May 17, 2017

THE DEMON (1981) aka The HALLOWEEN Rip-Off That Wouldn't Die!

Like any middle-aged, red-blooded American who isn't a jaded philistine, I'm a fan of Halloween (1978). It's not my all-time favorite, but it charts fairly high—nestled snugly between Taxi Driver (1976) and Saturday Night Fever (1978). I dig everything about it: the story, the music, the atmosphere, everything. If you ask about my favorite horror movie, I'll say it's "the one with the guy in the white mask who walks around and stalks babysitters."

Rare promotional still from Percival Rubens' THE DEMON (1981)
Graham Kennard stalks Jennifer Holmes
THE DEMON (1981)
For some puzzling reason, I also harbor affection for this other, far-lesser-known flick about a guy in a white mask who walks around and stalks preschool teachers. I'm referring to the most egregious Halloween rip-off ever; a grimy, crusty, zero-budget "thriller" so shameless in its desire to be Halloween—even copying whole sequences, shot-for-shot—that, for years, I thought I'd imagined it. I'm talking about Percival Rubens' The Demon (1981): the only film that ever made me doubt my own sanity.

Mike Justice in 1982
Six year-old Mike Justice waits patiently for the
all-night horror show on KBHK-TV San Francisco.
(circa early 1980's)

Picture it: Oakland, California, 1982. A nerdy six year-old (strung out on Granny Goose potato chips and A&W root beer) is glued to the set, anxious to devour the local UHF station's midnight horror show. Tonight's hair-raising tale: a clunky, oddly foreign, not-too-with-it re-staging of Halloween. It unfolds like a particularly claustrophobic Classroom film—equal parts cheap film stock and sloppy edits—and features a no-star cast of entirely unfamiliar faces. The plot goes something like this: A heavy breather in a white mask breaks into a house, slings some blonde over his shoulder, and takes off into a day-for-night forest. Then some super-serious dude in a suit shows up to wax melodramatic about the white-faced guy's propensity for evil. Then some preschool teacher sees the guy standing outside her class. Next, eerie phone calls and late-night knocks at the door. Finally, the last act: the (now naked) preschool teacher puts on a shower curtain, lures the killer into a bathroom, and lays waste to him with a some shampoo, a water nozzle, and a pair of scissors. Oh, and then she emits a series of ear-splitting shrieks when she sees his face "transform" into a rubber mask. The End.

Scenes from Percival Rubens' THE DEMON (1981), set to John Carpenter's score from HALLOWEEN (1978).

This weird-ass film seriously haunted my childhood. I began to think I'd imagined it, because whenever I'd ask, "What's the movie where the naked broad wearing a shower curtain kills some Michael Myers-wannabe with a water nozzle?"—I'd only get chuckles and/or incredulous stares in response. I stayed convinced that it was some sugar-addled hallucination until I stumbled across it on VHS a few years later—and my credibility was gloriously vindicated.

That inscrutable and absurd Halloween facsimile was, in fact, a reality—a virtually unknown South African production called The Demon, starring Cameron Mitchell and Jennifer Holmes. Even though it's been steadily in-print on domestic and international home video since its misbegotten birth—as well as "enjoying" a nationwide U.S. theatrical release a few years after that (!)—The Demon got very little pre-internet press, and was almost never reviewed in any popular reference guides. Now it's readily available on about two-dozen different DVD labels and grey-market compilations.

Original THE DEMON artwork courtesy of Gold-Key Entertainment
Original poster artwork for THE DEMON (1981)
So why do I care about this twisted little lemon? Well, its obscurity suggests the classic tree that fell in a forest—except that everyone heard it, because it's practically public domain. It's arguably the least-known, yet most ubiquitous Halloween rip-off—yet, its very existence is mystifying enough that I initially confused it for a muddled fever dream. The Demon is the most undistinguished movie I've ever given two fucks about. I obviously have no taste, and am insane. Bear with me.

What's Compelling About THE DEMON?

Take a film like Halloween—it's a universally well-regarded work of artistic genius, created by one John Carpenter. But what about the anti-genius of The Demon? On whose shoulders does that lie? To deconstruct every aspect of Carpenter's creative intent, you've got hundreds of documentaries, articles, interviews, commentaries, and websites to wade through. But if you're an unlikely fan of The Demon, you're up shit creek. It's understandably difficult to research this film's raison d'être; it's cheap, slow, murky, bloodless, rather artless, unnecessarily disjointed, and ultimately fairly unsatisfying. But, for me, it's got a perplexing counter-charm; there's just something about its hollow sound, library music score, and Afterschool Special-meets-wildlife-documentary cinematography that fascinate me. Those sunbaked exteriors, those gloomy, delicately lit interiors; it's the movie equivalent of a dusty, cast-off collection of faded 1970's family snapshots you'd unearth at a flea market and find indescribably intriguing.

Rare promotional still from Percival Rubens' THE DEMON (1981)
Cameron Mitchell in THE DEMON (1981)
Adding to its through-the-looking-glass mystique is an unusual setting, or rather, non-setting. Shot on-the-cheap in and around Johannesburg with a bunch of confused-looking actors, I think it's supposed to take place in an unidentified "American" city, stitched together from disparate South African locations. A daunting, lop-sided "California" where folks drive on the left, no two accents are alike, and a rocky shoreline, dense pine forests, isolated suburban villas, and inner-city discos all seemingly exist within a few miles of each other. There's absolutely no direct mention of where this never-never land of right-drive Peugeots driven by pseudo-Americans might be. Not even the flimsiest of excuses are made as to why these characters are even on the same continent; the director just crossed his fingers and hoped nobody would notice. Maybe it's just clueless filmmaking, but the effect is markedly unsettling nonetheless.

Rare promotional still from Percival Rubens' THE DEMON (1981)
Jennifer Holmes in THE DEMON (1981)
Finally, there's something particular about its fuckupedness that piques my interest as a film editor. This dud is three distinctly separate, barely connected scenarios—abduction drama, urban thriller, and Halloween clone. But rather than staging each tale one after another as an omnibus, the film tries (and fails) to weave them together into something resembling a single, ongoing plot.

I love a good, justifiably oblique horror-thriller, but The Demon is too boilerplate in every regard to sport such a curiously muddled mise-en-scène. The writer-director was no David Lynch; he plainly strove to create a conventionally entertaining horror-thriller, but—either due to a problematic script, hasty re-writes to accommodate actors' schedules, half-baked ideas introduced well into production, more regard given to the availability of locations than an actual reason to shoot there, or all of the above—it just refuses to make sense. You can tell they really tried to save it in post-production, leaving the B-movie editor in me to wonder how it was originally conceived.

Rare promotional still from Percival Rubens' THE DEMON (1981)
Graham "Patches" Kennard in THE DEMON (1981)
Those unfamiliar with the plot of The Demon would be well-advised to check out its Wikipedia entry. I wrote the plot synopsis myself. Took the better part of a morning.

