“Now, what could have done this?”
“Something huge, like an elephant!”
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.
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.
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.