THE DEMON [a.k.a. MIDNIGHT CALLER]
GOLD KEY ENTERTAINMENT / PERCIVAL RUBENS FILMS,1979 / 1981
Trevor THE CHARACTERS Colonel Bill Carson: Cameron Mitchell
EX US Marine Corps Colonel, dumb ass know it all and supposed psychic who is a little too good at his job. So good in fact that he doesn’t see his own death coming. He cannot be a Marine by any stretch of the imagination: the only corps this guy ever saw was the one in an apple.Mary: Jennifer Holmes
Pretty schoolteacher: the Demon’s target and his nemesis. Wearer of very saggy panties.The Demon: Graham Kennard
A lowww budget South African version of Freddie Krueger with cheap gloves, second hand razor blades and a special vanishing mask. Loves to hump the camera during his exercise routines and holes up in cheap Johannesburg digs. Killed by a lady wearing saggy panties.
Mr. Parker: Peter J. Elliot
The bereaved father. More concerned with killing the killer than finding his abducted daughter EMMMILLLLLYYYYYY but ends up getting killed, strangled, hung, drawn, quartered and expelled from the country by the Demon.Joan Parker: Moira Winslow
The bereaved mother who loves to cry into her husband’s crotch and cannot bring herself to say the word ‘dead’. Is a surprising crack shot with a pistol.EEEMMMMMMMMIIIIILLLLLLLLYYYYYY Parker: Ashley Sendin
The Demon's first victim: tortured, raped, murdered and asked to leave the country until some youngsters find that she has remained behind. In a tree. Jo: Zoli Marki
Mary’s cousin, part time teacher and full time good time girl. Gets herself killed and wrapped in plastic a la Twin Peaks
Dean Turner: Craig Gardner
Bozo Playboy wannabee photographer boyfriend of the above: his tight pants conceal a tiny wienie. Also gets the plastic bag treatment by what looks like a slightly used left over condom.
* This person is believed to have been the actor playing The Demon: it remains unconfirmed.LESSONS LEARNED
It is still very possible to love the 114 year old South African film industry, even when films like this test your loyalty to the utmost.
Claws are no deterrent to switching a light on.
Humping the camera while doing your exercise routine is not something Jane Fonda would approve of.
Johannesburg in central South Africa has a sea nearby. Yeah: 200 miles nearby.
Bath oil, water, scissors and a handy bath tub are great murder weapons.
Nosy neighbors can sometimes be helpful.
Never pick up an eerie looking guy at a gas station.
Always jam your head into your husband's crotch when trying not to say the word 'dead'.
Recently slept in sheets provide clues to would-be psychics.
Always remove roof tiles in the nude: never mind about all the dust and rat sh*t that might be up there and down in the crawlspace.
A mute killer with no motive will grunt, do exercises, cut out porno pics from a magazine and murder anyway.STUFF TO WATCH FOR
1:04 Hang on: was that a Star Trek sound bite?
2:00: What the hell is it with these sea shots? Johannesburg’s nowhere near a sea.
3:42 That is a terrible day-for-night shot indeed.
3:45: Try not to bump her head against those trees *DONK*.
4:21: Has a pig gotten hold of her or what?
4:34: That dispatcher on the W/T is talking through my undies.
4:50: Ummm, guys..I dropped my contact lenses around here somewhere…
4:52: *CRUNCH* Found ‘em, thanks.
9:46: Cameron Mitchell looks extremely concerned at having to drive a stick-shift right hand drive car.
10:10: If he knows so fricking much, why did he agree to be in this film?
11:00: Ummm….Why did she put her head exactly THERE?
15:42: Is he having an orgasm or did I leave my undies in that room?
15:56: Funny, that: I also get feelings like that when I want to throw up.
17:33; Aside from the wonderfully eerie photography, what we are dealing with here is not an aberration of the species but rather an aberration of basic film making techniques.
19:05: Now I know this is a Halloween rip off.
21:07: Urrgghhhhh: that is a very unpleasant image indeed.
