(By Matt Konopka) No matter how long you’ve been watching horror films, there will always be new and undiscovered gems for you to come across. With the rate these things are made, no one, ever, will be able to say they’ve seen every horror film ever made. But who wants to slog through all the crap to get to the good stuff? Starting this week, I’ll be taking that bullet, watching a film I’ve never seen every week and answering the question, is this film better off dead? This week, we start with Demon Wind…
…Written/directed by Charles Philip Moore (Dance with Death), Demon Wind (1990) stars Eric Larson as Cory, a guy who, after the suicide of his father, brings a group of friends along to investigate the violent death of his grandparents sixty years earlier. Not exactly the ideal method of coping after the death of a loved one, but hey, to each their own.
Clunky plot aside, Demon Wind is one of the last types of horror films to be released in the early 90’s which were still living off the gory, practical effects driven, over-the-top golden age of horror that was the 80s. The influences here are so heavy that you’d be shocked to learn this was released in 1990, (though to be fair, it was filmed in twenty-four days during the early part of 1989). As is usual with these sorts of buried bastards stripped of the privilege to be a “Cult Classic”, Demon Wind received terrible reception, and currently sits at a 19% on Rotten Tomatoes. But I’m here to tell you, you can’t judge a horror film by its critic score.
(WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD)
Having never seen a trailer for the film, I sat down to Demon Wind with little to go on besides a recommendation from @MrSmithRocks. Moore instantly sets the mood, opening on a burning corpse staked to a burning cross. Devout Christians, avert your eyes! Demon Wind gives no false pretenses as to what kind of movie this is. We’re treated to an undulating pile of Satanic imagery, body parts strewn about a field, corn-chowder spewing demons, and an exploding farmhouse induced by, well, I’m not really sure, a scream I think?
Following an awesome introduction, we’re introduced to Cory and his typically obnoxious 80’s friends as they all meet at a lonely gas station near his grandparents’ house. Cue the old man warning them away because the place has a death curse! This was around the time when likeable characters were starting to be replaced by sexist D-bags like Dell (Bobby Johnston), the kind of guy who has wet dreams even as his friends are being killed off one by one, so we understand early on that Demon Wind is not the kind of movie where character is going to drive the story. Luckily, Moore seems to understand this too, because little to no attempt is made to get us to care much about anyone outside of Cory. That’s not to say that none of these characters are endearing, some are, but Demon Wind is the epitome of bad acting in low-budget horror. Moore knows his characters won’t keep us hooked, so, similar to Evil Dead 2, very little time is spent getting to know them before we’re dropped right into the Little House on the Prairie from Hell. Side note: the location scout deserves major credit here, because the eerie countryside location does wonders for the tone.
Moore does an exceptional job in reeling the audience in with the strange vibe emanating from Demon Wind. Between the sinister thumping of the soundtrack and grotesque visuals such as a broken bird egg filled with worms, I found myself drawn into the film’s near flawless late-night movie atmosphere. Demon Wind follows the blueprint laid out by countless drive-in horror before such as Evil Dead and Night of the Demons (two huge influences on the film). Moore substitutes character and story with buckets of guts, laughable, gory kills, and demons that travel by method of a gray mist (sound familiar?).
Unsurprisingly, Demon Wind has a hard time making any sense of itself. I’ve seen the film twice now and am still not fully aware of exactly what is going on here. We get that Cory has brought an abundant number of friends (aka demon fodder) here to investigate his grandparents death, because he feels there’s a connection to his father’s suicide, but beyond that, you got me. Moore offers up some odd set pieces like our cast entering the cabin, which they don’t realize is actually just a wall in the middle of nowhere, and of course there’s a mysterious Necronomicon-esque book complete with demon-killing daggers, but exactly how the demons return and why never seems to be a question on the director’s mind. I’m not sure if the cast is trapped in some sort of demon-infested dimension, or why people are turned into bloody dolls who later show up floating around somewhere, only to disappear again just to rematerialize and turn into demon food (sounds confusing, I know, but that’s because it is).
Yes, Demon Wind is a cyclone of irrelevant nonsense and characters responding to the chaos like nothing more than a cool breeze. Bad dialogue is to be expected, but then there’s Cory, calm as ever, declaring that the demons are just trying to warn them after one of his friends has just been transformed into a doll. What!? Cory, you DID see what just happened, right? Cory isn’t the only robot in the cast though. No one seems all that perturbed by what’s happening for a majority of the film. I might sound like I’m hating on this, but no, this is exactly the kind of 80s horror stupidity that gets my blood-smeared stamp of approval, because while I would never quantify this sort of non-sensical behavior and dialogue as “good”, this is some entertaining shit that is begging to be laughed with, even if that wasn’t Moore’s intention.
Not every director knows and thrives on the fact that their movie is trash, but I strongly believe that Moore knows exactly where Demon Wind sits on the scale. The writing isn’t great, and you’re not going to get Jamie Lee Curtis to star in your $500,000 horror movie in 1989, so Moore is smart enough to push the boundaries on the effects and cheeseball action as much as possible by pouring every last dime of the budget into it. The effects team does a spectacular job creating a bunch of pimply ass teenage demons that are just the right amount of gross to get the audience cringing. And my god, the poor production assistants that must have had to clean up all that blood. There’s enough gore and blood splatter to make Sam Raimi proud. Most of the kills are pretty by the numbers, demons biting into necks, demons ripping off heads, etc., but it’s all so effectively done that those looking for an 80s gore fest can do much worse than Demon Wind. Add into that characters round-house kicking the heads off of demons, and you have yourself some fine B+ entertainment. Oh, and did I mention the WWE style showdown between an overstuffed, hulking Satan and what I can only assume is an angel that looks like an alien out of Star Trek?
Supposedly, a sequel was planned for Demon Wind that never came to fruition. I doubt the critical panning helped. The film spent a long time lost in the void, but now that its streaming and available on Blu-ray, it’s my hope that Demon Wind gets a well-deserved second life. Yes, the plot makes no sense and the characters are terrible, but Demon Wind is that perfect complimentary piece to Halloween marathons and so bad its good horror double features. Don’t let this one blow by you.
Demon Wind is now available to stream on Amazon Prime.
By Matt Konopka