Whose Idea Was This?

I'll begin at the source of the madness, the film's auteur, Percival Rubens. When a flick bears the title card "written, produced, & directed by" the buck stops there. Unfortunately, there isn't a wealth of online information about the late Mr. Rubens—but I can glean that he was a South African journeyman director who, while not entirely prolific, did have an almost three decade-long career in local film and TV.

Article about filmmaker Percival Rubens from the 1950's.
"The purpose of the trip was to look for trouble and see things the hard way."
(research courtesy of Brian Tristam Williams)
He was also an unstoppable juggernaut and all-around bad-ass, as witnessed by this fantastic newspaper clipping from The Sunday Times (South Africa). Published sometime around 1954, it details the experiences of a then-25 year-old Rubens on his 6,000 mile motorcycle trip through Europe and North Africa. According to the article, setbacks included being arrested in Spain by civil guards, getting held at gunpoint by American troops in North Africa, being "beaten by angry Arabs" in Algeria, and ultimately surviving 20 hours sealed in a crowded ship's hold while en route from Morocco to Marseille. He could afford first-class, but wanted to "do it the hard way." Allegedly, he was the only man standing after everyone else collapsed from sickness and exhaustion. Then, upon arrival in Marseille, Rubens "undressed on the deck, and pitched all of his top garments into the sea. He went into a dockside hotel in his underwear."

Promotional stills from Percival Rubens' THE FOSTER GANG (1964)
Production stills from Percival Rubens' THE FOSTER GANG (1964)

It's quoted that this vacation was a vision quest of sorts for Rubens, so he could "look for trouble and see things the hard way." Obviously he still hungered for the hard way, because he became an independent filmmaker—and made his debut with The Foster Gang (1964), the true story of a band of notorious criminals who terrorized South Africa in 1914. Rubens is even credited with having written the lyrics to the theme song (sung by one Nick Taylor). The press kit optimistically predicted that The Foster Gang was the "film to put South Africa right in the front with the New Wave filmmakers," but I don't believe it was ever released outside outside the country. However, it still shows up on South African TV from time to time.

THE FOSTER GANG (1964) on 163 MzanW
(photo courtesy of Brian Tristam Williams)
He followed with the conspiracy thriller The Long Red Shadow aka Three Days of Fire (1968), and the macho war movie Strangers at Sunrise (1969), both with little-to-no international appeal.

Behind-the-scenes snapshot from the set of Percival Rubens' STRANGERS AT SUNRISE (1969)
George Montgomery (far left), Percival Rubens (center), and Brian O'Shaughnessy (right) on the set of STRANGERS AT SUNRISE (1969)
Purportedly, he hoped to break out with with Mr. Kingstreet's War (1971), a bush-set WWII drama starring John Saxon and former Hitchcock muse Tippi Hedren as an idealistic American couple forced to defend their animal reserve against Fascist Rozzano Brazzi. However, according to Trevor Moses, film archivist for the National Archives and Records Service of South Africa, Percival's labor of love was D.O.A.

Trevor Moses:
Percival Rubens was a good friend of mine. He told me that the producers—Thys Heyns and Noel Marshall (Hedren’s then husband)—had convinced him to change the ending from a happy one to a violent one, in which all the principal actors are cut down in a vicious hail of bullets and splattered blood. This, they said, would not only pay homage to Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969), but also serve as a condemnation of the then topical Vietnam War. Percival told me that he should have shot it two ways, and then let the public decide in pre-release screenings, but he could not do so. The result was the film's failure. Percival was out of work, and left almost destitute for an entire decade. Yet, the producers prospered—Marshall most notably with The Exorcist (1973), and Heyns with films such as Target of an Assassin aka Tigers Don’t Cry (1977).
Poor Percy. First he's beaten by angry Arabs, and now this. He spent the ensuing eight years toiling on various small projects of strictly local interest—the Afrikaans-language Die Saboteurs (1974), an episode or two of the SABC TV series "Call Me Kelly" (1977-1978), and the Zulu-language superhero flick Mighty Man (1978), currently believed to be a lost film. Thirsty for a hit and on the hunt for inspiration, he believably found it in a darkened movie theater while watching what was quickly becoming the most successful independent motion picture of its time.

Trevor Moses:
The last time I saw Percival Rubens was in late 2007, when he gave the National Film, Video and Sound Archives a pristine, uncut 35mm six-reel print of The Demon. To his dying day, he said that the film—inspired by a visit to the cinema to see Halloween when he was down and out, and determined to make a film that could be sold internationally and be as successful as John Carpenter’s—was his best.
Now, there's being influenced by Halloween, and then there's hastily cobbling together a blatant knock-off with little-to-no understanding of what made the original succeed, guilelessly confident your slapdash hodgepodge of screams, shadows, and cherry picked re-enactments will strike the same chord with audiences. Yet, for all its myriad faults, The Demon does stand as Rubens' most internationally successful, recognizable, and accessible work. He even considered it his signature film.

Obituary for South African filmmaker Percival Rubens.
Percival Rubens obituary
Courtesy of Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2009
Harris M. Lentz III
Who's In This Thing?

Both Halloween and The Demon showcase—as their antagonists—solitary, non-verbal brutes with featureless faces. But whereas John Carpenter saw fit to impart his chillingly motiveless antihero with an identity and creepy backstory—which lent the proceedings a menace akin to a campfire tale or urban legend—Rubens offers not even the most rudimentary explanation for his killer's existence. He is, quite simply, a ghoulish, heavy breathing stalker in a mask, bizarrely obsessed with slaying the small handful of protagonists featured at the forefront of this fractured story. Who is he? Where did he come from? Why does evil personified look so much like Charles Grodin? "Who cares?!" Rubens seems to answer. The press materials refer to the scoundrel as "an inexplicable outline of unknown horror." Inexplicable outline is giving Rubens' character too much credit.

Rare promotional still from Percival Rubens' THE DEMON (1981)
"An inexplicable outline of unknown horror" (Graham Kennard)
carries Zoli Marki around in Percival Rubens' THE DEMON (1981)
Speaking of inexplicable outlines, the actor who played the Demon is almost as vaguely defined as his eponymous character. The lone memory I could extract came from Graham Hickson, the 1st A.D., who quipped that, "The character that played the Demon was cast for his size and not his acting ability." The character's name is Graham Kennard, and I could only dig up three fun facts about him: he goes by "Patches," this is his only acting credit, and he's one tall-ass mofo. Efforts to reach Patches were fruitless, but I uncovered a recent snapshot showing he's alive, well, and still displays a bit of demon-like charisma.