23:00: BOOBS Disco? I expect to find our good Badmovies.org buddy Dr Menard there.
23:40: That sound clip sounded very much like Funkytown
25:47: Random act of violence against two motorcyclists!
30:16: Those two look remarkably fresh for people who’ve traveled from Johannesburg to Durban to be anywhere near the sea.
35:53: What the hell is she wearing? A Big Top tent?
44:04: That is a direct steal from Bernard Hermann's Psycho
44:19: More score stealing: that was Rapper’s Delight,
I’m sure of it.
45:30: That cinema marquee proves that there is at least one good horror film in all this mess.
49:49: I suppose the next line of dialogue on the phone will be “Have you checked the children?”
55:12: Oy, again with the Psycho
58:00: These kids are better actors than the rest of the bozos in this film.
58:20: I’ve heard about skeletons in the closet but that is bloody ridiculous.
1:01:04: Oops: I guess he didn’t see that coming did he?
1:09:09: For schoolteachers, these two really seem to play boinga-boinga a lot, don’t they?
1:12:20: “AAAARRRGGGGHHHH! I-only-use-paper-bags-to-shop-with!”
1:13:49: I think John Carpenter called his lawyer Michael Myers after seeing those shots.
1:17:02: Noooooo! No kinky aged porn shots, please! [Light goes out] Whew!
1:27:34: Me Mr Blackwell! Me Hate Clothes! Me tear!
1:30:30: More lawsuits: this time from Robert Bloch and Joseph Stefano. QUOTES
Colonel Carson: “The time of the demon – our demon – is drawing near.”
Colonel Carson: “Forget vengeance. Forget everything. It won’t bring Emily home.”
Mrs. Parker: “Did your extra sensory perception prepare you for THIS?” [*BANG*]
Colonel Carson: “Sometimes I get these………..feelings. Vibes, as the kids would say.”
Mr. Parker: “I’ll give you everything I have if you can find this monster!”
Colonel Carson: “I ask the same questions the others ask: the only difference is sometimes I get the answers.”
Mrs Parker: “I think you’re playing a very sick game, Colonel Carson. First Emily and now my husband.”
Colonel Carson: “What we’re dealing with here is an aberration of the species.”
The Demon: “HUHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!”THE PLOT
A asthmatic killer with a startling dis-resemblance to both Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers with a bit of Jason Voorhees thrown in is targeting people in and around a very strange looking Johannesburg which is populated with American accented people, where almost everyone drives a Peugeot, where there is a club in the now notorious suburb of Hillbrow called “Boobs” and the aforementioned city is very close to a sea. Johannesburg. Is. In. The. Gauteng. Province. Of. South. Africa. And. Is. Therefore. Nowhere. Near. A. Sea. Let us make that abundantly clear.
Mr. and Mrs. Parker’s daughter Emily is abducted, attacked by what looks like a giant, sounds like a pig in heat and is then presumably killed, all book-ended by raspy breathing and possibly orgasmic shots of the sea (in Johannesburg?). Mrs. Parker is gagged with a plastic bag ~ perfect justice for an old bag such as she ~ and Mr. Parker swears revenge on the abductor of his beloved EMMMMMMMIIIIIIIIIIIIIIILLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. That’s how he pronounces her name, anyway.
Desperate to locate his beloved EMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMILLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLYYYYYYYYYYYYYY ~ and also desperate that his wife will bury her head in his crotch again in the presence of visitors ~ Mr. Parker contacts Colonel Bill Carson, an ex United States Marine Corps soldier who also claims to be a psychic, claiming to know everything due to the vibes he has. If Cameron Mitchell knew so much, he would not have been in this film. Neither would anyone else, for that matter. Those vibes are proved to be something other than just vibes as he practically has an orgasm in the girls’ bedroom when he witnesses his own reflection in the mirror and makes his booking for the next Mardi Gras Parade after falling in love with what he sees. He then abruptly disappears from the film entirely, surfacing later to show the vengeful father drawings of some sh*t or other, leading to the two of them walking to Durban to be near the sea and leading to the father’s death in a seedy Johannesburg flophouse.
