Demonoid (1981)

My wife wants to go away on a fancy vacation. While horror films have forever enriched my life, they’ve also damaged her chances of going anywhere. The tropics? Have you seen Zombi? A resort like Sandals? I assume that Laura Gemser will show up and I’ll be boiled in a pot. And now, thanks to this movie, we can also cross Mexico off the list.

As much as horror may have curtailed my partner’s opportunity to globetrot, it’s also imparted several important lessons to me. To wit: if your mine is over a Satanic temple where left hands were severed to honor demons and every single worker refuses to go any deeper, perhaps it’s time to find a new mine. And if by chance you discover a miniature coffin with a hand inside it, just leave it where you found it. Don’t take it back to your hotel room. This is why I’ve made it forty six years on this Earth without being possessed or dealing with a face melting cult in the desert.

My true joy in the movie Demonoid comes from reading the review that it received when it was released in 1981 and laughing in their prose faces. How can anyone dislike a movie where a possessed man decides that old school Las Vegas is the best place to hide out? Who can dismiss a film where Samantha Eggar obviously dressed herself in some of the most astounding fashions that the early 80’s could unleash? The woman wears an ascot and oversized orange counter to explore a mine (let’s be fair, every outfit she wears in this movie are a paradox, somehow both gorgeous and ridiculous at the same time). And damn anyone who speaks ill of Stuart Whitman! This former boxer and soldier had already played Jim Jones — I’m sorry, James Johnson — in Guyana: Crime of the Century, released less than a year after that tragedy? Here, he plays a battling Catholic priest who we just know could win over Ms. Eggar if he didn’t have that pesky collar and angel on his shoulder to worry about.

Maybe they weren’t watching the Mexican cut (Macabra!), which has more dialogue, more death and a different ending? Look, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. And most of those critics, they never got pleased all that much anyways. Demonoid is worth the whole lot of them. Would they dare to feature an ending so downbeat after 98 minutes of rooting for our British heroine? I dare say no. They’d be afraid to insert so many flashing shots of a demon raising his fist, they’d be too concerned about a soundtrack that practically screams in your face and they’d sooner hide behind their film theory books than make a movie in 1981 that feels like it came from 1974.

Demonoid is why I watch movies. Samantha Eggar screaming at the top of her lungs while a mine explodes all around her? There. An appearance by Haji, she of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Bigfoot, Supervixens and the wonderfully titled Wam Bam Thank You Spaceman(whose real name Barbarella Catton wasn’t sexy enough for a stage name)? You got me. Overacting in nearly every scene? I’m riveted. A poster that promised nubile ladies reclining for a fallen angel carrying a gigantic sword? I might have piddled a little.

Keep your Oscar picks and guilty pleasures. I have no such taste or qualms. Give me Demonoid or give me a severed left hand!

This article originally appeared in Drive-In Asylum #13, which you can get right here!

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