Graham Patches Kennard
Graham "Patches" Kennard
(circa 2016)
For dread-inducing exposition, Halloween offered up Emmy-nominated character actor (and Dr. Evil prototype) Donald Pleasence as "Dr. Sam Loomis," the all-knowing psychiatrist. Not to be outdone, The Demon stars ex-movie star and veteran schlockmeister Cameron Mitchell as "Colonel Bill Carson," a retired U.S. Marine with ESP who volunteers as a freelance psychic detective. Pleasence is one of the hammier aspects of Halloween, but his performance is cold steel compared to Mitchell's Shatneresque interpretation of an omniscient harbinger of doom. Carson develops a telepathic connection to the monster, and then spends the remainder of his contract in scenery chewing stages of heightened intensity: grunting, groaning, hyperventilating, ripping up a teenage girl's bed, etc. During his calmer moments, he gravely delivers irritatingly opaque, Loomis-lite pronouncements about the Demon such as, "What we're dealing with here is an aberration of the species," and "he's less than a man, and more than a man." Even the broad who hired him gets sick of his sweaty, abstruse bullshit and shoots him dead between the eyes.

THE DEMON (1981) in Four and a Half Minutes.

On the rare occasion that cult movie fans discuss The Demon, it's Cameron Mitchell's awkward non-purpose in the film that gets the most airtime. Film reviewer Kevin Burns put it best when he said, "to say that Cameron Mitchell is shoehorned into the film is giving shoehorns too much credit." Much is made of the fact that Mitchell shares top billing with Jennifer Holmes, yet they never feature in a scene together—or even seem to be starring in the same movie. To be fair, Pleasence has a rather auxiliary role in the original Halloween as well—existing adjacent to the main plot until the last five minutes, and never appearing in the same shot with co-star Jamie Lee Curtis. Presumably, both Carpenter and Rubens faced the similar predicament of how to seamlessly patch "the expensive famous guy on a short schedule" into their low-budget horror films. It would seem, then, that Carpenter was just better at it.

Trevor Moses:
What I can confirm is that the entire cast seems to be slumming, especially Cameron Mitchell, who was brought in to appeal to local audiences after he had a hit with the Western television series "High Chaparral" (1967-1971), and was thus known here to all as Uncle Buck.
Sadly, Uncle Buck is no longer with us, but he referenced the film briefly in an interview with horror historian Tom Weaver, contained in his compendium, "Double Feature Creature Attack."

Cameron Mitchell:
The Demon... I thought that was a pretty good film; we shot that in Africa. The Demon had kind of an ESP angle to it, and I play an army colonel who's called in on a case. It was an interesting film, not all bad.

Cameron Mitchell tears up a bed in THE DEMON (1981)

I believe there's a kernel of truth to the late Mitchell's assertion that The Demon was "an interesting film, not all bad." Or rather, there's the potential for interest. At the outset, the Demon stages a night raid on a lonely seaside house and carries a teenage girl into the woods. When her grieving parents implore Carson to locate their beloved Emily, or at least identify her assailant, he describes his clairvoyant process as being able to "visualize things until I'm almost part of them. Until I'm almost ... him." This is only after the oft-mentioned sequence in which Mitchell sniffs around Emily's room, and then dives head-first onto her bed in a quasi-psychotic fit and rips her pillows apart. In the context of Rubens' confused staging, it's just a hilariously inappropriate reaction. But if Carson were meant to be channeling the slasher, then his response could've been—on paper, at least—a gruesome and disturbing allusion to Emily's heretofore ambiguous fate.

THE DEMON (1981)
Random boys run afoul of Emily the skeleton in THE DEMON (1981).
Ashleigh Sendin
Ashleigh Sendin
(circa 2016)
As the catalyst who sets this convoluted narrative in motion, Emily herself is a rather thinly sketched character. All we learn about her is that she's a 14 year-old whose mother thinks she's "oversexed" because she cat-calls some shirtless dude on Star Trek (it's unclear whether she's referring to Captain Kirk or Spock, although my money's on Kirk). Then she gets bundled off, and disappears for the duration. The role was played by 15 year-old Ashleigh Sendin, a South African actress and singer who went on to have a local hit in 1984 with the disco tune "(Ha Ha) Here I Come."

Ashleigh Sendin ("Emily"):
I remember The Demon well. I was already established as a child actor in South Africa at the time, as I had played "Annie" in the musical which had opened in 1978. I do recall doing a lot of "Screaming Acting." I hadn't realized that it was still in print. YAY! Percival Rubens was avuncular, larger-than-life, and generous. It was great fun to do. Cameron Mitchell was charming, and quite laid-back. I only met him on the one occasion as I was "dead" by the time he entered the film. I wasn't supposed to attend the screening as it had an age restriction, but I got away with it wearing high heels, make-up, and with my mother as chaperone.
For those interested in whatever happened to Ashleigh Sendin, there's a great interview over at Retro Disco HI-NRG. However, for those puzzled about the fate of oversexed Emily Parker, her character in The Demon, it's a head-scratcher, to say the least. The best I can surmise is, her decomposed remains are found hanging from a tree top. Or something.

Rubens obviously wanted his "demon" to out-boogeyman Michael Myers, and admittedly the concept of a hulking, super-strong demon-man who breaks into your house, drags you out to some random-ass forest, rips you apart to death, and then casually tosses your mangled carcass 30 feet up a pine tree does sound like the most horrifying thing ever. It's like a Russian fairy tale, right?

The fate of Sweet Emily is revealed (sort of) in THE DEMON (1981)

But here's how The Demon handles horrifying revelations. For no reason at all, we're suddenly introduced to a gang of arbitrary South African kids playing war games in a forest. Then their gaiety is interrupted by a shock-zoom to a dime-store skeleton in a tree. Cue screams and shrieking trumpets. End scene.

Wait. Is that Emily? Maybe. Why is it Emily? The skeleton wears a cheap blond wig. How did it get there? Not sure. How does this perverse turn affect the plot? It doesn't. Does anyone mention the skeleton afterward? No. What happened to the kids playing in the woods? Who cares? Are you making this up as you go along, Mr. Rubens? Maybe. Why do I like this movie? *crickets*

Rare promotional still from Percival Rubens' THE DEMON (1981)
Peter J. Elliot and Moira Winslow in THE DEMON (1981).
The Parker parents are an engrossing pair—although in keeping with the hackneyed nature of the production, the father is never named in the film or the credits. I guess we'll just call him Mr. Parker. Well, Mr. Parker was played by one Peter J. Elliott (b. June 12, 1942) an English actor and stuntman who started off on UK TV shows like The Avengers (1961-1969) before landing a role in the British sexploitation classic 1000 Convicts and a Woman (1971). It appears he relocated to South Africa shortly thereafter, and spent the next two decades in front, and behind, the camera on shows of varying quality and notoriety. Unfortunately, his IMDB profile is lumped together with another Peter Elliot of something called the Edmundson and Elliott variety act, so it's tough to get a clear snapshot of this guy's career. As "Mr. Parker," Elliot doesn't do much except seethe with obsessional hatred at the "monster" who stole his daughter, and then get killed—but luckily he's good at both.

