FEBRUARY 28, 2013
I might be wrong with my tagging - Demoniacs (aka Curse of the Living Dead; French: Les démoniaques) very well may be a ghost movie, but I couldn't tell if our two heroines (for lack of a better word) were ever actually killed and/or if they were really "back" or just a figment of a madman's imagination. If you think of the movie as a "Tell-Tale Heart" type of thing, it's barely even horror at all - however if you take everything at face value it doesn't make a lick of sense. So I have no idea.
I do know that I enjoyed watching it. I was certainly never bored - it's a bit more graphic than the other Rollin films I've seen (including non-explicit but still unpleasant rape scenes) and doesn't take long to get going. Indeed, it starts with some full-screen pictures of its villains as a voiceover gives their names and roles within their group of pirate "wreckers", presumably so we don't have to waste time on more traditional character development before getting things going (you can see it below, sans subtitles - I couldn't find a trailer). These guys lure ships to the rocks with the intent of crashing them, killing the folks on board, and taking their valuables, presumably to fund their life of drinking at a local bar, which is all we see them doing when they're not dealing with the heroines. They are a pair of lovely ladies who I assume were on the boat they just crashed (off-screen), and after they are spotted by the pirates it doesn't take long for them to rape and kill them, only for them to keep showing up and driving the Captain crazy. Around the halfway point or so the girls are taken by a clown (sure, why not) to see a Devil (THE Devil? Not sure) who offers them a chance to seek revenge but only a few hours to do so, at which point I just got confused since they were seemingly already doing that on their own. Ah, who knows.
What it lacks in total coherency it makes up for in a number of cool little moments, like when a player piano goes off for no reason, or when the movie's best character (Tina, the female wrecker who also happens to be one of the most alluring women I've ever seen) casually murders another lady after a minor disagreement. There's also a guy who is dressed like the most stereotypical French guy ever: striped shirt, neckerchief, constant bottle of wine... the whole nine yards. And while it doesn't top the sickle bit from Fascination, I assume the bit where religious statues are toppled in an attempt to kill one of the wreckers is the sort of thing that made Rollin such a cult figure back in the day and why folks today yell at me for not having seen enough of his movies.
It's also a pretty great looking film; in addition to the women (what, it seems to be the POINT of these movies), Rollin has some great shots of the beach (day and night) and the castle where the girls meet the devil guy. Almost every person in the movie is terrible and it's wall to wall with unpleasant occurrences, and yet I see the locations and wish I was there! Plus it's more colorful than the others - the clown alone is more vivid than anything in Fascination or Zombie Lake, but the greens around the castle, the bar locale, even the characters themselves "pop" more than I've seen in the others; almost every scene has something that would be worthy of a screenshot, and I'm actually kind of bummed I opted to watch on streaming instead of a Blu-ray, which I'm sure would be even more eye-catching.
And it's a good thing, because on a story level it's kind of weak. The girls are complete cyphers (I don't even think they are named), the guys are completely scummy and thus not really interesting, and I honestly don't even know where to begin with the clown. If their goal is to drive them mad for what they did, they seem to accomplish it in the first scene after their attack, which finds the Captain seeing them (or their ghosts) and screaming like a nut - there's no escalation to his "guilt" or whatever it is that's setting him off. I'd say it was aimless, but I understood where it was heading at least - I just couldn't get a firm grasp on the particulars, and never felt too drawn into it. Unlike say, The Crow (another "dead person returns to get back at the cartoonish villains who killed them), there's no real emotional weight to keep you fully engaged (or a "Sarah" to be caught in the middle); yeah it's sad that this happened but I still need a reason to care about their objective beyond just plain "they have it coming". And the rape elements make it hard to say "Just enjoy the sights", because ew.
In short, not his best (like I'm an expert now?), but worth a look for the scenery, Joëlle Coeur (Tina), and occasional gonzo death scenes (the giant wine bottle/neck slice in particular). Of the five I've seen it's probably the last one I'd want to revisit, but I never regretted watching it, either. Next week is the one I promised last time: Night of the Hunted! This time for real, I swear!
What say you?