Saturday, 7 October 2017

31 Days of Horror: Night of the Demon (1957)

Welcome back to 31 Days of Horror, brought to you by Wondra's World. I'm your guide, Wondra, and today, we're discussing the 1957 film, Night of the Demon. (Or, Curse of the Demon, for my fellow Americans.) I'm going to let Jay start things off for us this time.

I first saw this film when I was about 7 in a late-night horror double-bill. It absolutely terrified me. That demon gave me nightmares. 

Hang on a sec. Who lets their seven-year-old watch scary movies late at night?

Well. I had a paperback called 'Monsters of the Movies' that I got at book club in school. When I saw 'Night of the Demon' advertised, I knew exactly what it was and I couldn't wait to see it. There were already monster figures in my room. I'm not sure that my parents ever really had much of a choice. 

The writing was on the wall, eh? This kid's gonna be a weirdo, anyway, may as well give him what he wants...


'Night of the Demon' is about an American who comes to England for a conference but ends up looking into the death of one of his colleagues. The American, Holden, can't accept that his colleague was killed by a demon - until the same demon is sicced on him.

By today's standards, 'Night of the Demon' is tame but still holds up incredibly well. It's still plays on your fears. No one is immune from that fear of something walking behind them. Of something being a little off. The hairs on your neck standing up, even though you don't know why.

For me, it's less about the fear. I've started to notice a trend in the movies that we've selected, especially things like The Thing from Another World and Prince of Darkness. A lot of these movies are really about the seemingly endless struggle between science/logic and religion/faith. You'd think that, in the age we live in, the winner would be clear and yet...

Science doesn't really win, does it? Especially not in Night of the Demon. Every person who goes up against Karswell is determined to prove that he's just a charlatan but eventually admits that they were wrong. Every one. Nil pois for science.

You know, I feel sorry for Karswell. I've always favoured the villain, anyway, but this time he's not really a villain. They just wouldn't leave him alone. They kept dragging his name through the mud and harassing him. He didn't want to summon the demon; he was just trying to defend himself. He asked them to stop but they wouldn't. Do your worst, they said. Well, he did.

I know that you're supposed to be rooting for Holden because he's the hero but I can't. He was the one who was so determined to prove Karswell a fool. For me, 'Night of the Demon' is one of the rare films where the cock end wins. 

You know, I never thought of that. It's a really good point. When Harrington goes to Karswell at the beginning and admits he's wrong, he begs Karswell to end it. Karswell does ask if he has the paper, doesn't he? He actually tries to help.

Exactly. The monster is the demon but the villain is made out to be Karswell and that's wrong. 

Did you know that Dana Andrews didn't want to actually show the demon? He wanted it all to be left to your imagination but they sort of went over his head and did it anyway. Good thing they did. The demon is immense. 

Can't argue with you there. That demon is still creepy as shit. I can't help but be surprised, because of when it was made, by how good it really is.

It helps that they don't show the demon much. If they'd shown it too much, it would have been clunky. Because they didn't, it works incredibly well. Having watched 'Night of the Demon' again recently, I have to say that, for a movie that is over 60 years old, the whole thing holds up very well. The visuals are superb. 

Actually, it does hold up incredibly well. You'd think, because it's so old, and in black and white, that Night of the Demon would feel extremely dated but it doesn't. It feels... timeless, kind of like Batman's Gotham.

I think it helped that 'Night of the Demon' was in black and white because it makes the movie quite stark. The fog as he's walking and the fiery footprints are excellent visuals. The movie is a visual treat.

The soundtrack, for its day, is also surprisingly good. It isn't one that gets a lot of attention or credit but it works. I also love that line, "It's in the trees, it's coming!" You hear that in a lot of other things too, even though most people wouldn't know what it's from.

They could do a great remake of 'Night of the Demon' now, scene for scene, and it would be perfect. There are already movies inspired by 'Night of the Demon', movies like 'Drag Me to Hell' and 'The Ring', and they're great movies in their own rights.

Drag Me to Hell is kind of a modern version, isn't it? Just with more humour. I watched Night of the Demon again today and I was surprised by how long it actually was. I got so wrapped up in the story that I didn't realise how much time was passing. That's the sign of a great movie.

That's all for today, I think. Do you have anything more to say on today's choice? Drop a comment. If not, we'll see you tomorrow with our next film.

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