“Now, what could have done this?”
“Something huge, like an elephant!”
I’ll bet that just today you were saying, “What I really want to see is a movie where a Bigfoot with psychic powers grabs an ax and runs amok.”
Night of the Demon (1980) is easily one of the most bizarre relics of the gory 1980s. In no other movie before or since has Bigfoot been so murderous.
After a series of unexplained wilderness murders, a college professor inexplicably brings several students into the woods to hunt the monster responsible. For reasons only the movie knows, the police are not involved despite the brutal killings. The FBI doesn’t seem to care, either. So it’s up to the professor and his students to unravel the mystery, Scooby Doo style.
The crew treks into the woods, and as the professor tells his enraptured students of the murders, the movie goes into flashback mode to show us all of the gory details. The blood repeatedly flies, and various body parts are lost. And usually the flashback ends with the professor saying something amazing like, “…and they never found what did it.”
None of the activities the students or the professor engage in seem to make much sense. Rather than logically advancing the plot, the characters wander aimlessly from one set piece to another. For example, if searching for Bigfoot, one might expect to see footprint moldings and hair samples collected. Although a tiresome Bigfoot trope, it makes sense. Right? Instead, the students advance through the wilderness to tell stories and get murdered.
As an example, one person is murdered while chopping firewood. I think the person might be a student, or maybe it’s just another flashback. The movie is often unclear about such things. Ultimately it is just an excuse for Bigfoot to steal the axe and chop the wood chopper. Don’t expect any more character development than that.
Meanwhile, the film’s special effects are a spectacle in themselves, ranging from delightfully cheesy to “did they seriously just use ketchup?” levels of hilarity. The Bigfoot suit deserves its own special mention – appearing as if it were put together with leftover carpet remnants and some hastily applied faux fur. Yet, there’s a certain charm in its very absurdity, making you chuckle every time it lumbers onto the screen.
The dialogue is equally perplexing and humorous. At one point, a student (or maybe just a passerby, who knows?) remarks, “This looks like the work of a huge, hairy creature!” – a statement so astoundingly obvious in a movie titled “Night of the Demon” that it only adds to the comedic value. The professor’s continuous lack of common sense only elevates the silliness. One would think a learned individual would be a touch more discerning when embarking on a murderous creature hunt.
Of course, this film’s soundtrack is another facet to savor. Remember the days when movie scores sounded like they were played on a Casio keyboard in someone’s basement? “Night of the Demon” brings those nostalgic feelings back in spades.
While there’s a temptation to dismiss the movie as a run-of-the-mill, low-budget creature feature, it’s the sheer audacity and left-field choices that make it memorable. To say that the plot meanders would be an understatement. It’s more like a child doodling on a piece of paper, going wherever the pencil takes them, with Bigfoot chasing people in the margins.
The intriguing thing about “Night of the Demon” is its obscure status in the vast landscape of 1980s horror. While the film remains a cult favorite among B-movie enthusiasts, its crew and cast never really broke into mainstream Hollywood stardom.
Director James C. Wasson, after blessing us with this unique Bigfoot romp, faded from the spotlight, leaving the movie industry with very few credits to his name. However, this lack of subsequent notable work only amplifies the film’s enigmatic charm. It stands as a standalone piece, untouched by either the acclaim or the infamy of other works.
As for the cast, most have remained under the radar, with “Night of the Demon” often being their most recognized (or perhaps, notorious) work. Their performances, while not Oscar-worthy by traditional standards, undoubtedly provided the over-the-top, campy essence that has cemented the film’s status as a must-watch for fans of so-bad-it’s-good cinema. In the grand tapestry of cinematic history, “Night of the Demon” is a quirky, indelible mark that neither its cast nor its crew would likely be able to replicate or outdo.
At times incredibly violent, and often unintentionally hilarious, Night of the Demon takes the Bigfoot mythos and turns it on its head. This Bigfoot is capable of mind control; that’s right, you heard me. In one scene, he uses his supernatural powers to force two girl scouts to murder each other. In another infamous scene, a motorcyclist stops by the side of the road, unzips his drawers, and gets his Johnson dismembered by Bigfoot, who was stealthily hiding in the trees, ready to get urinated on. Even the Bigfoot costume is awkwardly funny, making this Sasquatch appear as something between a wookie and Captain Caveman.
The production value is terrible, though I admit the gore isn’t half-bad. And oh, the priceless dialogue! After finding their boat oars smashed beside the river, the students wonder what could have done it. One of the students quips, “Something huge, like an elephant!” Keep in mind this story apparently takes place in the continental United States (nothing is completely clear in Night of the Demon), which leads one to wonder which states are most prone to elephant attacks.
“Night of the Demon” is a cinematic treasure, though perhaps not in the way its creators intended. It serves as a testament to the zany, unbridled creativity of the 1980s, where filmmakers had the audacity to think, “Hey, what if Bigfoot wielded an ax?” Watch it with friends, pop some popcorn, and relish in the absurdity. It’s a wild, ridiculous ride that is sure to elicit more laughs than screams. And remember, if you ever venture into the woods and see an axe-wielding Bigfoot, at least you can say you were prepared. Thank you, “Night of the Demon.”
As terrible as Night of the Demon is, this movie leaps the threshold of It’s So Bad It’s Good. For this reason, every few years I find myself watching the DVD version for cheesy fun.
Horror completists, particularly Bigfoot fans, should do their best to locate a copy of Night of the Demon. Amazingly enough, Amazon has Night of the Demon available on Instant Video. Casual fans will do best to avoid this one, unless seeking a few laughs.