Night of the Demon

Night of the Demon ★★★

Skepticism clashes with paranoia hard in the 1957 cult horror film Night of the Demon. It's the diehard-scientist-meets-mystical-forces scenario played completely straight, with Dana Andrews' character being dismissive of everyone else's superstition to the point of almost annoying me. It also has an insanely cool-looking devil prop, which sadly only appears for a handful of scenes and minutes; they do say 'show the monster sparingly', but it's a little disappointing when that monster design was what brought me to watch this film in the first place.

I'd say the picture's narrative takes a much more laid-back approach than one would expect from the synopsis; the investigation portion of the film (which is a huge chunk, believe me) has a few things happen here and there, but it's mostly competently-written dialogue that keeps the flow going. It's a movie about a cult without the usual scenes a cult movie would entail: no dressing in funny robes and chanting words of death here. The thing that makes Night of the Demon stand out from others of its genre, which is its greatest strength and weakness, is that the cult leader/main baddie operates out of fear for the protagonist. That's all I'll share on this non-spoiler review, but it's a really quite interesting shift of the formula that's somewhat let down by the writing.

All in all, I'd say it's a good midnight movie. I don't think it'll hold up that well under close scrutiny, but there are still some really interesting ideas about power dynamics and cult psyches underneath a rather so-so script.

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