Curse of the Demon

09/03/2019 06:21

Film: Curse of the Demon

Year: 1957

Director: Jacques Tourneur

Writer: Charles Bennett and Hal E. Chester

Starring: Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins and Niall MacGinnis



This was a film that I had first heard of as it kind of is the basis for Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell. Now I would say that the latter is not a remake out of just using the general concept, but I really wanted to check this out as I’ve heard people in the horror community talking highly of it. The synopsis is American professor John Holden (Dana Andrews) arrives in London for a parapsychology conference, only to find himself investigating the mysterious actions of Devil-worshiper Julian Karswell (Niall MacGinnis).

We start this off with Professor Henry Harrington (Maurice Denham) driving to a house. He is slightly in a panic and demands to see Dr. Karswell. He is allowed in and tries to tell him that he believes him and to prevent something from happening. Dr. Karswell puts him at ease and Prof. Harrington leaves. At home though, he crashes his car and sees something that attacks him. Is it really there though?

The death is ruled an accident. On a flight over, we have John who is trying to sleep, but Joanna Harrington (Peggy Cummins) is keeping him up. When they land, we learn that Joanna is the niece of Prof. Harrington and she is returning from America. John is there as he was supposed to do a conference with the professor against Dr. Karswell, but John just learns of his passing.

John goes to do some last minute research, but learns the book he needs is missing from the library. Dr. Karswell just so happens to be there and tells him he has a copy in his private library and John can come to his house to use it. His card is given and there’s a message on it written in white ink about Prof Harrington. John looks toward Dr. Karswell and it seems like the hallway is distorting.

John then goes to the funeral where he runs into Joanna again. This is where they learn how they’re both connected to her uncle. She believes that he was killed by a demon, but no one else does. John and her look into all this to see if he can prove that there’s a logical explanation or is Dr. Karswell able to summon supernatural forces. John is also told he only has a few days to live as well.

Having now finished the film, I have to say that this one actually checks a lot of boxes for me. I love that John, a man of science, doesn’t believe all of this going on. He is convinced that he will prove what is really happening. The investigation aspects to movies is something I can get down for, as this is something I do when I get interested in it. On top of that, John doesn’t immediately come around and he is skeptical about everything he sees. He has a reason to look into it all to prove what is really happening here.

What I really like about this film as well is that we don’t necessarily know if something supernatural is happening or not. What attacks Prof Harrington, there’s a logical explanation and no one else sees the entity. We get to see it, but are seeing this through his troubled mind. I love that the film can maintain this all the way to the end. Even though I love the descent into madness, I personally fall into the camp that all of the supernatural things are happening.

As for the pacing of the film, I didn’t really have any issues with it. I like that we get introduced to the villain, Dr. Karswell, right there in the beginning. We get that first death within 10 minutes. From there we have this tension that builds since John only has a couple of days to figure it out. I like though that the closer it gets, the less sure of what is happening he becomes. I like that he is confident, but it is being chipped away. I really like how the film ended as well, even though it is a tad bit Hollywood feeling, it shows us breaking the cycle of what started it.

Something that I didn’t love though was the acting. I thought Andrews was solid as the hero. He’s a man of science and needs to find proof, even this confidence works for me. The issue I had is that this film came out in the 50’s, so he is a bit of a jerk toward Joanna. I just don’t like how they write in these love stories where it doesn’t necessarily need to be there. I liked that Cummins knows there’s something supernatural that happened to her uncle. I had no issues with her as the female lead aside from the needing to fall for John. MacGinnis is interesting as the villain. He definitely is arrogant. I’m shocked that he’s as outspoken as a worshipper of Satan for the time period this was made. The rest of the cast I thought rounded out the film for what was needed.

I was actually pleasantly surprised to see that monster looked good for the era. I did read that director Jacques Tourneur didn’t necessarily want us to see it and to leave it more open for interpretation. Personally that would have worked for me, but I actually thought what they did with it was pretty solid for the era. They did some interesting camera tricks to make it look like it was moving and to make it go after people. To be honest, what they did worked better than some CGI I see. It is also shot very well in my opinion as well.

Now with that said, this is actually film that is right up my alley with things that I really enjoy and it is crazy to think it came out in 1957. I thought the idea of this scientist wanting to prove that these supernatural things aren’t real, but then going down a path to discover that it just could be. There is a bit that all of this could just be the idea they could die is causing them to go mad. It never gets boring to me and I like how it ends, aside from the 50’s style happy ending. The acting I thought was fine, a bit degrading toward Joanna though. Effects for the film were surprisingly good for the era they came out in. The soundtrack of the film fit for what was needed, it definitely enhanced the scenes. I think this is a really good film and would definitely recommend giving it a viewing if you are into cults, supernatural and someone who doesn’t trying to prove what is happening here. I will warn you that it is in black and white though, so if that is an issue, I’d avoid this.


My Rating: 8.5 out of 10