Written by Leif Jonker
Story by Leif Jonker, Scooter McCrae and Alber Carranza
Hollywood is all about ripping people off, they do it all the time. It’s happening more and more these days, but at least now they’re calling the rip-offs “remakes”. Back in the late 90’s, though, it was a much more subtle way of doing it: a scene here, a line there, some action sequences. Some would argue that The Matrix is the most obvious example of this, a movie that came out right before they Hwood set the remake boat assail.
Demon Machine was a script ripe for a rip-off. Or two. Or three…
Jonker started working on the script back in 1993, shortly after his first movie, the indie hit called Darkness, was released direct to video. At that time it was called Shocktober, but Leif came to his senses by about the third draft and re-titled it Demon Machine. I’ll give you the rest of the history in a moment, for now let me slap you with some plot.
The story follows a day in the life of Asia, a young, beautiful girl that’s having a problem or two at home, mainly that her evil stepmother likes to beat the hell out of her. So Asia takes to the streets after being thrown out of her home and meets another homeless kid by the name of Caleb. Together, along with some friends of Caleb’s, they manage to break into an abandoned hotel called the Aliss.
But the Aliss has a history…
Seventeen years prior every single staff member and guest were brutally, horribly murdered on Halloween. By whom or what, no one was ever able to determine, but the hotel was closed down for good. Not torn down, just closed. Don’t worry, it is explained why it was closed down instead of destroyed, and it does make a lot of sense.
Now it’s present day (October 30th, to be precise) and a detective by the name of Oldfield, who’s been assigned by a private party to check on the hotel once a year at this time to make sure it’s vacant, is idiotic (and drunk) enough to leave the building un-alarmed, giving our heroes a good opportunity to get in and do some serious squatting. Meanwhile, a bum named Lars begins to realize that the Aliss hotel is coming back to life (this is displayed to him through a series of visions in which everyone around him is rotting and dead), and moves to take action.
You see, if one single person dies within the walls of the Aliss after 12am on Halloween, all hell will break loose. Guess what happens.
Leif Jonker manages to take a fairly stale concept, evil returning to earth after being banished or tucked away for many years, and give it some real life. Or death, as the case may be. For example, instead of making his evil just run-of-the mill Ajax brand Evil, he gives it a history, a purpose, and a central figure. It helps make everything a little more solid than it would be without it, more “real”, I guess you could say. While that may not seem like a big deal to you, it made all the difference to me between this and any other Demons-type story.
Jonker’s crafted an excellent piece of work here, and it’s sad that it didn’t get made in its prime. At one point, studios with names like New Line and Lakeshore had their hands on it, and it even got a false start on production at one point. What happened? Lack of money. Nothing ever came of it, and now it’s sitting, languishing, waiting for someone to read it and say, “Damn! This needs to be made!” Kind of like what I did, except I have no money to give the man.
So what’s so great about it? It’s not really storytelling at its highest level, and it’s not deep, troubling psychological horror on any level. What it is is a big, gory kill fest with just enough character growth involved to keep it interesting and make you really care for the principal cast. Asia and Caleb have their moments of “are they going to get together?” but they’re few and far between, and are put in at just the right times and places. The action builds from the first page, and literally nothing supernatural even happens until you’re about halfway through the movie. The audience is left almost completely in the dark as to what’s going to happen until mere minutes before it actually does, a great way to keep everyone guessing.
Because so many studios have seen it, and because it was such well-put together package, reading it invokes a lot of memories of movies that have come after it’s initial conception. I won’t mention any movies in particular here, since I can’t say if their creators ever read this script or not, but it’s fairly obvious that Leif has been ripped off time and time again. But you know what? That doesn’t make this script any worse. If Demon Machine were made with the right cast and the right amount of money right now, those movies would be forgotten. No one would make the comparisons, because this one just gets it all right, instead of a few things here and there.
Money would be an issue with Demon Machine, too. It’s ending alone (if done like it is on paper) could very easily eat a huge chunk out of the budget. But that’s the only way I’d want to see it done, big and gory. Anything less than that would result in a cheese factor that would make it very difficult to enjoy to it’s fullest.
Don’t get me wrong, Demon Machine would not win any awards or change the face of filmmaking. What it would do is show that there are screenwriters out there that can take an over-beaten concept and give it a new life, new direction, and a helluva lotta blood.
I hope there’s someone out there reading this that can get this movie made, because I know that I, as a horror fan, would love to see it done. The right way.
4 out of 5
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