31 Monsters in 31 Days: Curse of the Demon

Known in its complete form as NIGHT OF THE DEMON, this 1957 release from Jacques Tourneur is one of the highwater marks of ’50s horror. It’s a very effective tale of the supernatural (for the uninitiated, skeptic Dana Andrews gets a crash course in the forces of darkness when he attempts to debunk an Aleister Crowley-like cult leader), with lush, evocative cinematography and a plot that mercilessly ratchets up the tension. It’s a wonderful movie, holding up superbly after half a century.

For a movie (and a director) that uses the power of suggestion to generate much of its impact, it’s ironic to note that DEMON is one of my favorites thanks to its monster. Tourneur never intended to directly show the demon and was pressured into doing so by the film’s producers, who were worried about its commercial prospects; and while Tourneur wasn’t pleased with the decision I never thought it hurt the film’s effect. The demon is sn eye-popping creation, and even when crammed into the film’s prologue it can’t entirely disrupt the atmosphere Tourneur has built.

Maybe I’m biased, as that demonic visage scared the bejesus out of me long before I watched the film. I first saw it on the cover of a monster-movie paperback when I was seven; a friend of mine had it, and it so thoroughly creeped me out that I hid it in his closet when he wasn’t looking.


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