Friday, October 30, 2015




"Up from the depths comes the ultimate horror !"

      Coming just on the cusp of the 1980's youth centered slasher craze and featuring a throw everything against the wall in a gooey mess script along with a couple of recognizable names for the marquee (and were probably wondering how they ended up here) this bizarrely entertaining Mexican/U.S. co-production has just been given a new lease a life courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome. Although released in 1981, DEMONOID with its mature cast of established (if not all well known ) faces and plot points concerning devil worship & procession (not to mention car chases, crawling hands & corpses exploding out of the ground) which seem to hearken back a few years to the glory days of 70's drive-in goodness.
     Produced and directed by Alfredo Zacarias for his indie distributing company American Panorama (which along with equally mind boggling THE BEES from 1978 were it's only two releases), it was co-produced by Americans Valley Hoffman and Paul Bagley, who both had connections to films such as THE HILLS HAVE EYES, STARHOPS and CAGED HEAT both in front of and behind the camera.

    Opening with a prologue in which a buxom blonde is shown knocking around some guys in robes and hoods before she's subdued, stripped topless and chained to a cave wall. Her hand is then chopped off whereupon it scuttles off before being skewered and placed in small silver box. Flash forward to the present where in the Mexican town of Guanajuato, Jennifer Baines (Samantha Eggar from David Cornenberg's THE BROOD) shows up to find her husband Mark (Sam Peckinpah regular Roy Jensen) in a bit of a quandary as the workers won't venture down into his silver mine for fear of a local legend concerning a satanic cult and "the devil's hand".
    Hoping to show this to be false the couple head down into mine and after discovering a mummified prospector (with a missing hand) they knock aside a few fiberglass rocks and come upon an underground temple where they come across the silver box seen in the prologue. Finding it filled only with dust they take the silver box home and later that night a hand crawls out and begins feeling up Jennifer while she's asleep in bed (!). Mark then wrestles with the hand and it appears to merge into his his own hand and now seemingly possessed by a evil & insane force, he goes to the mine the next day and blows it closed with all the workers inside.

    Fleeing to Las Vegas (with Jennifer in pursuit) Mark happily discovers that his new hand is now gangbusters at throwing craps which later leads to him being seemingly killed by a mobster and his frizzy headed moll (an uncredited turn by Russ Meyer starlet Haji). Jennifer traces his body to a cemetery in Inglewood, Ca. (where it later explodes out of the ground) and there joins forces with Father Cunningham ( Stuart Whitman - with a fading in and out Irish accent) who appears to having a  conflict of faith - along with being handy in boxing and welding.
    They begin following the hand as moves from one victim to another including a policemen (Lew Saunders from CHiPS) and a plastic surgeon (and his buxom nurse) all of whom go to some extraordinary lengths to extract themselves from the devil possessed extremity. Jumping from Mexico to Las Vegas to Los Angeles, the plot moves forward seemingly without the benefit of logic or common sense and takes a left turn about every 15 minutes or so into more and more bizarre sequences including a car chase with randomly flipping automobiles, the hand grabbing on to the underside of a train to gain a fast getaway and Whitman using a blow torch to burn off his Satan afflicted appendage.
    Zacarias actually prepared two different cuts of the film with the U.S. version titled DEMONOID : MESSENGER OF DEATH clocking in at compact 79 minutes while the international cut MACABRA ran at an expanded 90 minutes. The U.S. version also added the opening female sacrifice prologue (which some sources claim was shot by Jim Wynorski in Bronson Cavern as Roger Corman was involved in the early stages of the film's production) and also periodically quickly cuts to a sword wielding demon statue and adds a ending scene cribbed from Brian De Palma's THE FURY. DEMONOID also loses some dialogue sequences (including the entirety of Whitman's first scene) making it more of choppy viewing experience and adds a more ramped up bloody finale to Haji's death. DEMONOID's score is a patchwork of library music and cues from 70's A.I.P. and New World pictures while MACABRA has an original score comprising some disco-like rhythms and spooky choral music ala' THE OMEN.

