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Night Of The Demon
(1980)

Director: James C. Wasson  
Cast:
Michael Cutt, Joy Allen, Bob Collins


A few days ago, I was engaged in my daily poking around various web sites for new information when I came across a story in the news about some of the new planets that have been discovered many light years away from our own planet. It was an interesting news story, in part because I have always felt that with the universe being so impossibly big, there can't be only life in the corner of the universe we happen to live in - especially since some of the planets mentioned in the article seemed to have Earth-like properties. But not long after reading the article, I was thinking about what I read and I realized something. What I realized was that with mankind having the modern technology it now has, a lot of our focus has now changed from looking in many and varied parts of our own world to looking to what's far away from us. There are many things about our Earth that no longer seem to fascinate and educate us as they did even just one hundred years ago. One thing that has lost a lot of lustre in mankind's eyes is the animal life that surrounds us. Part of that seems to be because we have had plenty of time to study and catalog every animal species that we have come across while spreading across the planet for quite some time now. (Well, maybe not every animal - every so often I read a story in the news about a new species of animal that's been discovered.) We've done so much studying of the more than million kinds of animals on earth that nowadays it's pretty hard to find something new about an animal that would amaze and interest us.

Actually, there is a kind of animal that still carries with it a good degree of fascination and interest to this very day. The kind of animals I am talking about are animals that we have never really seen. Obviously, one kind of these certain animals that I am talking about are the various dinosaurs that lived more than sixty-five million years ago. True, we have plenty of evidence of their existence and how they lived thanks to the many fossils that have been dug up over the years. But since there are no living dinosaurs now, we can't be 100% sure of everything about them, such as the color of their skins. It's questions like that that have kept mankind so interested in dinosaurs right to this very day. But there's another kind of animal that even today gives many people a great deal of fascination. The kind of animal that I am talking about is various species of animals that have never been totally proven to exist. The scientific term for these supposed animals is "cryptid", which you may not have known, but I am sure you know about some of the supposed animals that fit this category. For example, there is the Loch Ness Monster, the Kraken, the Queensland Tiger, the Chupacabra, and there is the Jersey Devil. There are plenty of cryptids to choose from if you need to, so it should probably come as no surprise that over the many decades of the existence of the feature-film, there have been plenty of movies made concerning various cryptids. I can see the appeal of cryptids to filmmakers; when you concern yourself with a mysterious creature, you have brand name recognition with audiences as well as the freedom to do your own spin on the creature. After all, since the creature in question hasn't even been confirmed by the scientific community, you can get away with just about anything concerning the creature.

One such cryptid that has attracted a significant amount of filmmakers over the years is the half man / half ape creature known by various names (Yeti, Bigfoot, Sasquatch, etc.) Over the years, I have seen plenty of these films, and I've noticed a trend with them. With a few exceptions like Night Of The DemonHarry And The Hendersons and Missing Link, these movies tend to be made as horror movies. For example, there is Demonwarp, and others include Shriek Of The Mutilated and the made-for-TV Snowbeast. I've thought about why this cryptid is portrayed so often as horrific, and I've come up with two possible reasons why. The first reason is that the cryptid is more human-like than others, so something close to human being terrifying hits home more easily. The other reason is that it's easier to make something homicidal than trying to portray it with some intelligence and humanity. So I was not surprised when Night Of The Demon promised to be a bloody look at this particular kind of cryptid. What I was surprised by was just how bloody and sleazy it turned out to be. Before I get into that, a plot synopsis: Dr. Nugent (Cutt, California Dreams) is a college professor who has a deep interest in the legend of Bigfoot, enough that he truly believes that the creature exists. He is approached by a woman named Carla whose father was killed in an area notorious for Bigfoot sightings. Nugent believes Carla's claims her father was killed by Bigfoot, so he decides to lead an expedition with several of his students to the area to investigate all the Bigfoot-related stories - all of which involve Bigfoot killing humans in various gory ways. Deep in the wilderness, it doesn't take long for the group to discover there's more truth to the stories than they thought - and that they just might find themselves on a certain creature's kill list!