As the mother, The Demon boasts stage-and-TV thespian (and fellow British ex-pat) Moira Winslow. From what I can gather, the late Ms. Winslow's claim to fame was having played "Nel Clay" on South Africa's popular soap opera The Villagers (1976-1978) before becoming something of a hometown hero as the founder and chairperson of Drive Alive, a successful road safety campaign. As the tormented-cum-bat-shit crazy Joan Parker, Winslow very capably handles the duties of her role—mainly gasping and sobbing—before randomly becoming a mustache-twirling villain about two-thirds in. "Did your extra-sensory perception prepare you for ... THIS?!" she growls before grabbing a handy .38 Special and popping Cameron Mitchell square between the eyes. Then that must've been a picture-wrap for both Mitchell and Winslow, because Rubens similarly executes that plot thread.

THE DEMON (1981)
"Did your extra-sensory perception prepare you for ... THIS!"
Joan's motive for cold-bloodedly assassinating her freelance psychic detective is left annoyingly vague. It's strongly hinted that she holds him responsible for the murders of her daughter and husband. Perhaps to further perpetuate his sham career as a hoax psychic? I think? It's, like, c'mon Percival Rubens, you had one job. I wonder if Mitchell's hasty exit from the proceedings was organically denoted in the script, or if there was just a taxi waiting outside to take him to the airport. (Note: If anyone has a copy of the script, I'm dying to read it).

Rare promotional still from Percival Rubens' THE DEMON (1981)
Jennifer Holmes and Zoli Marki in THE DEMON (1981)
Unfolding concurrently (and gracelessly) alongside the Cameron Mitchell plot is the "story" of our wholesome Final Girl, Mary, and her fun-loving, 18 year-old cousin, Jo—a pair of cute preschool teachers-about-town shacked up in some secluded estate. I put "story" in quotes because despite the relative simplicity of that premise, it only manages to perplex. Who are these chicks? How are they related to the kidnapping plot line? Why is one cousin American and the other South African? I've been assured by native South Africans that "Jo" is, indeed, attempting an American accent, although to me she sounds more Afrikaans than a Van Der Merwe convention.

Headshot for 1980's actress Jennifer Holmes
Jennifer Holmes headshot
Circa early 1980's
As "Mary Jones" (never referred to as such in the film or the credits, just the press kit), we've got Jennifer Holmes, a then-24 year-old ingénue from Seekonk, Massachusetts. Although The Demon would stand as her first-and-last lead role in a motion picture, Ms. Holmes subsequently enjoyed a successful TV career wherein she guest-starred on just about every damn 80's show on the air. She additionally managed to squeeze in appearances in two of my other favorite bad movies: Raw Force (1982)—also featuring Demon alumnae Cameron Mitchell and real-life husband Mark Tanous—and Life on the Edge (1989), which I've never actually seen, but wrote an entire article about. After Life on the Edge, Holmes retired to raise her children. Now she's a professional funeral celebrant. I'd totally hire her just to ask her about her cult film career.

The thrilling, shower-rific finale to THE DEMON (1981)

Take, for instance, the much-ballyhooed conclusion in which Mary strips down to her panties for a ridiculous showdown with the killer. People wonder why Holmes spends the entire denouement clad in nothing but a pair of tighty-whities and a laughable shower curtain. I believe I have the answer—thanks to that Sunday Times article. If the first thing 25 year-old Percival Rubens did upon emerging from that infernal ship's hold was to doff his clothes and strut around in his skivvies, it's clear the man equated victoriously overcoming adversity with disrobing down to your underwear. Or, you know, he just thought the last third of Halloween would've been a lot better if Laurie Strode was topless.

Rare promotional still from Percival Rubens' THE DEMON (1981)
Jennifer Holmes and Mark Tanous in THE DEMON (1981)
Speaking of Laurie Strode, it's clear that Mary—this film's virtuously triumphant Final Girl—is obviously modeled on that template. But refreshingly, Rubens doesn't paint her as a shy virgin. No, he just makes her into an uptight, prematurely middle-aged curmudgeon who spends the majority of the film puttering around her bougie house, pissing and moaning about her cousin's love life while wearing a hideous quilted housedress that no twenty-something woman would ever use to dust furniture, let alone wear. What Mary lacks in fashion sense, she makes up for in self-contradiction. For instance, she doesn't trust Cousin Jo's rich boyfriend because he's a "tomcat" with "no visible means of support" and she "prefers cats who work for a living." But she's a preschool teacher who lives in a mansion. Before that, she lectures Jo about patience when dealing with children, but Rubens also attempts a running joke with Mary being perpetually exasperated by some kid in her class named Jennifer. "One of these days I'm gonna kill that Jennifer!" "You had better hang in there or I will sic Jennifer on you!" No wonder nobody cares when she complains that "some guy" has been following her around.

Perpetually irritated Jennifer Holmes in Percival Rubens' THE DEMON (1981)
The Many Moods of Mary Jones in THE DEMON (1981)
Granted, Mary is being toyed with by a possibly supernatural madman—fair enough—but the character seems on-edge even before the Demon strikes. Early on, she's meant to be "strolling" through Downtown, Anytown, USA—for all intents and purposes on a pleasant shopping trip—but Holmes sprints through the scene, clutching her purse like she's being chased by a pack of muggers. I wonder if Mary was supposed to be stressed-out, or it was merely Holmes' own bewilderment and discomfort at being thrust onto the noisy streets of Johannesburg at rush hour so a tiny crew could hide in the shadows and shoot her Guerrilla-style. Only Holmes knows for sure. (Note: Check out the 0:11 mark where Holmes is upstaged by some random Joburger who doesn't even know she's in a movie).

What constitutes a leisurely stroll in THE DEMON (1981)

At press time, efforts to reach Ms. Holmes were unsuccessful. I was, however, able to speak briefly with her husband, actor Mark Tanous (who plays Mary's boyfriend, Bobby). Mark is retired and enjoys a rewarding life as an artist, but he did have a fuzzy recollection about this little gem.

Mark Tanous ("Bobby"):
We made The Demon just days after we got married. It was the first of two movies we made with Cameron Mitchell, who Jennifer met while doing the "Goodbye Eddie Cain" episode of The Incredible Hulk.
So not only did the director consider The Demon to be his best film, but it was a paid honeymoon for two of its American stars? Maybe that's why Holmes is in a hurry; she wants to get home to her wedding presents.

