Monday, October 25, 2010

Bald Mountain Night 25: Night of the Demon

Each day in October, intrepid blogger Alex Boivin will watch a horror movie. These movies are all new to him and are part of his month-long effort to fill in his gaps in the horror canon. If he doesn't die from fright, you just might get to read about about his exploits in cinema during the Halloween season.

On the recommendations of Martin Scorsese and funnyman Patton Oswalt I found my way to the 1957 British horror classic Night of the Demon. Why shouldn't two of my favorite representatives of their respective fields as well as two fellow cinephiliacs point me in such a direction?

Night of the Demon is the story of American psychologist John Holden (Dana Andrews, he who "said prunes gave him the runes" in Rocky Horror's "Science Fiction Double Feature") who upon arriving in London for a conference discovers that his colleague Professor Harrington has died under mysterious circumstances. Along with his colleague's niece, he begins an investigation that leads him to the Crowley-esque leader of a Satanic cult. The warlock Karswell claims he put a curse on Harrington as revenge for the professor attempting to discredit his power, resulting in his death at the hands of an ancient demon. Holden  believes it all to be balderdash until Karswell curses him as well. Now eerie occurrences seems to follow Holden wherever he goes and soon enough even he the skeptic fears he may fall prey to Karswell's demon.

As Marty said, the scariest part of Night of the Demon is what you don't see. According to legend, there was a disagreeement between the writer and director and the producer about whether to show the demon at all. The titular malevolent spirit does show up at the beginning and end of the picture but the film would lose nothing with its absence. What would be left (and is very much still there anyway) is a great battle between rationality and faith. Karswell claims supernatural powers but may very well be a charlatan. And are the seemingly diabolical events surrounded Holden the machinations of infernal forces or merely cleverly plotted tricks and coincidence? The answers are left up to the viewer to decide but what isn't questionable is the features spookiness.

But was it scary? The eponymous demon actually scared me a bit in its brief appearances; odd for such an old bit of creature effects to do, but this movie is plenty scary with or without it.

Final Verdict: 69 Congos