As I said in the previous paragraph of this review, most movies involving half man / half ape movies tend to be horror movies, and Night Of The Demon is no exception, which you probably guessed right away when you read the title of the movie for the first time. But Night Of The Demon also has another similarity with many of those other horror movies sharing the same half man / half ape theme, and that it is a cheap and crudely made exercise. Though this effort manages to be an extremely cheap and crudely made exercise. Out of all the Bigfoot movies I've seen, this has got to be the one that had the least amount of money and resources available. It is a terribly photographed movie, with all the colors looking dark and murky even when the movie takes place in the wilderness in the middle of a sunny day. The sound is also bad at times, with some dialogue muffled to the point that it's hard to make out what is being said at times, and the times when the movie did loop dialogue in the post-production studio, the sound of this dialogue sticks out like a sore thumb from the original surrounding dialogue. Speaking of bad sound, the movie also has a musical score that's harsh to the ears. It's electronic, which is bad enough, but it also frequently sounds like the person at the keyboard is just pressing keys at random, except for one brief instrumental bit that rips off the 1972 hit song from the group Gallery "I Believe In Music". When it comes to props and sets, the movie also doesn't have that much to show the audience. During the group's hike into the wilderness, they often are seen lugging nothing but the clothes on their backs, though later they are seen with tents and sleeping bags. And except for one scene taking place in a college classroom and other in a general store, it is pretty obvious that all the indoor locations - from hospital rooms to the inside of a cabin - were shot on some soundstage, with absolutely minimal set decoration and props.

No mistake about it - the low budget and the lack of resources significantly hurt Night Of The Demon from the first scene right to the closing credits. But that is not to say that the filmmakers were a completely incompetent bunch of fellows handed very little to work with. On the contrary, there are a number of moments that clearly prove that the filmmakers did have a good grasp on what audiences would consider "the goods", and went all out with the little they had to deliver these goods. (WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.. THOUGH REALLY JUICY SPOILERS.) For example, they knew that it would not just be enough to show someone's arm being ripped off - they knew they would have to have the man's subsequent bloody stump shoved close into the camera lens. They also knew that it would not do to just have a motorcyclist simply killed as he pulls off the road to urinate - they knew that they had to show a furry arm move towards the man's exposed penis, then seconds later show the motorcyclist limping away with his hands covering his bloody crotch. When it came to showing a man sleeping in a sleeping bag being attacked by the creature, they knew that a simple strangling or beating would not do - they had to show Bigfoot picking up the occupied sleeping bag, swinging it multiple times in the air, and then throw it against a tree branch which impales the unfortunate man in the sleeping bag. The filmmakers also knew that just to imply that a woman was raped by Bigfoot would not be satisfying - they had to actually show the creature on top of the woman making multiple pelvic thrusts, and subsequently add a close-up of Bigfoot's face as he has what appears to be an orgasm. And when Bigfoot causes a big gash in an unlucky person's belly, the filmmakers make sure for Bigfoot to reach into the wound, pull out the person's intestines, and whip them around in the air in slow motion.

Trust me, there's a lot more similar stuff to be found during a viewing of Night Of The Demon. And as you can imagine, whenever one of these scenes comes up, it makes for some considerable entertainment if you're like me and appreciate extreme exploitation and have a sick sense of humor. The movie also has some other charms besides those moments of gore and violence, mostly to do with unintentional hilarious moments. Such moments include when the movie's soundtrack spouts a peppy and upbeat flute-like number during the opening credits - right after we saw that guy's arm ripped off. The acting by most of the cast also gets a number of laughs, particularly that of actor Michael Cutt, who speaks in a constant monotone no matter the situation or the subject matter he is speaking of. Oddly, there is one genuinely good performance in the movie, that being Melanie Graham's performance of the character of Crazy Wanda. She doesn't say much, but manages to make quite an impression from the genuinely haunting look on her face in all of her scenes. So there definitely is a lot of entertaining stuff (intentional as well as unintentional) to be found in Night Of The Demon. I wouldn't call it some kind of lost classic, though. Beside the shoddy filmmaking techniques I mentioned two paragraphs ago, the script also has a number of groaners. For example, the professor and his students know about the number of deaths in the area attributed to Bigfoot, but whenever someone happens that increases their risk of harm (their boat or their ammunition disappearing, for example), they don't flee the area to safety, but trek on further into the wilderness and increase their risk of harm happening to them. Still, there is enough here to show the filmmakers has a good grasp as to what an audience of an exploitation movie wants, added to a decent amount of unintended laughs that probably makes the movie worth a look should it ever cross your path during a trek in the B movie wilderness when you don't have a specific (and better) destination to go to.

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See also: The Beauties And The Beast, Demonwarp, Missing Link

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