Night of the Demon (1980)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2011-10-15 08:26

Written by: Jim L. Ball and Mike Williams
Directed by: James C. Wasson
Starring: Michael Cutt, Joy Allen, and Bob Collins

Reviewed by: Brett Gallman

"I burned him. I burned him because he killed my baby. And to save its father."

Usually, a discussion of shlocky nature-run-amok flicks would invariably start with Jaws, but I think you’ve all heard me start out at least a dozen reviews that way. Besides, in this case, it’s much more accurate to begin with Charles Pierce’s The Legend of Boggy Creek, which capitalized on the nation’s Bigfoot craze and inexplicably inspired a whole mess of flicks starring the big, hairy man beast. Despite what the title might lead you to believe, Night of the Demon is one such film. Though it can claim to be an infamous Video Nasty, it’s seemingly toiled in obscurity, perhaps due to sharing a title with the classic 1957 movie of the same name. Having finally seen it for myself, I can only wonder why it hasn’t been bandied about more often among lovers of awesomely bad cinema.

Delivered entirely as a flashback from a guy in a full body cast, Night of the Demon is the epic tale of a group of college students who explore a local Bigfoot legend. As they encroach on “Bigfoot territory” (their terminology, not mine), they whisper tales of the beast and uncover the sordid history behind the area. Their travels lead them to “Crazy Wanda,” a hermit who lives deep in the woods; she’s so named because she’s been a recluse ever since her father died after she gave birth to a malformed child. I think you know where this is headed.

Typically, a misleading title like this would be sort of irksome; however, you don’t need an actual demon if your movie features redneck cult rituals, infrared Bigfoot vision, 80s TV sitcom theme music, and a mightily pissed off beast that rapes and brutally murders anything in its path. In short, Night of the Demon is like a trashier, more insane version of Grizzly, complete with weird, stylish lighting and a fever dream aesthetic that you’d never expect from a shitty Bigfoot movie. And let’s not fool ourselves: this is a bad movie like all of these movies generally are, with its poor acting, numerous botched line readings, and overall cheapness. It looks like it could have easily been a TV movie, and you’ll definitely be wondering if it wasn’t when you hear the campy opening theme song.

However, there’s something oddly alluring about the atmosphere Wasson creates; this is yet another guy who knows that the woods are scary, and they’re made even scarier when there’s bizarre, inhuman howling in the background. Even during the downtime (and there is a lot considering the plot ostensibly consists of people talking about Bigfoot), it’s kind of spooky, and all of the lurid subject matter makes this one of the more nightmarish takes on this kind of movie. Okay, “nightmarish” is probably the wrong word, but one definitely feels like they’ve stepped into a very weird backwoods world, where broads can only tag along on the expedition if they agree to cook and clean first. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe this is just what the south feels like to a meth addict.

Even though much of the movie is indeed dedicated to unraveling the mystery of Bigfoot, the film provides some gratuitously awesome and exploitative padding in the form of the flashbacks and stories (nevermind that the whole thing is already being told as a flashback). In this respect, Night of the Demon is like a half-assed anthology flick as this guy with a bushy mustache occasionally takes time out to tell the tales of previous victims who had unfortunate encounters with the beast (again, nevermind the fact that these people end up dead as shit and there are no witnesses). These vignettes are truly great; imagine those “Messin’ With Sasquatch” commercials, only with axe murders, stabbings, tree impalements, and more. That’s right--this Bigfoot isn’t content to tear people apart with his bare hands, so his victims are subjected to a vast array of mutilations. Among his victims are girl scouts (yeah, this Bigfoot even hates scout cookies--he’s that pissed off) and a biker who learns the film’s most valuable lesson: never, ever take a roadside piss if you’re in Bigfoot territory.

Watching Bigfoot tear these poor bastards apart is really delightful and unbelievably gory. Usually these things degenerate into a really fake looking prosthetic claw jumping into the frame and leaving a blood-drizzled corpse, but not so here, as this one definitely earns its Video Nasty status. If the random splatter vignettes weren’t enough, Night of the Demon ends in an outrageous climax of blood and guts as the Bigfoot finally closes in on the main cast, who have holed up in a nearby cabin. If all of this sounds kind of like an 80s slasher, it probably should; in fact, this movie is better at being one of those than many actual 80s slashers because it completely gets that we really just want to see Bigfoot ripping things up.

It just so happens to be much crazier than many of those slasher flicks too, which works to its benefit since it provides such an absurd backstory. This type of weirdness was usually reserved for stuff being imported from Euro shores, and I really think it ought to be more of a cult classic. Maybe I’ve just been living under a rock for the past decade, but I really had no idea this one was such a triumph in terrible movie oddball sleaze. Perhaps it’ll finally garner some more infamy thanks to Code Red’s DVD release, which represents its first uncut release in Region 1. Unfortunately, this is yet another instance where they only had a 1 inch tape master at their disposal, so we’re stuck with a full frame transfer that looks kind of worn; however, it’s more than adequate and looks much better than you’d expect. The sound is equally solid, but the disc is a bit light on features, as it only comes with an intro and music video from Maria Kanellis, some other Code Red trailers, and reversible cover art that highlights the film’s penis-ripping madness. Of course, my love for these things is as unnatural as the love presented in the movie, so enter these woods at your own risk. Buy it!

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