Actress headshot for Zoli Marki
Zoli Marki headshot
Circa mid-1980's
If Mary is this film's Laurie Strode, then Cousin Jo is obviously a hybrid of Lynda and Annie: a naive, man-hungry brunette who (if Mary is to be believed) talks too much about soup and salad, makes lousy scrambled eggs, and definitely needs to get her shit together. Jo was portrayed by Zoli Marki—South Africa's own hybrid answer to Farrah Fawcett and Margot Kidder—and, interestingly, despite being cast as zany second-fiddle to Holmes' awkward Mama Bear, Marki gets more screen time. Rubens must've been grooming her for stardom; he cast her opposite heartthrob Morgan Stevens in his follow-up: the post-apocalyptic action epic, Survival Zone aka The Haunted Planet (1983).

Zoli Marki ("Jo"):
Percy—or rather "Ruby," as he liked to be called—was rather a bizarre old man. Never really trained as a filmmaker, as such. Making movies was only a hobby for him; I think he was an engineer or some such thing. He financed his films himself. As for any memory of The Demon, the only one that springs to mind is that I couldn't wait for the shoot to finish! No, but seriously, Ruby's sets were so quiet and lame that we had to drug ourselves just to get through the days—hence total memory loss. It was the 1980's after all.
THE DEMON (1981)
Zoli Marki and Craig Gardner in THE DEMON (1981)
This potboiler has a thing for shower curtains. Long before Mary suits up for battle in her legendary waterproof ensemble, Jo is shown wearing this tragic poncho. Foreshadowing?

Zoli Marki ("Jo"):
What the fuck have I got on?! I remember dear Ruby dressed me in his old wife's clothes on the shoots! Shame, poor me.
Jo is dating Dean Turner, some rich-kid womanizer with mommy issues played with a likable, Jack Tripper-esque horniness by American ex-pat actor Craig Gardner. Described by Senseless Cinema as "an endearing combination of Anthony Perkins and Adrian Zmed," the charismatic Gardner somehow manages to charm, in spite of his character being required to say some pretty stupid things.
JO: Drive me to the moon!
DEAN: Do you mind if we stop at my place first?

Craig Gardner actor headshot, mid-1980's
Craig Gardner headshot
Circa early 1980's
Craig Gardner ("Dean Turner"):
I think that doing The Demon was one of the contributing factors to my giving up acting full-time and moving into production in the mid-1980's. I absolutely cringe at the thought of anybody I know actually watching that movie.
It could be argued that Jo and Dean's budding courtship constitutes a fourth subplot on its own, because Rubens devotes way-too-much time to their rom-com chit-chat. For a horror movie, anyway. Their scenes feel grafted on from some long-lost, single-camera TV pilot about a young screwball couple living (and loving) in the Big City; Three's Company meets Mad About You.
DEAN: You're supposed to be a silly, innocent, unsophisticated little girl who doesn't know how to say "no."
JO: And you thought you could have my body for a little wine, lobster, a ride in your Scolotti, and a loll on this dandy, double-plush carpet?
DEAN: It usually works!
Thanks to some some car-happy folks down at the Internet Movie Car Database, I know that slick playboy Dean Turner drives a 1976 Lotus Eclat. If anyone can tell me what a "Scolotti" is, I'd be eternally grateful. According to the credits, the rest of the vehicles were supplied by the Sigma Motor Corporation—a South African joint-venture through Mazda, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Citroën, and Chrysler. If you're a sucker for South African economy cars from the late 1970's, The Demon is a candy factory.

Actor Craig Gardner and family in South Africa in the mid-1980's
Craig Gardner and Family
Circa mid-1980's
Craig Gardner ("Dean Turner"):
I had recently emigrated from Los Angeles to Johannesburg with my wife (a South African) in the early 80's—and was the flavor of the month, being cast in everything from TV musical revues (I spent much of my U.S. career singing in stage musicals) to a variety of non-singing roles in theaters and on TV. The Demon was fit into a hectic schedule. We all knew that it was an unabashed Halloween rip-off, but it was a job, right? I do, however, find it amazing to think that the film hasn't completely died by now. It is, after all, cheesy, badly scripted, over-acted and under-produced.
Dean and Jo's Tracy/Hepburn repartee invariably leads to hot monkey love. The act itself is kept chastely off-screen, however afterward we're treated to some truly sickening post-coital pillow talk.
JO: Good, good, good...
DEAN: The lamb chops were pretty good, too.
JO: All you ever think about is your stomach.
DEAN: Sometimes I think about your stomach.
Shot from Percival Rubens' THE DEMON (1981)
Zoli Marki and Craig Gardner in THE DEMON (1981)
Craig Gardner ("Dean Turner"):
One vivid memory is my nude scene with Zoli Marki. Although she's a wonderfully sweet girl, I remember how stunned I was at the fact that she so easily removed all her clothes without hesitation. Here I was, wearing underwear behind a discreetly-placed pillow, and Zoli was stark naked, without any sense of self-consciousness. I do have to say that I was never comfortable with intimate scenes of any kind—and even more so, given the fact that at that time I was recently married. But Zoli had no inhibitions whatsoever.
Marki, however, remembers things differently.

Zoli Marki ("Jo"):
Craig looked like something in those days. I do remember having a hot love scene with him in the movie, and him getting all hot-and-heavy for real. Hey, but who can blame him? I mean it was a so young moi he was lying next to. Tee hee.
As couples so often do five minutes after they make love for the first time, Jo and Dean take a midnight skinny dip, then get engaged. But in typical The Demon fashion, all this character development/viewer investment amounts to zilch, because no sooner is the question popped before Mr. Demon galumphs onto the scene and slaughters them both. I'm beginning to think this debacle is an amalgamation of four unfinished scripts, and the "Demon" is just some deus ex machina Rubens dreamt up as the laziest way to resolve a plot thread. Too bad Dean didn't see Halloween, or he might've expected that grunting heavy breather to jump out of the back seat and suffocate him with a plastic bag.

Rare promotional still from Percival Rubens' THE DEMON (1981)
Craig Gardner gets the sack in THE DEMON (1981)
Craig Gardner ("Dean Turner"):
How ridiculous it felt to pretend I'm suffocating to death when that plastic bag was thrown over my head. In order to make it look terrifying, and real, we decided that I needed to suck in breath so that the plastic would pull into my mouth. And it wasn't very long (a few seconds) before we would rip it off, because there was no air in there!
For her efforts, Jo is summarily bitch-slapped by the Demon, then smothered by a plastic bag. I asked Marki if she had any memories of her on-screen demise. "Yes," she replied. "It was over in a matter of seconds." I hate when people can't recall every waking moment of the two weeks they spent shooting a movie, forty years ago.

