Demon Wind (1990)
Dir and written by Charles Philip Moore
Starring Eric Larson, Francine Lapensée, Rufus Nirris, Jack Forcinito, Stephen Quadros, Mark David Fritsche… I could go on.
In the violent final throes of the 1980’s (1990), this guy Cory (Eric Lawson, DEMON WIND) heads back to his ancestral home in rural Bumfuck, Nowhere to find some answers about why his dad was such a jerk. For some reason he decides to bring along every single person he’s ever met in his life on this painful journey into his family’s dark past, so many in fact that they just keep showing up throughout the entire movie. I think there are like four carloads to start with, and more just keep arriving. And they are among the most aggressively 80’s crews I’ve ever encountered in cinema, covering every stock type from the ubiquitous “knockoff Biff from BACK TO THE FUTURE” and “cardigan nerd” to the somewhat more exotic “kung fu magician” type (more on him later). Wouldn’t you know it, though, the ignorant, untrustworthy locals (eew, poor people!) are clumsily trying to hinder them without explaining why they’re hiding these deadly secrets.
Fortunately, we already know what the gig is, because we saw the opening, where Cory’s ancestral home is under siege by demons. Grandma’s some kinda white witch Harry Potter good guy wizard type, but things are not going well. The demons take possession of Grandpa, who throws up tapioca and then kills Granny, who inexplicably rejoins, “if this crystal breaks, we both die” before dropping a snow globe which blows up the house, why not? Seems’ Cory’s dad, who had just been born and was still in the hospital, was the only survivor, a fact which really seems to have fucked with the old guys’s head, and caused Cory to go on this journey in the first place. Outside, there’s a crucified body on fire, and although it will never be explained who that was or what the deal is with it, it’s a nice detail.
The two openings establish the two competing tones of the movie, which are a) transgressive gothic horror and b) trashy 80’s teen bodycount schlock. Obviously it’s far better at being the latter than the former --the Donald Trump campaign ad which precedes the movie on Youtube is far more terrifying*-- but its ambitions toward provocative religious imagery and disturbing ideas definitely give it some flavor, and contribute to its enviable surplus of total fucking weirdness. I mean, it’s a bad movie, but it’s a standout bad movie, absolutely packed with nutty ideas. It seems like it must take a lot of cues from EVIL DEAD (cabin the in woods, people possessed by demons in gross shiny makeup, magic book of spells, portal to hell) but also seems to want to play it really straight, which makes the howlingly bad acting all the more enjoyable. It’s like if people with less talent than Sam Raimi tried to remake EVIL DEAD 2 without understanding that it’s a comedy.
Anyway, its assertive 80’s-ness defines it at least as much as its horror tropes. Expect to see a cornucopia of late-80’s glory, from the requisite mullets, rattails and perms, to a big dangly earring on one guy, to the aforementioned two guys who show up dressed like wizard vampires and do kung fu and then never do that again.** The two magician kung fu guys get into some serious fucking bromancing; they spend their last night on Earth telling each other supportive things about how cool they both are. And then have a long discussion about where they want to go on vacation together when they get through this (spoiler: it’s a good thing they didn’t book those tickets). And then a naked woman shows up, and they both just contemptuously dismiss her as a “demon.” I mean, they’re right, obviously, but come on guys, let’s have a little enthusiasm for those titties.
There’s a lot of charmingly boneheaded stuff like that. Some examples: A) Cory’s girlfriend, sensing that her mopey fellah is experiencing emotions (he’s just had a vision that he was naked in a supernatural gas station and his mom talked in a demon voice with her throat cut) tries to cheer him up by taking her pants off in the diner they’re standing in and wiggling her butt at him. He appreciates the gesture, I’m sure. B) When nobody wants a beer, the frosted-tips puffy-vest- wearing asshole friend demands, “What is this, ‘just say no’ week?!” “Not for me!” his girlfriends say defensively. “That’s why I keep her around,” he purrs, and they make out for an uncomfortably long time while the camera notes the condemning reaction of every single person at the table. C) One couple show up out of the blue in the last 20 minutes, and are really surprised to learn about all the demons and stuff. I don’t know if they just got stuck in traffic or what, but they really could not have picked a worse time to arrive. Check out this guy’s reaction to seeing his girlfriend about to be eaten by a satanic cow skull. Poor guy seems real bummed out about it:
Cory must be a much cooler guy than he lets on during the events of this movie, because his friends are almost unreasonably supportive. In fact, they’ve all driven god-knows-how-long to join him, and he hasn’t even told them why until they arrive at their destination. When he explains he’s looking for answers as to what evil forces killed his grandparents and drove his alcoholic father to suicide, everyone takes it in stride. These are some really good friends, right here. Hopefully he got them all some real nice Christmas gifts last year (especially since he’s not going to have another chance with most of them, spoiler). They stick with him despite the obvious evil around them and the skeletons and demonic knives and everything way longer than it would be at all reasonable to expect. But even once they correctly decide no good can come of staying, they find they can’t leave because an evil mist descends on them and every time they drive into it, they just end up at the house again. So it’s sort of like THE MIST meets THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL, with a generous helping of crappiness on top. Anyway, surprise surprise, things quickly escalate into a demonic siege, and our beloved crew start to get bumped off one by one (but even then, they don’t seem to be as bitter about being dragged into this as they ought to be).
