Sunday, 1 November 2009

Night of the Demon

"It's in the trees... It's coming!"
Having just recently reread M.R.James' classic supernatural story Casting the Runes, I thought I'd also re-watch the film version this Halloween. Made in 1957, Night of the Demon takes the main plot elements from James' creepy tale, adds a few Hollywood staples (a smooth talking American scientist, complete with a chance of romance female sidekick) to deliver a sharply scripted British classic of the genre. Yes it does suffer slightly from a limited budget and perhaps it was a mistake to actually show the demon. Famously, director Jacques Tourneur wanted to show much less of the creature but was overruled by the producer. The original story had let the reader imagine the demon's aspect and looking at the last scene it is pretty clear that they should have done the same thing with the movie. The only other suspect scene has lead actor Dana Andrews wrestling in the dark with what looked like a stuffed leopard and for a moment there I was half expecting to find when the lights revealed all that he really had been rolling about with a stuffed leopard. Fortunately it was revealed to be a guardian demon in the rather smug form of a domestic black cat called Grimalkin. All this aside the film really does hit its mark. Genuine tension builds slowly as the viewer watches the cursed hero gradually become aware of his peril. Never has a scrap of paper with some runic symbols on it caused so much anxiety in horror film history.
You don't have to be hexed by a practitioner of the black arts to have a Final Destination moment though. My sister was out in the woods today looking for a dramatic flood or weather photograph when half a tree came down very close to her. Luckily she was stood under the other half.

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