In the meantime, schoolteacher Mary is being stalked by a weird guy who appears randomly to her, once when she is teaching her terrified kids, once when she is stripping naked to try on a new dress, once when she is at home listening to obscene phone calls and once when she is busily engaged in washing Trevor’s underpants. Her cousin Jo is also cut from the same cloth, judging by their horrific tastes in fashion and tastes in men with too tight pants, Hello Sailor mustaches, pretensions at being Playboy photographers and having car keys that break off in the ignition.
Cut to the Demon’s reign of terror in which he generally stalks club goers, beats the seven colors of crap out of several muggers, causes two bikers to crash in an alley and kills an unlucky guy who picks him up at a gas station. Carrying a mask, razor-tipped gloves and an endless supply of plastic bags ~ this was in a time when they were free in South African supermarkets ~ he draws ever closer to the two family members who are obviously twentieth cousins far removed as one speaks in an American accent and the other in a barely concealed Afrikaans drawl. Other things that are far removed are their clothes as there are more saggy boobs and saggy panties on show here then can be seen on www.nakedandninety.com
and they indulge in a lot of the old boinga-boinga and a lot of unwarranted nudity for two school teachers. Colonel Carson pops up again in the story, only to get popped by the now twice bereaved Mrs. Parker and Cameron Mitchell collapses across a chair, thankful to be out of this film. What is left of Emily is discovered by several youngsters and the Demon ~ after humping the camera during his exercises ~ targets Jo and her boyfriend, killing them both with his two free plastic bags. His next target is Mary who proves to be his nemesis, even while wearing a shower curtain and cap. Her weapons are bath oil, water and a handy pair of scissors, with which she stabs the Doofus Demon, leading her to run screaming out of the house (she couldn’t get out before: how could she get out now?) and Trevor to run screaming out of the cinema.
The DVD tagline for this film states ‘THE SCREAMS YOU HEAR MAY BE YOUR OWN”. Indeed, they are. This is a film so terrible that it makes me want to scream bloody murder at the very shoddiness of it all and the hammy acting that would give both a pig and bacon a bad name. Even though I have the South African cinema ~ Africa’s oldest film industry ~ in my blood which no amount of transfusions or blood loss will get rid of, this movie is quite the worst I have ever seen.
Despite this opinion, I however have to be very, very careful
in reviewing this film indeed.
The producer/writer/director Percival Rubens was a good friend of mine ~ the last time I saw him was in late 2007 when he gave the National Film, Video and Sound Archives a pristine, uncut 35mm print of this film. In speaking with him then, he assured me that the six reels of film he entrusted to me and to the NFVSA were uncut but as this print is considered a master ~ the negative film and optical sound masters were never entrusted to us ~ I cannot view it to see if there are any differences between this and the DVD available for sale. Probably just more boobies, saggy undies and sea shots in Johannesburg, I suppose.
The other reason for me having to be very careful in reviewing this film is that its’ DP, Vincent G Cox ASC is both a friend and a mentor to me. Cox is a master behind the camera, both shy and dynamic at the same time and created images in South African films such as Wild Season, Katrina, Die Kandidaat
[The Candidate] and The Winners
which haunt you with their stark beauty and is only one of two South African cameramen who have been admitted to the American Society of Cinematographers: the other being another mentor and friend of mine, David Millin ASC. I defy anyone to watch the opening and final shot in Katrina
~ the sun in the sky over the sea and the sun’s rays seemingly burning through the camera ~ and not get a serious case of the goose bumps. Indeed, his eerie cinematography in this film is its’ only plus point ~ you just never know WTF is going to come out of the darkness at you next ~ and the only thing I can applaud as it suits the film.
