Splatter Time Fun Fest 2010 rolls right along with a horror classic, and a dude who I always think is a dame because of his name!
Screenplay By: Charles Bennett & Hal E. Chester
Directed By: Jacques Tourneur
I’ve been sitting at my desk for a small amount of time trying to think of a moniker to apply to Night Of The Demon. It’s not my usual complaint, I know what I want to say about Night Of The Demon, but I can’t quite peg down the best way to simply label Night Of The Demon. I know, I know, labels suck and honestly have no place in film. But, I think this exercise in my own futility speaks to how individualistic of a film Night Of The Demon is. It’s not really a horror film, it certainly has elements of a noir film, with Karswell sliding nicely into the role of the femme fatale in all but look. You know what, that does it, that’s exactly what Night Of The Demon is, it’s an occult noir.
On its surface Night Of The Demon is an austere looking film, one might even call it plain. But there are a couple of things that stop Night Of The Demon from actually being plain. First there is the aforementioned Karswell. He brings a bit of flair and certainly dramatics to the picture. The rest of the picture may be intent on motoring along and taking itself rather seriously, but not Karswell. He exists beyond the normal and thus is anything but plain, as if his weird goatee thingie wasn’t evidence enough. The other factor that stops Night Of The Demon from being called plain are the small moments here and there when the director, Jacques Tourneur, adds a dash of German expressionism into the mix. A hallway shifts out of focus, a building looks larger than it should be, and combined with the occult subject matter this is Tourneur’s way of ensuring Night Of The Demon is anything but a plain motion picture.
Speaking of the subject matter of Night Of The Demon, how are your feelings on the occult? Night Of The Demon certainly has some feelings on the occult, it crafts it’s entire reason for being around the idea of the occult and witchcraft, with less emphasis on the witch. I’m not going to make any declarations about how the people involved with the picture felt about the occult, but this is a film that wants to make you believe in the occult, and more importantly the power of the occult, with every fiber of its being. I loved the key scene dealing with this issue, when Karswell calls up the wind storm at his estate. There’s a power behind that scene that is hard to describe, but to put it bluntly, it roxored my boxers.
All that being said, the strength of the occult in Night Of The Demon is what isn’t seen, and that is why the close-up images of the demon were a big ole fail in my eyes. When the demon exists as just a murky thickness of smog or a moving amalgamation of some sort of shape, it works. When we get to see the demon up close and personal I had to stifle a few laughs, because he doesn’t look either believable or impressive. Maybe I’m being too harsh on an older film, but if you’re going to show me a demon then I need to believe I am seeing a demon, and I believed I was seeing a beefed up Muppet maybe, but not a demon, at least not when I saw it in vivid detail.
Despite how laughable the demon looked up close, as well as a rather routine performance by Dana Andrews, I quite liked Night Of The Demon. I liked the subject matter, I loved the character of Karswell, and I liked the little touches Tourneur added to the experience with his camera. I wouldn’t label Night Of The Demon a horror film, it’s more of an occult film, but labels are for schmucks (says the schmuck who has an entire month dedicated to the label of the “horror” film), but it is an interesting and worthwhile experience. I’d highly suggest it to any classic horror fans who are looking for something a little different, but chances are if you’re a classic horror fan you’ve already seen Night Of The Demon, so yeah, I get the dullard hat for the rest of the day. And I’d say that’s just as good of a place to end this review, with me proving to my readers yet again that I am the dopiest of the dopey, yet still oh so cool.