Retrospective: 1980's Slice of Sasquatchploitation - Night of the Demon
Every time a new Bigfoot hoax makes headlines, I do the Hammer Dance on my front porch then call everyone I know before it’s debunked. Yet each time I revisit Night of the Demon, my busting lust for sharing a world with Sasquatch withers like a raisin and dies crying. If this is how a Bigfoot will behave if and when one of us finally crosses its path, then I’ll have a lot of explaining to do for the firm Pro-Foot stance I’ve maintained over the years.
Indeed, we’re not discussing the beloved 1957 Night of the Demon which was about an actual demon. Today, we’re examining the rabid Bigfoot-Rape film from 1980 that was wicked enough to join the ranks of the other persecuted titles on the Video Nasties list. Now that we understand each other, feel free to jump out or come along – you won’t be judged. Here we go ...
Night of the Demon is a story of “horribly mutilated” people (that phrase shows up twice in the first five minutes of the flick). A horribly mutilated anthropology professor is telling his mutilated story from his hospital bed to his doc and the cops. The poor bastard had taken his class out into the weeds to hunt for traces of Bigfoot, and they met the Demon instead. There have been plenty of unsavory Sasquatch depicted in film, but the Demon has to be the Granddaddy Bastard of them all.
Before we get to the Demon’s gutter of a personality, it’s important to note a few things. Is this a “so-bad-it’s-good” movie? No. This is one of those rare, largely forgotten films that was taken so seriously by its creators that it is difficult to imagine a large team of people reading the script, enjoying it, coming on-board, and putting in the time and energy to bring the terrible story to life. As such, this is an “I-must-have-a-fever” movie, because most of what you’ll see may feel like a hallucination. Are there period-sensitive conventions*? Sure.
In between the Demon’s filthy attacks, you will experience sobering and silly discussions among young beautiful women and mustachioed men who wear little gold chains that are prettier than their girlfriends’. You will see some of the backwoods eccentrics subtly warning the young ‘uns about what may be out there in them there woods. Yet none of it is truly boring, none of the characters are unlikable, and the pacing is relatively acceptable – for this kind of film. If someone advises you to spend an evening with a hideous Bigfoot movie from 1980, it is only a fool who goes in without anticipating a slippery dance floor. The film has plenty of problems, but I think the reason its supporters still stand beside this freakshow is that the film works hard to entertain. No matter how clumsy the dialogue and effects may be, these cats were trying to be taken seriously, and the result is too angry and depraved to be considered a lazy cash-in or mocking parody piece. The filmmakers’ intention to make an earnestly mean and perverted film is undeniable, and that weird essence turns even the most absurdly executed set pieces into memorable mindfuckers.
Now. About that Demon. What makes this beast stand out from other cinematic Bigfeet is his disgusting sense of humor. Like “Beast”, the German Shepherd from the original Hills Have Eyes, the Demon typically remains absolutely quiet until he’s going in for the kill. In the film’s most infamous scene, a motorcyclist pulls over on a country road to have a toke. He starts to rub on his wiener, indicating to us that he has to go pee-pee. Standing in front of a large bush, the biker whips it out. Silence. Only when the bushes burst apart and the Demon leaps through them to furiously grip the biker’s penis does the thing roar – “BROOOARAROROAORARARRR!!!!” That’s a dirty goddamn trick, on all fronts. The Demon doesn’t just want to grab the biker’s manhood, though – he wants to steal it. And so the penis is ripped off of the biker’s body. Now here’s the queer part of this attack: that’s all the Demon wanted to do. The beast allows the poor leather-jacketed and bloody-jeans-wearing biker to hobble back to his bike to bleed to death all over the carburetor. I have two theories on the Demon’s choice of violence in this scene:
A.) The Demon saw the biker, watched the biker, and remained still and silent so he could rudely snatch and steal the penis, for God knows what purpose, or
B.) The Demon was taking a nice quiet shit behind the bush the biker chose to piss into, aggravating the Demon into a “I’ll show this inconsiderate son of a bitch” rage which led to the castration.
Based on the evidence presented in the rest of the film, I highly suspect A is the correct answer. When the Demon hurts someone, he does it on the sly and never politely. There’s always some rude element to his murder or maiming. He forces two girl scouts to stab each other, in a “Quit hitting yourself, ha-ha!” sort of fashion. The Demon happens upon a sleeping camper, nestled in his sleeping bag. Not wanting the camper to die without a terrifying experience to take with him to Heaven or Hell, the Demon picks the sleeping back up and SWINGS the camper around and around. Know how many times he swings the screaming man over his head? Eleven. Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh! Imagine coming out of a nice sleep, accompanied by the cicadas’ humming lullaby, only to see a screaming Demon jerking you up by the ankles. Before you know it, wind is rushing through your ears and hair while you shriek in a dizzied confusion that’s almost louder than the Demon’s roars. Will he put you down after the ride? Sure – right on a sharp branch that penetrates your torso. The scene ends with the camper bleeding all over himself and his sleeping bag, while the Demon presumably gives himself a high-five before wandering off to ruin someone else’s flesh. It doesn’t take long.
The Demon finds a woodsman and decides that the man should be hurt with his own axe. Hurt, not killed. So the Demon smacks the woodsman lightly through the shoulder with the axe, allowing the woodsman to suffer a sufficient yet minor wound – just enough to pass out from the pain. Only after the woodsman has lost consciousness does the Demon plant the axe into the woodsman’s face, for kicks. Later, one of the students is pushed up against a tree so he can involuntarily blast his own eyes out with the shotgun he’s holding. The games continue, but for now, we cannot.
It’s time to stop. No more plot details. The only hints a respectable film journalist would type now are tickling teasers of what’s to come, like “rape”, “tiny coffin”, “cult sacrifice”, “disembowelment” and other notable details to encourage viewers to sit through the film’s finale.
It’s true – the film ends horribly. The grisly shit that makes up the third act is outrageous. What’s more outrageous to me, however, is that this thing has yet to see the light of day via a trustworthy DVD release. I understand there are a handful of DVD copies available online, but they carry a “purchase-at-your-risk” attitude that makes me angry at the film’s creators for not coming forward after all these years to claim this bastard movie and attempt to shield it from bootleg oblivion.
I’m not sure that anger is completely warranted, though. A respectable search on the internet provides little to no information about director James C. Wasson and writer Mike Williams, and a Wikipedia search of the film only directs me to four articles – one of which is my own that I wrote a few weeks ago. Are these gentlemen dead? Does anyone know?
My final thoughts are that the marketers missed this one. With the right VHS cover art, this one could’ve been a consistently-rented classic, still popping out at you at conventions from a t-shirt here or there. It is impossible to deny that the promotional artwork of horror hasn’t turned pigs’ ears into silk, and this one deserved to be silk. On black cotten t-shirts. Then again, it’s exhilarating to realize that there are still some ugly, jagged gems out there ... those weird and wild films that would seem embarrassed to be overstock on Best Buy’s shelves.
*Sarah was on the internet while I was watching this and the leftover late 70’s flute music piping on the soundtrack was so pornographically enthusiastic, she forgot what website she was supposed to be visiting.
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