Howard Carpendale and Zoli Marki at the premiere for "No One Cries Forever" in 1985
Howard Carpendale and Zoli Marki
No One Cries Forever
(circa 1985)

The Demon begat a fruitful period for Marki; she starred in a few domestic hits, then broke out internationally when cast as the female lead in the South African-German co-production No One Cries Forever aka Niemand Weint Für Immer (1984), a very soapy, very eighties starring vehicle for singing sensation Howard Carpendale—and featuring screen legend Elke Sommer in a severely underrated, scenery destroying performance. Anyway—at the height of her fame—Marki took off for Tinseltown, determined to be a movie star. What followed is the stuff of Hollywood (legend). She was cooking at the world-famous Greenblatt's on the Sunset Strip when she met David Bowie, which she recounts as the most memorably surreal moment of her life. She later moved over to the kitchen at Radeon—a punk-rock burger joint in Franklin Village—where she experienced a surreal moment of a different sort. "Have you ever tried making thirty burgers during rush hour on shrooms? Hilarious is an understatement."

Zoli Marki, South African actress
Zoli Marki today
Comical misadventures with Harrison Ford and Gary Busey followed, and eventually Marki was offered a role on ABC's long-running soap "General Hospital." However, she turned it down because she "didn't want to wear fake nails" and high-tailed it back to South Africa. Some more movies, a marriage or two, and a stint as an oyster farmer followed. These days, she's active in the local entertainment industry as a writer, director, biographer, and teacher. "I've written a story (comedy) about my two-and-a-half years in LA which I think could make a good movie."

Writer/Director Craig Gardner, My Father's War (2016)
Craig Gardner (writer/director)
My Father's War (2016)
Mr. Foxy McFoxerson himself, Craig Gardner, has had something of a fabulous post-Demon career, too. "I was never a particularly good actor. I got by on charm and looks. In fact, the way I describe my acting abilities to people is that you would never hire me to say, 'You killed my brother!" Rather, you would hire me to say, "You know my brother...?" I know how he feels. So, anyway, Gardner went below-the-line, and started The Shooting Party, a multi-award-winning production outfit. He was a director, writer, and supervising producer on the groundbreaking 1990's sitcom "Suburban Bliss," the first South African TV show to lampoon homegrown racism. Later, he was one of creators of "Joburg Blues," another award-winning television satire. Most recently, he wrote and directed My Father’s War (2016), a hard-hitting drama about a troubled young man who dreams he's a combat soldier in the South African Border War. He gets to know his father at the same age, and the newly gained insight heals his life-long feelings of abandonment and anger, leading to forgiveness and a real-life reconciliation. Damn. Sounds like a really intense version of that ABC Afterschool Special My Mother Was Never a Kid (1981). For that reason alone, I should watch it.

Dr. Stewart and Janet Stewart in THE DEMON (1981)
George Korelin and Vera Blacker in THE DEMON (1981)
In the final act, Rubens decides that what would make Mary's underdressed fight for survival even more edge-of-your-seat is extraneous comic relief in the form of repeated cut-aways to Doctor and Janet Stewart, her nosy British neighbors across the street. The doctor (George Korelin) worries about screams and noises, but Janet (Vera Blacker) deduces that it's just kinky sex. George Max Korelin (born March 02, 1919) was a performer from Surrey, UK who relocated to ZA in 1957 to become a fixture on South African stage, screen, and radio. Vera Blacker was a Welsh actress who immigrated down South in 1961 to appear in a staging of The Women. She, too, had a long career in both British and South African productions, but is perhaps best known to cult film audiences as Mrs. Frawley, the old lady who gets eaten by a possessed laundry-folding machine in Tobe Hooper's The Mangler (1995).

Graham Kennard and Jennifer Holmes in THE DEMON (1981)
The frustratingly ambiguous conclusion to THE DEMON (1981)
Meanwhile, without her neighbors' help, our resourceful heroine defeats her attacker with hot water, bubble bath, and sowing shears. So far, so good. But then Rubens—with visions of Carpenter's grim, macabre ending to Halloween dancing in his head—takes his own clumsy stab at something similar, with baffling results. After Mary plants a pair of scissors in the Demon's neck, he slips and falls—I mean, takes forever to lower himself gently—into a bathtub, and then something terrifying happens to his face, causing Mary to howl like a madwoman and take off screaming. "What happens?" you ask? I have no fucking clue, but it's a ludicrously abrupt, blink-and-you'll-miss-it "reveal" that'll piss off anyone who's managed to survive the preceding hour-and-a-half and still expects a logical resolution. To compound the confusion, some prints—such as the Danish VHS—conclude with a slow-zoom on a trembling, cowboy hat-wearing, back-from-the-dead Cameron Mitchell, hiding in the bushes, seemingly in the midst of one of his psychic fits. What does it all mean? Who the hell knows? Then it fades to black and the credits roll. No explanations. No aftermath. Nothing.

Title cards for Percival Rubens' THE DEMON (1981)
Title Cards to THE DEMON (1981)
To round out the cast, we've got a bunch of random-ass people who were impossible to track down. One of the many irritating mysteries of The Demon is who-played-who, thanks in no small part to its shoddy opening-and-closing credits sequences. I'll give the fairly inspired layout an "A" for effort; stenciled transparencies composited against a background of pouring blood is a nifty trick. But unfortunately, we're not given an end crawl. Just static cards that flip from page to page, with no identifying character/actor correlations at all. Then the music runs out about halfway through. Doh!

An aptly striving, yet cheaply rushed coda to a striving, yet cheaply rushed production. Although, according to his associates, what Rubens lacked in budget and storytelling ability, he more than made up for in likeableness.

Graham Hickson (1st. A.D.):
Ruby was a great man and a close friend who gave me my first crack as an A.D. He never shot more than one or two takes, and boasted that his shooting ratio was 2:1. On The Demon, our clapper loader fogged a whole role of exposed film, and I was lucky enough to see it, as he was quite prepared to not own up! We reshot the morning's work that afternoon. There was only a small crew on it. I remember lunch was stale sandwiches made by the production secretary.
Craig Gardner ("Dean"):
I do remember what a nice man Percival Rubens was to work with. Always kind, always complimentary. And very soft spoken. He knew exactly what he wanted, and worked very quickly. He had to, given the limitations of his budget. Anyway, I wish that I could tell you more but, alas, The Demon is now only a very faded memory from a time in my career that now seems like an old snapshot of a younger me. The one fun thing about the movie being available on YouTube is that my grown sons (35, 33, and 28) get to see what their dad looked like when he was thirty—and decide which one of them looks the most like I did at their age!
Johannesburg doubling for an American city in Percival Rubens' THE DEMON (1981)
Johannesburg doubles for ... Denver (?) in THE DEMON (1981)
Locations, Locations, Locations!

I'd like to spotlight this slasher film's locations because, as I mentioned earlier, this stupid-ass movie haunted my childhood. I grew up in California, which bears a striking resemblance to parts of South Africa. Gazing upon this cockeyed, oddly familiar universe during my formative years made an impression. It wasn't until The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980) that I realized Africa had cities. Before that, I thought it was all lions and watering holes.

