Night of the Demon (Tourneur, 1957)

Night/Curse of the Demon is not top-tier Jacques Tourneur, and if he were still alive today, I think Tourneur would say the same. He really felt as though showing the demon was a mistake that weakened the film’s impact, and I suppose there are those who agree. Personally, I like the demon. The special effects used to bring it to life are not bad at all, and the design of it is genuinely terrifying. Yes, showing it essentially removes any possibility that the supernatural occurrences are merely a product of an overactive mind, which Tourneur liked to hint at in his earlier works. That’s not a bad thing, though. When executed properly, showing a monster can be as powerful as implying one, and Tourneur knew how to do it right. Even if he didn’t want to.

The only downside to showing the demon is that it makes Dana Andrews’ character a bit unbearable in his skepticism. With the aura of mystery removed, the skeptic now has to spend the whole film denying something we already know to be true—and it’s not very interesting. Fortunately, the supporting cast is rich with intriguing types, from Niall McGinnis’ Karswell to Brian Wilde’s Rand Hobart, and their presence compensates for Andrews’ dismissals.

Even if this is not one of Tourneur’s best efforts, it still manages to cast its own unique spell. And death by runes is not something you see too often, is it? Also couldn’t get enough of the pop culture references that I recalled while watching this, from the reference in Rocky Horror’s “Science Fiction/Double Feature” to the sampling of the line “It’s in the trees! It’s coming!” in Kate Bush’s “Hounds of Love.” Great stuff.