Tuesday 21 June 2011

Demonoid (1981)

DEMONOID is a Mexican / USA co-production that was directed by Alfredo Zacarias in 1979 but not released until 1981.  It stars Samantha Eggar, Stuart Whitman and Roy Jenson. The plot doesn't make a huge amount of sense but essentially it's about the disembodied hand of an ancient Mexican demon that comes to life and takes control over any being unfortunate to cross its path.  What its objective is remains unclear but there you go - it's that sort of film.

Don't worry, this is DEMONOID under its alternative title.

I hate to judge a book by its cover but as soon as you see the name Stuart Whitman crop up you can be pretty sure you're about to see a tired, derivative and low quality genre movie.  A pretty big star back in the day, by the late 1970s unfortunately for him, and us, he was an actor on the slide.  He mainly made guest appearances in US TV shows; the only lead parts he was offered were in cruddy genre movies that probably needed a star name, albeit a fading one, to greenlight the project.

Samantha Eggar as Jennifer Baines

Stuart Whitman as Father Cunningham

It's left to Samantha Eggar to do the heavy lifting here.  A talented actress, she's wasted in films like this but nevertheless gives a committed performance and is the best thing about the whole sorry enterprise.  You can only feel sympathy for her when she's reduced to thrashing around clutching a fake hand to her neck.

Whitman, on the other hand, sleepwalks and mumbles his way through his part - as a priest! - and looks totally uninterested.  Which he may well have been and as understandable as that might have been, given the material, to communicate such disinterest so plainly is unforgivable.

The underground temple to the Mexican god of fake plastic hands...

... speak of the devil and he shall appear.

I've said before that one rule horror film-makers need to learn is that cats are not frightening.  Well the second rule they need to learn is that disembodied hands are not frightening.  In fact, I'd go so far as to say that disembodied hands are laughable.

One final point worth noting is the presence in the cast of Haji, star of several Russ Meyer movies, although I must confess I didn't spot her and wasn't aware of her involvement until looking up the film on the net afterwards.  She has a very small role as the blowsy moll of a mobster type.


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