Looks like it's Darren Lynn Bousman week here at AITH. Just yesterday, the director of SAW 2-4, REPO: THE GENETIC OPERA and MOTHER'S DAY was kind enough to grace our Podcast with his presence. During the episode, Mr. Bousman touched on his new piously-tinged horror outing 11-11-11, which comes out the day of. And that got me to thinking. Since, in conjunction with that silly movie THE RITE, we already ran a Top Ten list of religious horror films, I thought, let's take it a step further. 11-11-11 more or less centers on the malefic presence of a demon, a specific kind of horror villain we think warrants celebration. You ready? Here now is my top ten list of cinematic demons. Enjoy!
WARNING: MINOR TO MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW!
#10. ENTRAILS OF A VIRGIN (Mud Demon)
HOLY SHIT! Please tell you've seen this film, or at least promise to seek it out immediately if you haven't. As part of my 31 Days of Horror viewing this year, I got down with one of the sleaziest Japanese exploitation films I've ever thought could exist. And that's saying something! Made in 1986, Kazuo 'Gaira' Komizu's ENTRAILS OF A VIRGIN is essentially a soft-core horror film. The gist? A gaggle of debauched Japanese perverts shooting a skin flick in an isolated warehouse are unceremoniously felled one by one. The culprit? A giant-cocked mud demon who harbors a soft spot for the abused women in the film. "A Murderer" as he is credited, skulks around in the warehouse (which he lives in) and discriminately kills the men, rapes the women. Dude's like HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP...but with Dirk Diggler junk! Not a terribly fine film, in fact it borders on the X-rated a bit much, but wow...still worth seeing at least once. If only to verify this kind of shite exists!
#9. DRAG ME TO HELL - GYPSY DEMON
Raimi sure as shite loves his demons, ay? In Sam's long awaited and much appreciated return to the genre that put him on the map, Lorna Raver plays a pretty damn compelling Gypsy-demon who cast evil spells and rocks the broken beer bottle teeth of a stevedore. Lovely! I think what works so well here is the sympathy conjured for the character, in human form, early in the film. When Alison Lohman's character publicly rejects her bank loan (a topical subject mind you), we really do feel badly for her. This despite the fact she looks bedraggled and portentously dangerous. Of course, when the irreversible deed is done, the Gypsy woman goes berserk...unleashing all hell on the poor girl and all her closest acquaintances. Of course, there's a pivotal séance that takes place in the middle of the film, the result of which summons a shadowy demon that wreaks utter havoc on the place. Simple yet effective, Raimi once again demonstrated why he catapulted to A-list visionary.
#8. DEMONS 2 - SALLY DAY
When a film unabashedly rocks DEMONS in the title, it's difficult to single out an award winner among the undead horde. So, with that in mind, I'm calling out Lamberto Bava's highly-charged 1986 sequel DEMONS 2 as a whole. Or, if you want, I could spotlight Sally Day, birthday-girl extraordinaire. To those who have not seen this kinetic example of first rate Italian sleaze, it follows a group of people trapped in a high-rise infested with blood-parched demons. Sally, wanting everything perfect on her birthday, throws a tantrum and retreats to her room to watch a scary movie. When a putrid ghoul pushes its way through the television screen, Sally has nary a chance to escape. She ends up getting bitten, and soon it's her who becomes the primary flesh-fiend. But like I said, it's really not about one demon in this flick. With such a multitude of them running around, comported in such over the top fashion, you could probably randomly pause the film and land on a contender.
#7. INSIDIOUS - LIPSTICK FACED DEMON
Mad props to James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the two gents behind the most profitable film so far of 2011. INSIDIOUS, made for a paltry $1 million, is the latest example of ingenuity taking precedent over senselessly bloated budgets. And an essential part of the creativity? You know it...the ruddy, sharp-chinned, bird-nosed demon that terrorizes the piss out of the Lambert family. Now, I know many took umbrage with the sharp left turn the film takes toward the third reel, but that can't really diminish how gnarly the hell-dwelling ghoul comes across. By my research, the demon in question was played by Joseph Bishara, who, as coincidence would have it, actually composed music for Bousman's 11-11-11. Go figure. Truth be told, it's been awhile since seeing a hardened demon in a successful mainstream film...which is all the more reason to celebrate this lipstick faced bastard!
#6. GHOSTBUSTERS - GOZER
Alright, this chick is TOAST! Had to do it folks, had to throw in a little demonic levity, for variety if nothing else. But honestly, this is the first time in all the Ten Spots I've written that I get to mention GHOSTBUSTERS, and with good reason. Not only Ivan Reitman's 1984 hit one of my all time favorite films (I rock a framed, autographed poster in my room), the characters have become so iconic as to become pop cultural mainstays. Why else is a third GHOSTBUSTERS film still being bandied about almost 30 years later? But as much as we love Venkman, Stantz, Spengler, Winston, Tully, Barrett and Janine...let's not forget about Gozer the Gozerian...the ultimate shape-shifting demon the boys come face to face with in the final act. Naked, androgynous, bloody-eyed...the soaped up seductress demonstrates time and again she's not to be fucked with. That is, until our boys cross the mothafucking streams...then the shit's good night Irene!
