. Though the screenplay of a movie is frequently underrated regarding said movie's eventual success or failure, comparing the screenplay of Demonwarp to the filmed results goes to show that the direction of a particular movie has at least equal importance as well.

To be sure, there were a good deal of changes made to the story before filming commenced. Many of these are petty and pretty insignificant; the gorilla mask, for example, is missing the battery-operated blinking Smile!red eyes that the screenplay describes. However, there are a number of places where there were more significant changes. In this version, there is a new character. Well, you can't really call him a character, since he remains nameless and I don't think I can remember him ever uttering a word. The character is a photographer who suddenly appears midway through the movie, and his only purpose seems to be so he can run into the Bigfoot creature, get scared, and run away while being chased. And chased some more. And more. And even more, before he's finally caught, killed, and immediately forgotten about afterwards. Another change comes from the alien craft that makes an appearance at the beginning. The screenplay describes it as a, "...huge spherical starcraft, partially buried in the side of the mountain. It glows and smokes from its entry into Earth's atmosphere. The ground is gouged in a great scar from its crash." The filmed results have the starcraft barely bigger than a basketball, not glowing or smoking at the crash site, and we only see about a three feet length (at the most) of the "great scar" (more like a ditch) it left in an open plain.

It's obvious from such execution like this that the production had an extremely low budget, which can be assumed dictated a lot of the changes. You won't see Crafton here killed by falling into a pit lined with sharp stakes - here he simply has his head smacked against a boulder. While some changes like this don't belay the cheap nature of this movie, there are unfortunately a lot more that do. The originally written climax had a number of striking things to behold, but with the low budget all of these things look cardboard to the eye, or they have simply been eliminated all together. Though the rest of the movie does seem as if it could be comfortably made for a low budget - it's pretty much all outdoors work, with just the actors and a few simple props thrown in - there is still the annoying feeling of cheapness to be behold. For one thing, the forest here is not the "majestic forest, thick with pines" as described in the screenplay. The scenery is clearly that of southern California, a mix between scraggly dried-out trees and small clearings of yellow grass and sandy soil. Though this is a natural location, it's one that isn't spectacular or one that could seemingly be holding secrets or horror. Another way the movie gives itself the constant feeling of cheapness comes from the cinematography. Although it was shot on film, the unnatural look of everything seems almost that coming from videotape.

The makeup effects run hot and cold. The gore effects for the most part are acceptable, though the zombies are not very convincing - their inconsistent appearance makes it appear they were obtained from the makeup department of several different zombie movies. The movie's big creation - the Bigfoot creature - is okay, I guess. The face is somewhat stiff, though it does have some movement, and its body is acceptably shaggy. It certainly doesn't embarrass itself any more than the rest of the cast. Certainly better than the two actresses who play the roles of the marijuana-seeking bimbos. These two actresses are so bad it's hard to believe that they are not actually trying to give the most awful performances possible. The rest of the youths in the cast are not so bad, though they are pretty bland, doing what they are given and nothing more. Though as I pointed out in the screenplay review, these characters are not exactly written with much depth. As for the one seasoned professional in the cast - George Kennedy - this is not one of his finest hours. Just as in the screenplay, the part of Crafton has no real bearing on the plot. Kennedy just has three brief scenes, scenes that come across as hastily set up and shot. Kennedy also doesn't seem that very enthusiastic to be here, half-heartedly spouting his lines with a look of distraction in his eyes, as if he was thinking of some pressing concern in his private life during filming.

This lack of passion can be also found elsewhere in the movie. There is no sign there was any enthusiasm or desire to do as good a job as possible by director Alston. While the screenplay certain had more than a foot in the very familiar, it could have been given a shot of adrenaline with a zippy pace, cajoling enthusiasm from the actors, even with some pushing towards the makeup department to give the audience some guilty gory pleasures. Instead, just about every scene and everything in the scene comes across in the most tired way possible. Demonwarp is not just one of those movies made for insomniacs, it was apparently made by insomniacs as well.

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See also: King Cobra, Madman, Rituals

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