After starting in Washington D.C. nine years ago Horror Movie Night has expanded to include chapters in Austin, Dallas and Chicago. Horror’s Not Dead’s own Brian Kelley is the originator and programmer of this illustrious weekly Wednesday night tradition which features a “classic” horror film. Each week I will be reviewing/commenting on the past week’s selection so do your best to find the film, most of which have not made it past VHS, and follow along. Better yet, start your own chapter!
Remember that time you went to your grandparents remote farm with some friends because you had heard mystical stories of your relatives? No? Well, you can prepare to live vicariously through a group of awesome characters as they do this exact thing. Charles Phillip Moore’s 1990 “masterpiece” Demon Wind will play with the rules of reality, magic, and your sanity.
Recently Cory’s father died leaving him with a curiosity to check out the secrets of his family’s past. He’s heard the stories of how his dad, then a baby, survived when a fire wiped out his whole family under mysterious circumstances. There was an eccentric preacher in their town who may have been a cult leader of sorts. So Cory invites his closest friends, which includes most every stereotypical character from jock date rapist to token nerd with glasses, to this remote rural area and then clues them in on the whole ordeal. Once they arrive at the ruins of the family farm strange things begin to happen with ghosts, death, and that damned magical fog.
Elaine: What is that?
Cory: It’s an altar to the devil.
Renee: God, it’s horrible.
Elaine: But there is something kind of beautiful about it.
This film has some of the most confusing things you can imagine. On one hand you’ll be able to follow the majority of the narrative, but just as you think you have a grasp on everything you’ll be smacked across the face by something no one could ever possibly explain. The ending will leave you in shock – not from terror but from the feeling of your melted brain leaking out of your ear. Moore is credited as the sole writer, but he had to have either handed parts of the script off to someone who had no clue what was going on, or maybe he was just dropping enough acid that he ended up with their weird tonal/reality shifts.
If nothing else, it keeps things interesting.
This is where one of the best characters, and highlights of the film, comes into play. When we first meet Chuck (Stephen Quadros) he is ushered into the scene standing in the passenger seat of a convertible, wearing white gloves and a cape, while Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” plays on the radio. Chuck is a magician, but not just any magician. He does the normal illusions, like pulling flowers from up his sleeve, but he is also a master of martial arts. When his ex-girlfriend’s new beau, Dell, throws a beer can at him he quickly reacts by knocking it in the air with his cane and juggles it with a series of hilarious kung-fu kicks ultimately ending by round housing it right back at Dell’s forehead. This is far from the last amazing thing we see from Chuck, or his sidekick Stacy, before the film is over, but it’s by far the best first impression of any character and the best moment in the film.
At this point you may be wondering what a kung-fu magician has to do with a movie called Demon Wind. Well, I can’t really tell you. I’m pretty sure ol’ Chuck Moore couldn’t either. But there is a reason for the title, this much I am able to confirm. This is a story rooted in magic and spells, made evident in the opening scene, and there is a titular “demon wind”. When the group tries to leave the area they find their cars won’t start and are left to walk. Soon that proves to be a dead end as a thick, fast moving fog envelops them and they are teleported around a few locations before finally arriving right back where they started. I knew mostly nothing going into this film, but I didn’t realize there was going to be an actual demonic wind at play. Exciting!
There are two movie standards at play in this film that have been known to make movie geeks cringe, the first being the utterance of the dreaded phrase “I have a bad feeling about this.” This always means impending doom for the group, especially to be levied on the poor sap who has the balls to say such a cursed statement. Most of the time it’s quite obvious that something strange is going on, so why the need to make a verbal declaration? In this case they are on the ruins of a farm, burned mostly to the ground over 50 years earlier, and when you walk behind the still standing front wall there is nothing there but earth. However, walking or looking through the open front door in the wall you see a fully stocked, non-damaged room as if nothing ever happened. Now they had already seen this before the statement is made so…no shit.
Then we have one of those gloriously convenient horror movie mainstays to keep the story going. You know, like why don’t people move out of the haunted house instead of staying there and putting themselves in more danger? Because the story would be over, that’s why. These are things we’re just supposed to look past but it can be hard. So when Cory finds an old journal of his grandmothers with tales of witchcraft and spells you can guess what happens next. Now, they have found this strange room that shouldn’t exist, been trapped by the fog, and seen a friend disappear to seemingly turn into a doll so they should know that things are not on the up and up. Despite all of this Cory still manages to, without any hesitation, recite a random spell from the journal that unleashes something and really puts them in the shit. Why the fuck do people always read spells aloud that are found in strange places? Yes, yes…I know the answer.
The FX used in this flick range from the very cool to the ridiculous. Many demonic spirits descend on the farmland to take the lives and souls of Cory and his friends in the form of a horde of possessed shuffling zombie-like creatures. There are many of these, along with a very cool cow skull with an extra long tongue, but they join together to bring the biggest baddie of them all. A giant mass of demon that somewhat resembles the shit demon in Kevin Smith’s Dogma. The make-up on all of these creatures is great but then come the primitive animated FX. The demon and a confusingly transformed alien-like Cory battle as the monster shoots orange blobs at him that look like some sort of Mike Judge/Bill Plympton animation with a lot of shaking drawn in crayon. This kind of takes you out of the moment because of how zany it looks. Also weird to see how the possessed seem to always spit out an endless supply of pancake or waffle batter. Whatever.
It appears that Demon Wind has no American DVD distribution. There is a region two release but it doesn’t have the kick ass cover art on the Paramount/Prism VHS release (pictured at the top of the page). I’m actually OK with just having a video of this and no disc. While it’s a fun and entertaining film there is nothing really worth the time and effort of converting. I guess a better picture would be something, but all I really want is a commentary track. I’m not asking much. Just give Charles Phillip Moore a headset USB mic and have him record an MP3 I can download for a couple of bucks. I would love to hear him explain just what the hell is going on at the end of this film. If you’ve watched it I’m sure you do too.
Until next week – remember to always read spells in your head first before completely fucking everyone and everything around you.
Body Count: 9
Best Kill: Renee eaten by the cow skull altar demon
Number of Inappropriate Kisses/Touches: 5, mostly from Dell
Number of Boom Mics in Frame: 2
Tidbit of Allegedly True Trivia: According to the ever reliable (HA!) IMDb Lou Diamond Phillips is in this movie uncredited. It seems he’s one of the demons because his wife at the time was working on this film. The photo below is the character who I think is him.
Coming soon to Horror Movie Night (Chronicles are posted one week after screening):
-10/12/11: Ragewar (1983) aka The Dungeonmaster
-10/19/11: Death House (1987) aka Zombie Death House
-10/26/11: TBD – Check back next week!
-11/2/11: HMN Halloween Edition – Title Coming Soon
-11/9/11: Death Bed (1977)