    The British born Eggar had started out in major films such as DR. DOLITTLE but by this time had begun moving into TV and lower budget films and added to her drive-in bona-fides by also appearing in THE EXTERMINATOR this same year. Stuntman Roy Jenson (billed here as Roy Cameron Jenson) was a recognizable face as character actor usually playing "second heavy on the right" such as in Sam Peckinpah's THE GETAWAY where he was memorably blown away by Steve McQueen's shotgun and appears here in a rare (semi) leading role. At this time seemingly saying yes to every script within eyesight ex- Hollywood leading man Stuart Whitman had appeared in Tobe Hopper's excellent and underrated EATEN ALIVE and New Worlds CRAZY MAMA in 1976, Hammer's oddball SHATTER from 1974 and in 1979 he was a scenery chewing Rev. "James Johnson" (i.e. Jim Jones) in Rene Cardone Jr's infamous GUYANA : CULT OF THE DAMNED.
    Robert Burns (credited here as "special effects art director") worked on THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and was most likely responsible for the atmospheric temple setting and the periodically popping up demon statue. The appropriately grungy cinematography is by Alex Phillips Jr. who had shot Sam Peckinpah's (also appropriately grungy) BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA in 1974. Erika Carlsson was a pretty big star in Mexico at the time (which explains her prominent billing on the MACABRA version) and here as the busty nurse who runs afoul of the hand has only one line as she shouts "NOoo...!"  at her demise.
    Although Whitman's mumbling attempted Irish accent comes across as inebriation at some points (which may have well been the case) and Eggar spends most the film staring bug eyed at the proceedings around her, both are pretty good here as they say their lines with much more conviction then the material warrants and giving the entire plot a gravies that almost seems out of place (even when they're trashing about while holding a rubber hand to their face). I've always had a fondness for this ever since I saw it on a double feature with DON'T GO IN THE HOUSE back in the early 80's and because of the weirdly bizarre proceedings and its whack-a-mole style plot DEMONOID is an entertaining exercise in low budget drive-in horror (and would make a wonderful dbl. feature with Oliver Stone's entertainingly bad bigger budgeted THE HAND from the same year).
     Frustratingly hard to view in recent years as DEMONOID's only U.S. release was the old Media VHS tape (which seemed to show up in every Mom & Pop video store in existence at the time) and a few years back there was a quasi-bootleg DVD release of the MACABRA cut in Europe. Vinegar Syndrome recently released it on a DVD/Blu dual pack that image-wise brings forth the WTF (?) story line with in startling clarity, plus it contains both cuts of the film along with some extras including an interview with Zacarias. The equally insane THE BEES is hopefully coming in 2016. Lucky patrons to the early showings of DEMONOID were given a "Demonoid Diploma" (which I would love to find).

All the above screen grabs are from the Vinegar Syndrome DVD

Hey, if E.T. is sold out you can always check out SATAN'S MISTRESS & DEMONOID !


  1. I thought I'd seen this, but now I'm not so sure. I had no idea that Vinegar Syndrome had put this out, I'm going to have to pick up a copy for sure after reading your review. Great work! - Duane (COSDS)

    1. Thanks a bunch Duane. This a is a favorite guilty pleasure on mine. Great cheezy little flick.

  2. I saw that Media VHS in the early 90's - and enjoyed the movie thoroughly for the complete WTF-ness of it all. I would enjoy seeing it again and I'm interested in that longer cut too.

    1. I really like this daffy thing. I've watched both and the shorter one works better - and it has more blood & boobs !

  3. This is one I always wanted to see. I would see the VHS tape at, I think, Movie Gallery, as a youngin and the cover always appealed to me. But for some reason I just never rented it. Same with Hard Rock Zombies and Rock N Roll Nightmare. That cover is just fantastic.

    1. I think every tape rental place in America had this one. It's a pretty cool little movie in it's own bizarre way - and your right that poster IS fantastic.