Color, 1980, 92m.
Directed by James C. Wasson
Starring Michael Cutt, Lynn Eastman-Rossi, Eugene Dow, Paul Kelleher, Richard Fields, Melanie Graham
Code Red (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)
Even as the 1970s waned, people were still crazy for Bigfoot. The whole paranormal craze that s pawned interest in ESP and UFOs led to an enduring fascination with t hat furry forest dweller, leading to films ranging from mildly creepy but wh olesome ('72's The Legend of Boggy Creek) to gory drive-in fare with a twist ('76's Shriek of the Mutilated). One of the last films in this cycle also turned out to be one of the craziest: Night of the Demon, which takes the tried-and-true formula of a professor leading some kids out into the woods to find the mythical beast and turns it on its head via a string of episodic, blood-sprayed setpieces. It's also a laugh riot unlike anything else you've ever seen.
When anthropology expert Professor Nugent turns up in the hospital with the bottom half of his face swathed in bandages, a cop and a doctor are called in to find out what the heck happened to the students he trotted out into the wilderness to find Bigfoot. Flashbacks within flashbacks tell the extremely grisly story as Nugent relates the story of a fisherman who got his arm torn off (in close-up, a nice segue to the opening credits) and how the victim's daughter was one of his pupils. After showing his class a home movie of a family being attacked by a hulking monster, they all decide to check out the area for themselves. Along the way they're regaled with other brutal Bigfoot encounters involving two overaged Girl Scouts, a horny couple in a van, a guy in a sleeping bag (shades of Prophecy), and most notorious of all, a biker whose pee stop by the side of the road takes a nasty turn. Eventually they reach a secluded cabin where a traumatized woman (Graham) reveals the horrible truth including her own twisted family history.
While most movies would normally be undone by inept performances from all of the actors and a distinct lack of plot or characterization, Night of the Demon attacks the viewer with so much gusto you won't even care after the first ten minutes. It's an anti-masterpiece of sorts that moves like a bullet and has the good sense to throw in a ridiculously juicy death scene every seven minutes or so, climaxing with an over-the-top cabin assault that would even make a young Sam Raimi gasp in admiration. On top of that you even get a Bigfoot sex scene and a Bigfoot mutant baby, so the filmmakers were obviously trying to give the audience their money's worth.
Like a lot of indie horror films from the early VHS era, Night of the Demon has had a very rocky video history. The first (and probably only) official tape release came from VCII (around the same time they did The Prowler), and subsequent bootleg EP-speed tapes and budget-line DVDs followed. The film was branded a video nasty in the UK and suffered some very obvious cuts to the more graphic scenes, while some of the American gray market releases (usually packed in with a dozen or so other PD horror movies) were often cut and horrible compressed as well. Hosted by Maria Kanellis (wearing a furry fashion accessory and not much else), Code Red's DVD was culled from the original 1-inch video master from VCII (whose copyright info is briefly visible at the top and bottom edges of the frame during the opening 30 seconds) since usable film elements couldn't be located. It actually fares pretty well, all things considered. The presentation is dated, obviously, but it looks much clearer than any previous versions and, being open matte, even crops off nicely to 1.78:1 on widescreen TVs to simulate how this would've looked in theaters. (For the best experience though, stick with it full frame so you can see all the extraneous gore.) And yes, this version is completely uncut. Aside from the Maria wraparounds (and obligatory music video for her song "Fantasy"), you get bonus trailers for Killpoint, Low Blow, and The Hearse. An essential trash classic.