Saturday, March 5, 2011

Not on DVD Week: Night of the Demon (1980)

When I decided to do "Not on DVD Week", I thought a while on what movies I could focus on. Surely, Ken Russell's "The Devils" deserves a look...except that every horror fan well aware of the classics knows about that movie, and I didn't want to focus on movies that are widely considered classics. So instead, I decided to spend more time devoting a large part of it to the obscure, the grimy, the scuzzy and the forgotten. And they don't get any scuzzier than James C. Watson's infamous 1980 Bigfoot movie "Night of the Demon." Written and directed by people you'd never hear from again, the movie has amassed a sizable enough cult following, and it's easy to see why-this is the sleaziest, goriest and all around ugliest of the Bigfoot movies, and it's inclusion in the UK's notorious "Video Nasties" list most likely helped.

Opening in a hospital bed, where Professor Nugent* lies in bed, disfigured by Cat Scratch Fever-okay, by Bigfoot. You see, he and some of his students decided to venture into the wilderness to track down the beast, as one of his students believes that her father was killed by the beast. As they tell stories of other alleged incidents with the beast (all shown in gory detail), they run into some strange occurrences, such as a cult that worships the beast, weird symbols made of tree branches (this aspect went on to be an influence on "The Blair Witch Project" believe it or not) and a woman named Crazy Wanda (Melanie Graham), who says she was raped by Bigfoot and bore it's child. This all leads to a gory climax, where the Nuge and his students have themselves a little Wango Tango with Bigfoot.

To be honest, "Night of the Demon" is not really a great movie. The direction is iffy, the gore effects usually aren't too convincing, the acting is terrible (save for Graham), and the score is made up of oddball synthesizer sounds and inappropriate easy listening music. That out of the way, as a piece of mean spirited exploitation, it more than succeeds. The most notable thing about the movie is how ugly the kills are, including
  • A man being swung around in his sleeping bag and impaled on a branch
  • Bigfoot killing two women with their own knives-as they hold them!
  • A man having his intestine torn out, and then being whipped with them
  • And, in the most infamous moment, a man taking a leak has his penis torn off, with a close up of the bloody stump spurting out blood and urine.
I think you get the idea. There's a nasty sense of humor pervading such scenes, as you can tell this is from a director and screenwriter who are more interested in grossing people out instead of scaring them. In spite of that, there are moments in which the film captures an oppressive atmosphere of dread, especially in the scene revolving around the cult, which feels like a regional tribute to the eerie atmosphere of British Occult Horror. That's not the reason most people love this though. This is a movie made to show gratuitous female nudity, creative kills, and nauseating gore that's meant to appeal to trash loving, lurid sensibilities that watched horror movies with friends and frequented exploitation movies for ugly thrills, and in that matter, it's a roaring (pun intended) success.

As of now, "Night of the Demon" isn't available on DVD in the U.S. There was a bootleg release, but that doesn't really count. However, fans will get their fill later this year, as Code Red is supposed to give it an official DVD release. In the end, I guess you could say Sasquatch gets the last laugh.

Rating: 7.5/10

*I'm let down that there was no sequel to this, in which Ted Nugent hunts for Bigfoot.

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