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Night of the Demon

I'm not usually a huge fan of 1950's horror, but Night of The Demon certainly impressed me. Instead of using the typical B-horror concepts or cliches, the film is surprisingly mature and thoughtful with its subject matter. The film can still be quite cheesy, granted, but it's leagues better than any 1950's horror movie that I've ever seen. It's also interesting to note that, despite how obscure it is, the film has influenced several big-name directors, including Sam Raimi and his film Drag Me To Hell.

The film follows skeptical Dr. John Holden, a psychology major and paranormal debunker, that travels to Britain after the mysterious and gruesome death of Professor Henry Harrington. Though the police believe he was electrocuted by a fallen powerline, the locals and the late professor's niece, Joanna, think that darker and more sinister works were behind the professor's death. As Holden investigates the professor's death, initially being very skeptical of anything involved with cults or ancient demons, the presence of a dark cult leader and an unseen shadow leads to a mystery that may make even Holden a believer in the supernatural.

The script and characters are, surprisingly, very literate and intelligent for a 1950's horror film. In a decade filled with films like Plan 9 From Outer Space and The Atomic Man, Night of The Demon brings some classic horror back to an age where sci-fi horror had become all the rage. Back to the film, the characters, while not entirely memorable, are interesting enough to hold one's attention throughout the film. The concept of paranormal investigators and demons have been around for ages and still, to this day, are effective storytelling means. The concept and the characters aren't brilliant, but they're certainly very good.

The visuals look great, which is, again, surprising for a film of this genre during the 1950's. It's black, moody, and the washy effects used make the film feel as much like a drama as it does a horror. The visuals are at their best, perhaps, when we see Holden running away from the demon in the dark woods. It's human fear at its best - the thought of being chased down by an entity that you can't see and couldn't possibly understand.

However, as interesting as the film is, it's not without its cheesy moments. The seance, for example, was painful to watch because of how much the medium was over-acting. It wasn't creepy, it wasn't cool, nor was it atmospheric - it was just lame. Another example would be the sequence when Holden almost loses the cursed paper to a fire. I don't know why, but for some reason, the idea of paper flying away to a sweeping musical score just seems rather silly.

The film, sadly, also commits one of the greatest monster movie sins ever - they show the demon, in a full close-up, during the first five minutes of the film. I don't have a problem with catching a glimpse of a monster (or person) near the end of a horror movie (see Halloween, Paranormal Activity, etc.), but revealing the big baddie within the first few minutes really kills momentum. Not only that, but the demon doesn't even look that great to begin with. It's got an interesting design and all, but it's easy to tell how fake the creature is.

Overall, Night of The Demon's a pretty good horror flick. It's not great or brilliant, as the cheesiness factor and poor creature-puppets show, but the film's literate and interesting script make for a film that's worth watching.



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