"It is among you ... waiting ..."
directed by: Percival Rubens
starring: Jennifer Holmes, Cameron Mitchell, Peter J. Elliott, Moira Winslow, Mark Tanous, Diane Burmeister, George Korelin, Vera Blacker, John Parsonson, Graham Kennard, April Galetti, Jannie Wienand Amanda Wildman
(back of video blurb): [BEWARE: contains major spoilers. Thanks to Chris Monroe.]
"Shattering screams pierce the stillness of a country night as the residents of a small community become prey of a possessed, demon-like maniac.Something inhuman terrorizes the countryside, waiting to strike at its next chosen victim.
The Parkers suffer the agony of seeing thier only daughter carried off into the night by the unexplicable outline of the unknown horror.They enlist the help of a retired Marine corporal (Cameron Mitchell) blessed with the gift of ESP, to help locate their child. Nevertheless, the overwrought father dismisses all warnings and searches for his daughter in an abandoned hotel believed to be the hideout for the demon. In a fierce confrontation with the horrifingly inhuman abductor, Parker dies a gruesome death.
Next the demon chooses to "shadow" Mary Jones, the new school teacher. Mary's uneasiness turns to terror when she returns home to find her cousin and a friend cruelly murdered. Panic stricken, she tries to get out of the house only to find all the doors locked behind her, the key missing.
She has little time to think-no time to waste-in her frenzied fight to survive."
"What we're dealing with here is an aberration of the species - hallucinating evil!"
Cameron Mitchell hams it up in fine style
To say this movie was a little strange would be a considerable understatement. Again we're into the realms of bad horror cinema where you don't need drugs to feel out of it, no, this is one of those films where you spend its whole running length with a quizzical look frozen onto your face- only to change occasionally for your jaw to drop a little further. 'Surely this isn't happening?', I asked myself several times- pinching my leg just to be sure, but there was no escaping the horrible reality, it was- it really was…
Cameron Mitchell, star of Mario Bava's seminal giallo/slasher BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (1964) and, also, THE TOOLBOX MURDERS (1978) (plus a plethora of other good and bad movies), here, plays Colonel Bill Carson- a private investigator with psychic powers (yeah, you read it right). He's hired by a couple whose daughter was abducted by the eponymous 'demon'- shown in the opening scene carrying away the screaming teen, slung over his shoulder, into the night. The Mother (Moira Winslow), who herself was tied to a chair by the fiend, with a plastic bag over her head, and left to die (but was rescued at the last minute by her husband), pleads with Mitchell, after the police have turned up nothing, "I'll give you everything I've got to catch that monster!". Mitchell then deadpans, "I'm not a mystic- I'm just someone who's been gifted with ESP: Extra … Sensory … Perception."; pausing before continuing, "Sometimes I get these... feelings. Vibes, as the kids would say."
Now, would you trust this man to find your lost daughter? He tells them he needs to see her room, but, just as the Father offers to show him the way, Mitchell says not to bother- he already knows (freaky, eh?). Once alone amongst the girl's possessions (and posters of Starsky and Hutch and Patrick Duffy), he has what I could only think to describe as a psychic tantrum- going red, his head shaking and his mouth vibrating like an over excited horse whinnying. … The result of this is that he glimpses the 'demon' (who looks like some normal bloke, really), in the mirror. This, it appears, sends him over the edge and he launches himself onto the bed and begins to rip apart the teenage girl's pillow; then immersing his face deep into it and taking good long, deep sniffs. At this point the girl's parents burst into the room, and Mitchell justifies himself: "I'm sorry, this must look like witchcraft". Well, not exactly- but I suppose they should just be thankful he didn't go for her underwear draw! … At this point I really wasn't exactly sure who I should be frightened of …
The 'demon', meanwhile, whose face is kept in shadows and who seems to have a thing for asphyxiating his victims with a plastic bag, hitchhikes his way to the city- offing the chatterbox driver who stopped to give him a lift.
