Night Of The Demon (1980)

This was found by HJDoom, of the now returned-to-regular-podcasting Bela Lugosis Shed, for their regular Sunday night Poor Quality Film Club viewing sessions. And, yes; I am going to plug the hell out of that podcast. It’s a great listen that you should be listening to too. So do yourself a favour and GET IN THE SHED!

“Martha, come quick. Their are students in the cabbage patch!”

Night Of The Demon (no, not that one) was originally titled “The Revenge Of Bigfoot”, had more of the gore added to it by the producer after the director had handed it over, and managed to make its way onto the UKs Video Nasty list. As far as I’m aware I saw the original uncut version, so I can only assume Mrs Whitehouse was trying to save the Great British Public of the 80s from low-budget and acting-skill movies.

“I’m sorry, but the reports came back and your bandana makes you look like a twat.”

The film starts with Bill Nugent in a hospital bed with gauze over his lower face and a bunch of doctors going “Well, he has a wild story to tell. Here’s the overview for the hard of thinking”. It sets your expectations perfectly: bad lighting, bad lines, bad line delivery, and really long takes. It also gives mild hints as to how crazy the film will eventually get, but not enough to make you really prepared. It also spends an inordinate amount of time using all the narrative tricks available to present this as a real story, other than bothering to have anyone do or say anything even vaguely realistic.

As you would suspect, this scene is hilarious.

We are slowly introduced to the principal named victims, a bunch of uni students out to prove the existence of The Sasquatch and to randomly camp outside people’s front doors because they’re jerks. Bill provides examples of these murders through the power of flashbacks – a motif that the film uses with abandon – which makes you ask, “if they were all fatal and had no witnesses, how does he know it happened like that?”, and then “Why were mid-twenties Girl Scouts trying to sell cookies in the wilderness?”.

Nope, I was not exagerating.

They then start harassing the locals, because they’re from the university, and you start to notice “themes” popping up when you weren’t expecting any. Even the first tastes of social commentary, and even the hints of issues being addressed. It’s all done quite badly and clearly in one or fewer takes, but they build up to being part of this film’s three-pronged hypnotic attack which means you can’t stop watching it. Because this film is determined to be entertaining and exciting, even if it couldn’t be arsed to go beyond a first go of any of it.

A couple of the shots are actually quite nice.

The second prong there always being something going on (except for a soundtrack, as that often just blanks out for 30-second chunks) and the characters always being up to something. It might not make as cohesive a story as you might like, with plot points being presented, briefly used, and discarded in favour of the next one like a toddler going through a toybox, but it’s undeniably filled with things.

Actual image from the film.

The final part of this triumvirate is The Bigfoot itself, which kills university people in a forest with an inventiveness that is second only to the bear in Prophecy. These sequences are, intentionally or otherwise, hysterically funny with near-perfect comedic timing. That they are so out of place with the tone and tempo of the rest of the film, to the point where you can almost feel the weld marks, makes it somehow even better and, through some bizarre B-Movie alchemy, enhances the rest of the film.

“I don’t know if I left the gas on, do you think I actually read the script!”

Once the final, brutal twist is played and you’ve sat intently engaged for 92 minutes you will also understand that it needs to be viewed as a twisted Treasure. Its earnest efforts at saying something deep, combined with its glee over childish violence and lack of talent, should not and frequently do not work. But the combination beguiles you, despite your better judgment. You won’t finish thinking it’s a good film (far from it), but you will be glad you gave it a go.

The Raggedyman

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