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Saturday 13 October 2012

Burl reviews The Demon Lover! (1977)

Heh-heh-heh, it’s Burl! I’m here to review another movie for you, this time a regional obscurity of some small infamy entitled The Demon Lover! It’s known also as The Devil Master, but Demon Lover is the title it was made under, and the title under which I first saw it years ago, and so that’s what I’ll call it!
I remember having a little mini film festival with my friends when we were in junior high school! The unintentional theme was “funny main character names!” That night we watched Don Dohler’s Night Beast, with its main character Sheriff Jack Cinder; Taxi Driver, featuring of course Travis Bickle, alias Henry Krinkle; another movie I’ve forgotten; and, finally, The Demon Lover, with its fearsome blonde bad guy Laval Blessing, played by Christmas Robbins, aka co-director Jerry Younkins! Ha ha, enough funny names for everyone!
It was many years before I got a chance to see this picture again! I was encouraged to because I’d heard about Demon Lover Diary, a marvelous documentary made about the production of this low-budget picture; and also I read the compelling rave review of the movie itself from my pal Bleeding Skull! Well, I’m glad I tracked it down, because in many ways The Demon Lover is, alongside the best of Dohler and Rebane, the ideal Midwestern regional horror picture!
Like every good example of same, this was shot in the autumn months, so it has that grim, bleak, über-70s atmosphere that brings me back to my early childhood! Ha ha, if ever there was a decade that actually was shot on grainy 16mm colour stock, the 1970s was it! And this movie is such a product of its time that, watching it today, it almost feels like the incantations Laval Blessing intones are not so much going to raise any demons as open a vortex to fly back forty years into a land of plaid pants and walnut siding!
Laval is a burly guy with long blond locks and a big beard, and he runs an ad-hoc little devil cult out of his so-called castle in deepest Michigan! Ha ha, his mistake is in recruiting bored seventies people for his coven, and pretty soon they get fed up with Laval’s horndogmatic ways and split the scene! But, between bouts at his karate dojo (at which the diabolist gets his bum kicked) and a random bar brawl (at which he kicks the bums of others), Laval conjures up a shaggy, resentful demon creature to help get revenge against his ex-acolytes for their lack of devotion!
Things get pretty bloody, I have to say! And, in fact, the violence is so raggedy and drawn-out and painful-looking that it’s rather unsettling! In its sporadic moments of completely unexpected effectiveness, the picture reminded me of Satan’s Black Wedding; in the strangely disturbing resonance of its violence, it echoes (or rather, is echoed by) the loopy Bigfoot picture Night of the Demon!
It’s a picture that was made by more or less talentless amateurs (talented amateurs in the same region, using similar resources, made The Evil Dead, just as a point of comparison), whose sheer commitment to the project resulted in a movie that is almost accidentally good! But you can’t really call it good: the script, acting and direction are uniformly terrible, and the trick effects, by future trick effect heavyweights the Skotak brothers, are pretty lousy!
But it’s got a certain something! Ha ha, I’m not going to deny that! It also has some very groovy fashions, a Frank Zappa lookalike, a midget man doing the boogaloo, a nude lady, lines of dialogue like “If it’s no hassle, let’s go into the castle,” a Gunnar Hansen cameo, an indoor lovemaking tent, and a scene where a man is shot in the croscharea by a crossbow and spends the next ten minutes writhing on the floor, screaming in pain! Ha ha, yikes!
For all this and its rough regional atmosphere, I’m going to give The Demon Lover two and a half whipping cream fights, and recommend that you try to get your hands on a copy this Halloween season!

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