|I really like his stabby face here.|
Most of the movie plays out as clunky and low-budget as you’d expect. There’s plenty of demons in gross makeup, but a lot of the time they just shamble around and say threatening things in a distorted voice. And there’s certainly no shortage of goofy side characters having long, inane conversations about their stupid lives. But for a no-budget, indie horror film from a first-time director, it’s not short on ambition or elbow grease. There are usually no less than five and often many more elaborately masked demon actors in makeup at once, that had to take some time. There’s a stop-motion cattle skull that grabs a lady with a long tongue and bites her head off. A bunch of severed heads and limbs, a pretty cool ruined house set, a full-body master demon suit complete with hooves. They set a stuntman in full costume on fire. Plus a bunch of awesome 80’s lightning and a huge explosion (see Exhibits A, B, and C). It’s still dumb as rocks, but boy, you can’t fault its effort. Also at the start of the climax, the hero kicks the giant demon right in the nuts. And that’s after he’s (spoiler?) turned into some kind of crazy space elf angel.
Let’s keep the SPOILERS rolling and talk about that finale for a minute. Like most of the movie, it’s stupid but ambitious, and you have to admit it goes everywhere you don’t expect. To fulfill some sort of vague prophecy, our boy turns into some kind of crazy angel in what you assume will be the last 5 minutes. But actually there are 15 more minutes after that, all of them containing new twists. He’s an angel! No wait, it was a dream! No wait, it wasn’t a dream after all! Wait, that’s his dead father trying to punch him! Oh good, the monster’s on fire and everything is OK! Oh wait, it’s not OK, there’s one more demon! Oh wait, they killed it. Oh wait, there’s one more! Charmingly enough, they make a big deal throughout the whole movie about this set of seven magic daggers which will destroy the dark one. But then they only ever have two, and they throw them both away stabbing minor demons. That doesn’t seem to stop their victory at the end, though. I guess those were optional. It works just as well to set the dark one on fire.
Anyway, DEMON WIND obviously is not a movie I could objectively call “good”, but if you’d be into a super weird mix of low-budget late-80s schlock and lots of freewheeling straight-faced craziness, this is pretty much a goldmine. Add plenty of alcohol, and you’ve got yourself a real howling good time.
In conclusion, yes, there should have been a fart joke in this review. Thank you.***
Appendix A: Alternate Opinion:
“Demon wind is a great horror movie it shows what could happen if people are satanic worshippers and do witch craft. It's a way better horror movie the the horror movies now days they use to much cgi and poor acting story's aren't even good in the now day horror movies. Back then they looked real and the acting was way better. It has a darker gloomy feel to them back in the days. Now it's just action and crap. They should make demon wind 2 cause after Cory left there were still demons out there. The Devils son was creepy has hell and ugly. So are the demons and the way the wind sounded was evil demon wind is a 5 star horror movie and iv seen a lot of horror movies but non has creepy has demon wind it has a life like feel to it. If people paid Attention to the movie and the story they would understand what it's about there isn't any zombies they are corys family body's possessed by demons they walk creepy and slow cause the body's are dead and stiff." -- youtube commenter adrian quinonez
*Boy, there’s a sentence I sure hope will look crazy in a few years.
** One of those guys, incidentally, is Stephen Quadros, a longtime MMA commentator and sometimes B-movie star (he’s worked with Traci Lords, Chuck Norris, AND O.J. Simpson!). He also worked as fight choreographer on EXIT WOUNDS and CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE. This guy’s a regular renaissance man, and that’s before I even mention that his uncited but curiously detailed wikipedia page claims he once auditioned to be the drummer for KISS. The only other cast member who seems to have gone on to anything noteworthy is a guy who plays an uncredited demon, apparently Hollywood Superstar Lou Diamond Phillips, if IMDB can be trusted. Although actress Sherri Lee, who plays “Bonnie” whoever that might be, did stunts in THE KINGDOM, 24, Breaking Bad, and, uh, SID AND NANCY. I’m not sure I remember too many female stunts in SID AND NANCY, but maybe it was because they were so convincing.
*** Dan P: I think the phrase originates from Shakespeare:
"Hark! A demon wind doth infiltrate the defenses of mine nostrils. Didst thou sup on cabbage this prior evening?"
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