Dr. John Holden ventures to London to attend a paranormal psychology symposium with the intention to expose devil cult leader Julian Karswell. Holden is a skeptic and does not believe in Karswell's power. Nonetheless, he accepts an invitation to stay at Karswell's estate, along with Joanna Harrington, niece of Holden's confidant who was electrocuted in a bizarre automobile accident. Karswell secretly slips a parchment into Holden's papers that might possibly be a death curse. Recurring strange events finally strike fear into Holden, who believes that his only hope is to pass the parchment back to Karswell to break the demonic curse. Written by
Rick Gregory <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The French title for the film "Rendez-vous Avec La Peur," translates as "A Date With Fear" in English. See more »
The stones at Stonehenge do not have any runes on them. See more »
It has been written since the beginning of time, even unto these ancient stones, that evil supernatural creatures exist in a world of darkness. And it is also said man using the magic power of the ancient runic symbols can call forth these powers of darkness, the demons of Hell.
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Filmed in England, this 1958 film was originally released with a running time of 95 minutes under the title NIGHT OF THE DEMON; when it reached the United States it had a running time of 83 minutes and the title CURSE OF THE DEMON. Both versions are contained on this DVD, with the English version the better for those twelve minutes, but in truth there is little significant difference between the two, and if you are a connoisseur of 1950s horror films you will find both equally fascinating.
Based on the short story "Casting the Runes" by M.R. James, DEMON offers the tale of American psychologist John Holden (Dana Andrews) who travels to a conference in England, planning to debunk a devil worshiping cult led by Karswell (Niall MacGinnis.) Unfortunately for the professionally skeptical Holden, Karswell's powers are genuine: he has successfully translated an ancient text and, through runes written on parchment, casts a curse first against Holden's colleague and then against Holden himself.
DEMON was directed by Jacques Tourneur, who worked with producer Val Lewton to create a series of memorable and distinctly noir-ish horror films at RKO in the 1940s: CAT PEOPLE, I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE, and THE LEOPARD MAN. All three films created a sense of unease and scream-aloud fear by implication and suggestion, and although DEMON is much more explicit in its effects, Tourneur brings the same sensibility to bear on DEMON, endowing it with remarkable authority and power in spite of several distinct flaws.
Chief among these flaws is the script, which can best be described as somewhat abrupt in terms of dialog, and leading man Dana Andrews, whose performance is remarkably unsubtle even in a decade noted for a lack of cinematic restraint. Film lore also has it that Tourneur lobbied against showing the demon on screen, and given the fact that the visual is hardly inspired this clearly would have been the better choice. None the less, DEMON has jolts and jars aplenty, not the least of which is Karswell: Niall MacGinnis' performance, with its mixture of the commonplace and the flatly evil, is remarkably fine. The film also sports a host of memorable set pieces: the storm, the flying parchment, Dr. Holden's exploration of Karswell's mansion, Dr. Holden's run through the night forest, and the final train sequence, to name but a few.
Although it is not well known today, like Tourneur's films with Lewton, DEMON has cast a very long shadow in terms of influence, and it is very difficult to imagine such films as ROSEMARY'S BABY and THE CHANGELING without both this film and those that proceeded it. Recommended.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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