The film then shifts a gear and we're introduced to what clearly is to be this film's final girl- Jennifer Holmes' nursery school teacher, Mary- who keeps glimpsing a shadowy figure out in the school yard who appears to vanish and reappear in the fog. Mary, is sharing her home with her cousin, the 18 year old Jo, also a teacher, whose just started dating Dean, a playboy in skintight disco trousers. In fact, much of the second half of the film is made up with this dopey, and somewhat demented, love story as Jo and Dean exchange sparkling dialogue like this: "Drive me to the moon!" - "Do you mind if we stop at my place first?"; or, "Could you love a man with roots growing out of his feet?" (pardon?).
Meanwhile, Mitchell the psychic is giving the parents of the missing girl further reason for thinking they've hired a complete loon. First, he comes up with this revelatory bonbon about the man they're hunting, "He's less than - and more than a man, much more." (Like, gee, that's a lot of help); secondly, he comes up with some uniquely useless 'psychic' drawings which look like they were the work of a five year old, including a sketch of the 'demon' which omits his face (doh!).
The 'demon' however, in-between stalking Mary, gets to terrorising the rest of the city. Intent on, quite literally, painting the town red he dons a clawed glove and finds, and then chases a disco-bunny who's just been kicked out of 'Boobs' discotheque (I swear I'm not making this up), and has violent run ins with a gaggle of pimps, and some motorcyclists.
At this point I was thinking it couldn't get any weirder, but then the film chucked a real sidewinder my way. [Note: if you want to avoid some spoilers then skip this paragraph] … First the husband of the missing girl tracks down the demon, only to be quickly offed; then the missing girl herself is discovered by a group of kids playing war games, one of who pretends to fall down dead and when he looks up sees a skeleton with a blonde wig perched in the branches of a tree above (!). … My head was spinning at this point, but the real knockout punch came when Mitchell goes to give his condolences to the widow, who, finally realising hiring him had been a big mistake raises a handgun and shoots him square between the eyes, saying nonchalantly, "Did your ESP prepare you for this?" … Now that I wasn't expecting!
The last half-hour segues seamlessly into typical slasher movie territory as the 'demon' closes in on Mary and her cousin. All the clichés are present and correct starting off with the silent phonecalls ("Some freak's been on the phone- heavy breathing and all."), to false scare with a black cat; a key breaking off in a lock; and a door handle coming off in someone's hand. However, the suspense is sustained and pretty effective; plus the 'demon' actually looks pretty darn creepy, with rubber mask and clawed gloves stalking a terrified Mary around the house in his best slo-mo Michael Myers fashion.
Unsurprisingly, the film's quirks aren't quite finished yet. For some reason, Mary looses her dressing gown and spends about five minutes playing cat 'n' mouse with the killer, topless! To cover herself up she makes a stylish poncho out of a shower curtain and concocts a plan to catch her assailant, utilising a shower head and bubble bath, which is right out of SCOOBY DOO. Does she succeed? Ah, now that'd be telling.
This South African lensed stalker pic (which tries to pretend it's American), was shot in two versions: the one for the South African market was made without any nudity; whereas the one made for foreign markets has the majority of the female cast going topless at one point or another (which explains Holmes' climactic streak).
THE DEMON succeeds in being downright freaky. It's not a good film by any means - although, as I pointed out, the final showdown provide some good solid slasher thrills - but, for all its clichés, it goes off at such a tangent that it can't fail but entertain. Approach with caution though, you may not escape with your sanity intact!
BODYCOUNT 10 female:2 / male:8
1) Female abducted; later found dead (in tree!)
2) Male suffocated and strangled
3) Male slashed to death with clawed glove
4) Male slashed to death with clawed glove
5) Mlae thrown from balcony
6) Male strangled and neck broken
7) Male shot between the eyes
8) Male suffocated with plastic bag
9) Female killed (method unseen)
10) Male stabbed in the neck with scissors