To his dying day, Percival Rubens said that this feature ~ inspired by a visit to the cinema to see Halloween
when he was down and out and his determination to make a film that could be sold internationally and be as successful as John Carpenter’s was ~ was his best, but if you compare it to his earlier efforts such as The Foster Gang
(1964), The Long Red Shadow
(1968) Strangers At Sunrise
(1968) and Mr Kingstreet’s War
(1971) it falls way short. 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 local hit with the Western television series High Chaparral
and was thus known here to all as ‘Uncle Buck’. While his demise in the film comes as no shock to the viewer, his over-acting certainly does. How his character can be described as a former USMC soldier is beyond me and I believe that the only corps he ever saw was the one in an apple.
Zoli Markey’s American accent grates on the ear, Craig Gardner’s check-my-package tight pants conceal a wiener, Peter J Elliott is way too intense, Moira Winslow’s Charles Bronson’s impersonation is unexpected (also weird) and the less said about Jennifer Holmes’ dreadfully saggy bikini panties, the better. The sets are bland and the Parker’s house looks very much like it was shot in Percival Rubens’ own house while the city centre of Johannesburg (specifically the inner city area known as Hillbrow) has places with odd, LMAO names like BOOBS Club.
With a name like that, there is no doubt in my mind that our good friend Dr Menard is a life member there.
Please also don’t get me started on the facts that this film puts forward that (a) Johannesburg has a sea nearby, (b) people living in that great city ~ the New York of Africa ~ speak in broad American accents, (c) psychic visions in a murder victim’s bedroom can label you a pervert and (d) a pretty heroine wearing a 1950’s bathrobe, a horrific shower cap and dreadfully saggy panties can confront and kill a murderer by making him slip and fall his arse off on a slippery floor, making him clonk his head on and in a porcelain bath, a la Harrison Ford in What Lies Beneath
. Not forgetting the fact that (e): a bereaved mother can turn into a distaff Charles Bronson when both her husband and daughter have been killed by a lunatic and she holds the hapless detective responsible, giving him a third eye, not a psychic one like T. Lobsang Rampa’s but a holy one nonetheless, oozing blood. This moment where Moira Winslow pops Cameron Mitchell in the forehead is both unexpected and funny, to me anyway. Many reviewers of this film ~ myself included ~ have, after picking up their respective jaws from the carpet, raised many questions. One of the foremost questions is: If the film is set in Johannesburg ~ plainly apparent by the plethora of the then Johannesburg TJ registration license plates on the cars ~ what is the meaning of the sea crashing against the rocks in various and way too many cut away shots? Johannesburg is, as I have said, nowhere near a sea, so for me, the shots of the sea represent two things: either an orgasmic shudder (ewww
) or release after the killer has claimed another victim or, a more plausible idea, a visual representation of a cleansing which the killer believes he needs. The shots of Cameron Mitchell and Peter J Elliott walking to and standing by the sea discussing revenge are hilarious ~ for the simple reason that both men look remarkably fresh having walked all the way from Johannesburg to Durban: the nearest city to Johannesburg with a sea. Instead of Mitchell saying “Forget vengeance” to Elliott, he should have said “Forget your aching feet.”
The question of who or what the Demon is exactly is also 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
~ he told me that the producers Thys Heyns and Noel Marshall had convinced him to change the ending of that South African made Second World War film starring Tippi Hedren and John Saxon from a happy one to a violent one in which all the principal actors, including Rosanno Brazzi are cut down in a vicious hail of bullets and splattered blood. This, said producers Marshall (Hedren’s then husband) and Heyns, would not only pay homage to Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch
but also be a condemnation of the then topical Vietnam War. Percival told me that he should have shot it two ways and let the public decide in pre-release screenings but he could not do so. The result was the film failed, Percival was out of work and left almost destitute for an entire decade and the producers prospered, Marshall most notably with The Exorcist
and Heyns with films such as Target of an Assassin
aka Tigers Don’t Cry.
Percival also felt incredibly and understandably bitter towards the latter producer who, after the failure of the film, informed Percival that he would stop making films altogether but continued successful.
After viewing this film again for this review, 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 the apartheid system and all its’ said horrors, 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 is also a famous South African film but famous for all the wrong reasons, like Nukie
and Space Mutiny
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.