Various outdoor locations in Percival Rubens' THE DEMON (1981)
Anytown, U.S.A. (as played by South Africa) in THE DEMON (1981)
Much like the proverbial dilemma of the chicken and the egg, one wonders which came first: an actual The Demon script, or merely the desire to exploit as much production value as possible using any locations, actors, and props Rubens had at his disposal. About 90% of this flick is shot on threadbare sets and inside nondescript residences that make your average dentist's office seem like the height of sophisticated production design. But every once in a while, The Demon sneaks outside. Most likely without permits.

Baron Court, 17 Banket Street, Johannesburg
Baron Court: where evil lives in THE DEMON (1981)
Halloween had the iconic Myers House; The Demon has ... Baron Court? After the titular character abducts and kills Emily somewhere near a coast, he hitchhikes to the "big city" and takes up residence in some skid-row flophouse renting cheap rooms. Regrettably, we're not treated to his check-in. How does a mute, faceless, heretofore uncontrollably murderous "demon" rent a room? "Who knows, who cares?" Rubens seemingly says. "He's a demon. He rented a room. He's gotta live somewhere, right?"

THE DEMON (1981)
The life of a vagabond demon in THE DEMON (1981)
The Demon shows up at Baron Court with one sole item: a ratty suitcase filled with porno mags, rope, plastic bags (for smothering), and a pair of steel-clawed leather gloves (presumably for ripping people apart). Halloween gave us no insight into Michael Myers day-to-day routine. If that bothered you, you'll love The Demon—because Rubens shows us a lot of the killer's home life. When not stalking hookers, he holes up in his dank hideout, and performs very mundane, un-demon-like tasks like work out, wash his face, and rip up his porn collection. Is he a disturbed veteran? A narcissistic psychopath? A sexually confused loner? Regrettably, Rubens falls back on the hokey premise that the killer is "inhuman," but briefly, during these scenes, the abnormal psychology angle actually works. It lends the film something remotely resembling True Crime realism.

Baron Court, 17 Banket Street, Hillbrow, Johannesburg
Baron Court (circa 2015)
17 Banket Street, Hillbrow, Johannesburg 2001, South Africa
(photo courtesy of Brian Tristam Williams)
The Demon's lair still stands at 17 Banket Street in Hillbrow, Johannesburg. It's a few blocks from the Doornfontein Railway Station, whose trains are audible on the soundtrack. I'm not sure if this particular corner of Hillbrow (called Joubert Park) has always been dodgy, but these days it's definitely the wrong side of the tracks. Baron Court was last sold in 1997 for R 80 000 (about $6,000)!

The Late, Great Boobs Disco in Hillbrow, Johannesburg

Around the 20-minute mark, while the viewer is attempting (in vain) to reconcile any connection between the Cameron Mitchell and Jennifer Holmes portions, Rubens tosses in some pointless scene where a nameless broad leaves a club called "Boobs Disco" and gets attacked in an alley. When a motorcyclist attempts to intervene, the Demon smacks him off his bike, causing it to lightly bump into a wall and burst into flames (!).

April Galetti ("Girl in Alley"):
I have seen my name as starring in that film, but in actual fact I was an extra walking down a back alley when something blew up. Never even saw the movie.
Despite the craziness on display, it's always Boobs Disco that gets viewers' tongues wagging. Some doubt its very existence, maintaining it's a figment of the filmmakers' imaginations (even though a custom-made sign would've eaten half the budget).

Boobs Disco, Hillbrow, Johannesburg
Boobs Disco today (left) and original complimentary pass (right)
(photos courtesy of Brian Tristam Williams)
Boobs Disco was, in fact, a real club—once located at 112 Twist Street in Johannesburg. Formerly a fixture of Apartheid-era nightlife in Hillbrow, all that's left of Boobs is a busted sign. Boobs, we hardly knew ye. The owner's son was kind enough to furnish an authentic VIP pass—or Complimentary Ticket, as they're called in ZA. I don't think it's still valid.

Suburban Johannesburg home
Mary and Jo's home in THE DEMON (1981)
(location unknown)
Lastly, I'd like to give a shout-out to the stately, English-style manor serving as Mary and Jo's humble residence, if only because I'm a huge Sir Herbert Baker fan. Located somewhere in Johannesburg's northern suburbs (Saxonwold, Westcliff, Sandton), it's clearly a massive dwelling—but the interiors are incongruously cramped, which makes me think Rubens was only allowed to shoot in the guest house. To make matters more architecturally disconcerting, the final bathroom confrontation is staged on some unconvincing three-wall set—no doubt left over from some cheap toothpaste commercial—and, needless to say, doesn't match the house at all.

When Was this Thing Made?

There seems to be much confusion as to when, exactly, The Demon was made—with various sources citing 1976, 1979, and 1981 as years of production. I'm fairly certain 1981 is the correct answer.

California Vital Records says Mark Tanous and Jennifer Holmes got married on May 10, 1980. According to Tanous, they made The Demon "just days" after they tied the knot. In addition, if Jennifer Holmes met Cameron Mitchell while filming The Incredible Hulk, The Demon couldn't be from 1979 because "Goodbye Eddie Cain" originally aired on January 23rd, 1981. There's no way it sat in the can for two years.

Percival Rubens' THE DEMON copyright 1981 Hollard Productions
In addition, "Funkytown" by Lipps, Inc. is featured on the soundtrack, and that particular tune wasn't issued as a single until March 1980. Plus, The Demon carries a 1981 copyright date. So while it's entirely likely that principal photography on this piecemeal cheapie may have commenced in 1979—it's certainly not a 1979 production.

The Halloween Rip-Off that Won't Die

THE DEMON (1981)—The HALLOWEEN rip-off that wouldn't die!
The many faces of THE DEMON (1981)
For some reason, this feeble botch-job refuses to kick the bucket, due in no small part to its stubborn persistence on home video (much to the actors' chagrin, I'm sure). Though not technically public domain, The Demon is a favorite with gray market labels—presumably because nobody involved in the production cares to enforce the copyright. Also, the fact that its original distributor was jailed for fraud might have something to do with it. Sure, now it's omnipresent on VHS, DVD, and streaming platforms, but I was curious to know if this dinky little turkey had ever seen the light of a projector lamp. So I consulted "Doctor Kiss," the resident savant on the Monster Kids Classic Horror forum. A self-proclaimed film historian-type person with an interest in cinematic obscurities, he knows all about The Demon's rather peculiar release history.

