BIGFOOT WEEK: Night of the Demon (1980)

As I worked on Bigfoot Week, I turned to Phil Hall’s The Weirdest Movie Ever Made for guidance. All it said about this movie was “the 1980s started with another vicious Bigfoot attacking humans in Night of the Demon (1980),” so I didn’t expect much. I have to tell you, my mind still hasn’t fully comprehended what I just watched.

The film starts with a giallo-style framing device, where several policemen are interviewing Professor Bill Nugent, an anthropology teacher who was found in the woods with his face mutilated, surrounded by the bodies of his dead students.

This is a film of unconnected narratives, where one character after another appears to tell a story about Bigfoot, then that story is reenacted. It starts with Carla Thomas, whose family was murdered by a Bigfoot. That’s when Nugent initiates a flashback of his class discovering proof of the creature after it attacked a family on a picnic.

The authorities determine that all of the murders in the area that Bigfoot was involved in had to be a hoax. Carla goes one further by saying that the police tampered with the evidence in her father’s case. She also tells another flashback story where we watch a couple in the throes of passion inside a van. The man is soon dragged from the vehicle and dies in bloody pain on the windshield while the woman watches.

It’s at this point that I realized that this isn’t really a Bigfoot movie per se. It’s a slasher. A slasher that ended up on the video nasties list due to its shocking levels of gore and mayhem.

The university won’t sanction Nugent’s class trip to continue searching for Bigfoot, but they head out anyway. Nugent and his group plan on staying at Carlson’s Landing, owned by Lou Carlson, who refuses to help the professor and students. Well, he does until they get him drunk and he reveals that a woman in the woods named Wanda has a connection with the beast.

Meanwhile, Bigfoot shoves a man into a sleeper bag, swings him around and around, then throws him into a tree where he’s impaled on a tree branch.

Nugent and the kids make it to town and learn that Wanda went mute and insane after having a deformed stillbirth. Her father was a preacher named Emmet McGinty whose followers live in total isolation, inbreeding and practicing cannibalism and human sacrifices. And oh yeah — the sheriff is spying on them now.

As they reach their campsite, Nugent regales the kids about a biker who castrated and died nearby. Casual, fun conversation? Sure. You’ll enjoy watching it in lurid detail, too. A few hours after they all go to sleep, they are awakened by McGinty’s Satanic cult — which includes the sheriff — as they chant and perform a sex ritual with a girl who we soon learn is Wanda. Nugent panics and fires his gun, leading to complete chaos and the Bigfoot statues catching on fire.

At this point, any sane person would leave the woods. But Nugent and crew press on, despite Bigfoot following them and stealing their boat. They find Wanda’s cabin and bribe her with candy. Once they show her a track of Bigfoot’s prints, she goes crazy and locks herself in a room.

How would you pass the time? Oh, more stories. Nugent speaks about an outdoorsman who was cut up with his own axe and then regales us all with a little anecdote about two Girl Scouts who are walking through the woods holding knives. Why? Who knows. But Bigfoot soon shows up and girls them with their own weapons. Finally, one of the students plays top this and tells about Bigfoot slamming a man’s head into a tree repeatedly until the man shoots himself. In the midst of all this, two of the kids decide to have sex, which draws out Bigfoot, who tears up the boy’s back.

Somehow, Nugent’s teaching abilities extend to hypnosis. He uses those on Wanda, who helps us flashback to her abusive childhood, her father interrupted her first lovemaking experience and then her rape by Bigfoot. Yep. You read that right. Convinced the father of the child was a demon, McGinty killed the beast’s offspring and Wanda got her revenge by setting him on fire.

Again, at this point, anyone sane would get out of the woods. Nope. They decide to dig up the body of Wanda’s child, which brings out Bigfoot who steals back his child’s bones.

Everyone decides to become a cover version of Night of the Living Dead and see much of the footage in Bigfoot vision. Bigfoot breaks in while Wanda calmly watches. The monster strangles folks, rips out intestines, slices throats, shoves people’s faces through glass windows like his name is Dario Argento and then shoves Nugent’s face onto a hot stove. You’ll cheer, trust me. This is why you watch movies.

Nugent wakes up back in the giallo framing device, where the doctors sedate him as he pleads for everyone to find Wanda and Bigfoot. The police discuss his story, declare him criminally insane and move on. Are they part of the conspiracy?

After doing some research on this, I learned that the original ending of the movie had a helicopter rescue the remaining students and the sheriff telling Wanda that Bigfoot was safe. The film’s distributor felt the movie would sell better commercial if all of the students were killed.

I love this movie. Pure perfect love. From the words “those horror stories that you heard about the forest…they’re all true!” to the bloody ending where nearly every single character is wiped out in graphic detail, this is a movie that shocks you at every turn. Brutal violence. Odd moments of humor. Loud blasts of synthesizer beeps, boops and squeals. Nonsensical plotting and a movie that has no idea what it truly wants to be, so it becomes all of them.

I want more people to discover this film. It’s scummy filmmaking at its bloody best.

Originally released by porn label VCX (under their VCII label) in the 1980’s, this was re-released by Code Red a few years back. Luckily, you can find it on Amazon Prime.

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