Action/adventure film be damned, this Ron mothafuckin' Perlman we're talking about! Besides, has there ever been a more likable demon than Guillermo del Toro's titular HELLBOY? Dude's brusque, laconic, even downright grumpy at times...yet we love him so. Not sure if it was on our own podcast, but I do recall Perlman admitting that, of his 180 something credits dating back to 1979, it's HELLBOY that remains nearest and dearest to his heart. Can't blame him, can you? Perlman not only gets his chance at being first on the call sheet, he's doing so in some of the most dazzling mass entertainment franchises to come about in the last few decades. And as much as we love him for his flaws, the inveterate cigar smoking and whatnot, let's not forget...he's a demon who fights AGAINST the dark forces of his own nature...another trope we're not used to seeing. Just like del Toro did with the benevolent ghost in THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE, he bucks demonic convention to give us one of the most memorable anti-heroes to come along in awhile.
#4. DEMONS- ROSEMARY
Black Girl - I mean, damn, just look at homegirl's grill. She's all business! And by business I mean she's out to subsume any strand of flesh that dare cross her path. I of course refer to the black demon girl who stands out far more than most in Lamberto Bava's awfully fun 1985 flick DEMONS. Seriously, how many horror flicks do you know of that actually take place in a movie theater? Very few. Of those, how many villains are more memorable than this chick? Not many. What's even more rad to see is that the actress who played Rosemary, Garetta Garetta, is still working. She has a new horror movie due next year called THE BECOMING. It's only her tenth or eleventh film in the last 26 years, since doing DEMONS for Bava. But really, why she stands out is due to her exotic nature. We don't often see demons of her ilk, both sexy and powerful in ways we're not accustomed to seeing. Oh, and she also shreds more skin than she can imbibe. Quite ambitious!
#3. NIGHT OF THE DEMONS - ANGELA
Although Adam Geirasch's rehash couldn't quite capture the same black magic as the original, let's not forget why. Angela, the main demonic threat in Kevin Tenney's 1988 version of NIGHT OF THE DEMONS, is glaringly absent. No, Shannon Elizabeth doesn't count. Fun to look at, yes, but as far as a performance of pathos goes, Amelia Kinkade is head and shoulders above. We feel for her early on, then when the evil transformation begins, a jarring emotional flip takes hold. Sure the poor girl is fashioned after Linda Blair in THE EXORCIST a bit, with the jagged teeth of mutant animal, but damn she's effective nonetheless. Too bad the same can't really be said for NIGHT OF THE DEMONS 2 and 3, which Kinkade also starred in. But atmospherically speaking, the original film is the perfect to watch on Halloween, as it takes place at a party the night of. Some like candy, I like horny demonic bitches with a penchant for blood!
#2. EVIL DEAD- LAUGHING DEMON WOMAN
Laughing Demon Woman (a possessed Linda played by Betsy Baker) - I do wonder how Fede Alvarez will treat the crazed laughing demon woman in the unnecessary redo of Sami Raimi's EVIL DEAD, if at all. We know Ash will be absent in the reboot, so I guess now's as good a time as any to fete the demonic delight seen the 1981 original. You know who I speak of, right? Of course you do. When Ash fumbles his way through that seedy cabin of his, fighting off all kinds of evil and whatnot, he finally comes face to face with the deranged, chuckling little minx who's out for blood. Ash's blood! Of course, the slapstick comedic tone of Ash only makes for a more interesting watch. Instead of a demon attacking in a straight forward horror scenario, the facial tics, lines of dialogue and cartoonish actions of our hero really elevates the situation to a whole new level of entertainment. We're both attracted and repulsed by the scenario, a touch only the great Sam Raimi could achieve in his very first feature.
#1. THE EXORCIST
Pazuzu - Not like you didn't see this one cumming! Sorry is that too crude? Don't blame me if it is, blame Billy Friedkin for believing so devoutly in the subject matter of his demonic horror masterwork THE EXORCIST. I've heard Friedkin speak on occasion about that very principal...that even though he was not a religious man in the slightest, to create something so durably scary, you have to believe wholeheartedly in what you're selling. He sure believed, as did the rest of the all-star cast. Among them, little Linda Blair, an innocent child who serves as a conduit to pure evil. When Pazuzu finally takes hold of the little girl's body, not much in the last 40 years has matched the brio and bravado of that little demonic bastard. And as truly frightening as the little girl becomes, I believe it's the reaction by the superb supporting players - Ellen Burstyn, Max Von Sydow and company - that really drives the terror deep within. Not only does THE EXORCIST live among the all time best horror movies, it holds rank as one of the best movies period.