Ad for Percival Rubens' THE DEMON (1981) in Variety
THE DEMON in Variety
March 18th, 1980
"Doctor Kiss" (Film Historian-Type Person):
The Demon was one of a package of movies controlled by Howard Goldfarb, and was given a US trade screening on March 23rd, 1981. Variety announced on August 21, 1981, that the US television rights (including home video) had been secured by Gold Key Entertainment, through whom the movie then debuted on the Thorn EMI video label.
Mexican lobby card for Percival Rubens' THE DEMON (1981)
"El demonio desata un infierno de horror y muerte!"
Mexican lobby card for THE DEMON (1981)
Overseas theatrical and television rights (including home video) for numerous territories were subsequently sold in April 1982, as part of a package deal involving seven movies controlled by Goldfarb, including Dawn of the Mummy (1981), Evilspeak (1981), and The Unseen (1980). In the wee hours of April 28, 1983, The Demon made its U.S. television debut through Gold Key Entertainment.
Ad for the theatrical re-issue of Percival Rubens' THE DEMON (1981) aka "Midnight Caller"
"Starts Today!"
THE DEMON (1981) aka "Midnight Caller"
Nowhere in any of the sales announcements from this period are the U.S. theatrical rights mentioned, but evidently these were acquired somewhere along the line by Salah Jammal, whose S.J. International Pictures put the movie out—carrying an 'R' rating—as "Midnight Caller" in March 1985. There may have been only one or two prints in circulation, which gradually trundled around the nation during the remainder of that year, affording The Demon a seriously belated US theatrical release.
[NOTE: The MPAA ratings database has no such record of this film ever having been submitted for a rating, either as The Demon or Midnight Caller.]

Ad for the theatrical re-issue of Percival Rubens' THE DEMON (1981) aka "Midnight Caller"
"The night he came to town, the terror began"
THE DEMON (1981) aka "Midnight Caller"
Does This Film Have a Legacy?

It's interesting to note that The Demon, for all its weaknesses, was a self-funded passion project spearheaded by a down-on-his-luck filmmaker in an effort to pull himself up by the boot straps. An avid adventurer who wanted to do things the hard way, Percival Rubens took a brave, rather clueless crack at mainstream success with this singular vision. Although it's an otherwise crappy, forgettable horror film, The Demon more or less succeeded in resurrecting Rubens' career. As they say, one man's trash is another man's treasure. Or, in this case, one man's floundering train wreck is another's magnum opus.

In conclusion, I'll hand the mic back to film historian Trevor Moses. Although he good-humoredly considers the film something of a national embarrassment, he was fond of the director, and has some rather amusing theories regarding the cryptic title character.

Trevor Moses:
The question of who or what the "Demon" is, exactly, is raised often. To me, he is a representation of director Rubens’ frustration with his side-lining as a director after the failure of Mr. Kingstreet’s War. The Demon can also, in my opinion, be explained by the fact that Apartheid and all its horrors held sway in South Africa at the time. The Demon could be a personification of that system and all its said horrors, with faceless killers getting rid of the youth who dare to speak out, or do things contrary to the systems in place such as watching television, drinking, listening to the Devil’s music, dancing, and having sex: all things frowned upon by the benevolent reign of terror of the National Party in South Africa from 1948 to 1994. Indeed, the shots of Craig Gardner posing Zoli Marki for a pseudo-Playboy layout would have been enough for the censor board to ban it and swallow another Viagra.
This is a sad, humorless attempt at making an international feature for the foreign film market. It's also, however, a famous South African film—but famous for all the wrong reasons, like Nukie (1987) and Space Mutiny (1988) are. The release of films like this makes me ask why? As Colonel Carson would say, “Sometimes I get the answers.”
I have been searching for an answer for a very long time but have never found one at all, nor do I ever expect to.


  1. Thanks for the shout-out! Vincent Cox would have been a good resource for locations. But I haven't seen him in like 18 years, and I see he hasn't done a movie since 2007. I wonder if he's still around.

    1. I actually dig a lot of his cinematography in the movie. His gaffer did some nifty tricks with the lighting.

    2. Vincent is still with us but has retired: I saw him less than three months ago.

  2. Incredible commentary on this film...likely all we will ever get. Thanks.

  3. They should have made a sequel to this movie. It would have been cool to see Jennifer Holmes and Graham Kennard reprise their roles. Would have been excited if the sequel was made.

    1. Someone ought to reunite them for a sequel that picks up 40 years later.

    2. Yeah but it's useless to do it now. They should have did that back in the early 80s.

  4. Let me assure everyone that the time put into writing this, the research, the interviews, and the digging for information...The Demon is worth every bit of it. I saw it on VHS circa 2009 for the first time, and on that initial viewing, it was just another slasher but there was something about it that stuck in my memory. For years it was not on youtube and then I found it on DVD in a closing video store around 2012. The rest is history. I can't stop watching it, and for all the reasons Mike mentioned. I'm also happy that most of the actors are ashamed to have been in the film...that adds to the mystique. I would have to say that Craig Gardner is my favorite actor in the film, even though I like all of them and their "confused" faces. What about the second victim....the guy who picks up The Demon and yaps with him some before getting killed...can we get his story? Or the kids playing war? The pictures here that you added are outstanding, as is the writing. You did this film the justice it deserves and I can't think you enough. For year now I was certain that I was the only one who had these exact sentiments for this movie.

    1. Thanks! Okay, so about the second victim, John Parsonson. All I know about him is, he's an actor. He moved the U.S. sometime in the 1980's or 1990's and taught an acting class in LA for a while. Then he moved to Florida. I contacted him on Facebook to ask him about THE DEMON, and if I recall correctly, he blocked me! Ha! So I guess that means he doesn't wanna talk about it? ;) As for the kids in the woods, I have no clue. I know Percival Rubens has children, so maybe they were related to him and he was giving them a shot at stardom?

    2. Wow....the facebook block only adds to the aura of this movie. So John Parsonson didn't live up to what he said about himself on the car ride..."Don't mind me if I talk up a storm...My mother says that the only thing mobile about me is my mouth..I guess she's right; I do go on a bit." You posted the many incarnations of the DVD/VHS cover, and the one that I own is the one with Cameron Mitchell on the cover. The bizarre thing is that it's a shot of Cameron Mitchell from what looks like the early-mid 1960s....certainly not a shot from The Demon. And in the background, there's a man holding an axe. This man wasn't in the movie, nor was an ax. And if there are movie database car experts out there, maybe there's someone out there who can figure out the name of the record that Dean Turner plays while he talking about "where the bread comes from"...that's a soothing piece of music.

    3. About Dean's seduction music, we'd need to ask Nick Labuschagne, the "composer," about that. He was actually more of a music supervisor, since all the music in the film is royalty free stock tracks. I can only identify one piece, though—"Cold Sweat" by David Lindup. It appears two or three times in the film. The rest—all that shrieking violin "horror" music—I have no idea. I asked Labuschagne about it, and his only response was that he had "no idea" where any of the music from THE DEMON came from. Perhaps that track is from Paris, Rio, or Katmandu.