Originally Written by Prof. Aglaophotis

Night of the Demon (1980)
Director: James C. Wasson
Writers: Jim L. Ball and Mike Williams
Starring: Michael Cutt, Joy Allen, and Bob Collins

Night of the Demon
The Plot: Taking place somewhere in the remote backwoods of California, a Sasquatch has been going on errant assaults on campers and isolated motorists. Professor Nugent, an Anthropologist at the local university, has been studying the creature and intends to prove the myth to be factual through a planned field trip with four of his best students. The trip is being supported by Karla, the daughter of one of the Sasquatch’s latest victims. The mystery of the creature is big enough to hide, as Karla tried to get the law involved in the killings after evidence of the creature was found near her father’s corpse, but this was covered-up when the case was taken to the local courts. As the students progress on their trip, the stories they share of this monster get increasingly violent as their relationship with the locals, who are hiding the monster, gets progressively worse. Simultaneously, the creature starts up its legendary killing as it stalks the students. Will the group find a safe hiding place from the Sasquatch and discover more mysteries about it, or will they succumb to the monster’s rampant violence?

The Review
It’s easy to dismiss the sub genre of Horror film involving Bigfoot because of how hit and miss the presentation of such films are. One could almost use a blanket statement by saying ‘if you’ve seen one Bigfoot movie, you’ve seen them all.’ Indeed, Night of the Demon shares many staples from the genre, but with one notable exception: this movie is cool! While the pace certainly lags a bit and has its notable flaws, Night of the Demon is the prefect combination of an ‘80’s Slasher movie and any movie about a guy in a gorilla suit running amok in the American wilderness.

The pace of the film is similar to that of a Bert I. Gordon (Empire of the Ants, The Food of the Gods) giant monster flick, where side and supporting characters have clear relations with the heroes that never get mentioned until the second or third act. We barely get a sense of who any of the main characters are besides Prof. Nugent and one his older, smarter students Warren. Most of this is due to the film’s pacing being set mostly around the shock value, but the acting contributes to the speed as well.

The acting is mostly wooden all around, with only a handful of decent performances between the two characters representing the McGinty family, Prof. Nugent, and his wife. Most of the main character line-readings are very stiff or dry, which makes emotionally motivated characters like Karla unconvincing; her performance is a real shame considering her character’s later development and consistent mentioning of her recently murdered father*. Granted, like a lot of 1980’s Horror performances, the actors put their best into emotions such as fear and panic; decently written as the dialogue is, every plot-important line is read as a rough, dry push into the next shocking scene.

Of course while the camera doesn’t spend much time on the characters, it spends quite a lot of time on the setting. While I’m still not entirely sure where the setting is (thank you, lacking exposition), the mountain woodlands are beautiful to behold and the cinematography takes advantage of it. From brief hiking montages to panning overheads, the film is frequently reminding you of the character’s location and how vast/gorgeous it is. The cinematography itself warrants a mention because it’s a surprisingly well-shot movie.

When dealing with Bigfoot/Yeti/Sasquatch movies, you know you’re in for a lot of moody natural settings even if they come form stock footage (even Shriek of the Mutilated had some beautiful shots of nature), but Night of the Demon steps over that fact with good camera work. Art Director David Gooch used a lot of striking angles to capture the panoramic setting, character interactions, indoor activities and even some of the gore effects. There’s one surprisingly good scene in particular, where two lovers among the students are playing chess together and the close-ups over their eyes and hands during the scene fantastically sets the mood (despite the admittedly dry script-read). The final scene in particular is incredibly well shot, as it goes between the actor’s hectic panicking, the gore effects, and the Yeti’s overall behavior throughout. The only time the camera doesn’t keep us up with the action is during the night time shots, particularly during a hardly visible night time flashback/rape scene, which is made pretentious thanks to a badly animated ominous thunder and lightning storm, but that’s the Gaffer’s fault. Actually, there are a few under-lit nighttime scenes that require a little squinting, like when the Sasquatch attacks two lovers in a sleeping bag.

Much like the Boggy Creek movies, Night of the Demon is up to it’s ears in flashback encounters that drive the movie’s violence. The flashbacks have their own build-up to them as the Sasquatch gets progressively clever and violent/creative in murdering its victims. The death sequences are as genuinely grueling as they are graphic; I honestly felt sorry for some of the poor nameless victims, like the random sleeping bag victim or the motorcyclist who accidentally pees on the monster while it’s sleeping in the bushes… Damn, I’ll never get over that. Still, some of the flashback kill scenes are a little extraneous: The last flashback involving the Girl Scouts could have been cut out as it just re-establishes the creature’s intelligence and serves as another creative (in this case, silly) death sequence. Still, the gore effects and brutality of the movie is fairly top-notch. The opening dismemberment is a little cheesy (he certainly came off the bone easy) and there is one collar bone wound that’s a little lazy, but every death in the movie looks as gruesome and skin-grabbing as it should.

Night of the Demon has a pretty good soundtrack for a movie of its moniker. The soundtrack consists of a blend of creepy electronic notes and peaceful acoustic music. The acoustic music gives off a nice touching vibe for the outdoor settings, both for the featured towns and wilderness travels while the electronic music serves as the primary attack Yeti theme. The soundtrack never sounds too inappropriate or pretentious, until the character Wanda is introduced. The moment she walks outside, the electronic music starts up with an almost cartoonish Music Box sound. From there, up to the ending, the soundtrack just degrades into silliness even with the film’s climax.

Now I’m sure a lot of readers are wondering about the creature’s look: one of the best things about any Bigfoot movie is how the creature appears. That may be the case with a lot of movies, but Bigfoot films in particular hold the appeal for bad creature design. I won’t spoil anything for you, but the featured Sasquatch here is somewhere between decent and goofy. They found the right size actor and the build of the suit is convincing enough, but they didn’t have enough make-up effects or fur to get the missing-link look for the creature’s face. It’s a disappointing monster design, but it’s better in comparison to the effects of similar films like Beauties and the Beast or The Hunt for Bigfoot.

Despite the present/day flashback structure, the movie holds itself pretty well. The history behind the creature, its relation with the locals and its motivations are actually pretty interesting, and the movie gives the story a lot of time even if it occasionally feels a little much. The only time the flick doesn’t hold together is during the opening and ending:

The whole movie is bookended by a victim/sole survivor’s recount of every event from a hospital bed – flashback stories included – but as soon as the final scene ends, and we fade back to the sole survivor finishing the story, you can tell there is no way that character would be in the state he was in! It’s bad enough it’s clearly not the same actor, nor does he have the same amount of injuries on his face. No… NO ONE could have survived what actually happened to the character. I’m betting the studio forced the director to shoot the bookend hospital scenes in post due to the tone of the ending because without the hospital recount at the beginning and end of the movie, Night of the Demon would’ve ended on just as dark a tone as the entire film itself, which, believe me, is a propos.

The Conclusion
This movie is a cool trip down Horror movie lane, I don’t care how unprofessional that sounds. It’s a rare, out of print movie, but if you can find it for any price, get it. It’s got some chuckle-worthy performances, but it maintains the creator’s desire to tell a story and flash some shocking gore effects all at once. It makes for some gritty entertainment.

*: Although, it is interesting seeing a Daddy’s Girl character who, despite all motivation and interest, acts so emotionally unattached to her dead/missing old man; that’s a first.