Night of the Demon (1957)

2011 #34
Jacques Tourneur | 92 mins | TV | PG

Night of the DemonAdapted from an M.R. James story, Night of the Demon sees Dana Andrews as Dr. John Holden, a psychologist arriving in Britain to discredit satanic cult leader Julian Karswell. To cut to the chase, Holden begins to wonder if Karswell has placed a curse on him, and perhaps what he had set out to disprove isn’t such mumbo jumbo after all…

A horror movie in the old fashioned mode — creepy and uncanny, rather than aiming to make you constantly jump or turn your stomach with lashings of gore. A scene at a children’s party at Karswell’s house is particularly unsettling, the apparent jollity contrasting with the ominous winds and undercurrent of evil. There are some other effectively tense sequences too, like Holden breaking into the villain’s house for a late-night search, or meeting a rather odd family during his investigations. These weak descriptions don’t do it justice, clearly.

Holding the curseTourneur’s film is beloved by some, but I don’t think I quite got it myself. There are some great sequences, but I didn’t always find it hung together in between. Ironically, while many have criticised the actual appearance of the titular beast at the end, I think it works rather well — it’s surprisingly well realised, and you can take it as either a real manifestation or part of one character’s deranged imaginings. It’s an effective climax.

One to watch again someday and re-assess, I think. For now, though:

3 out of 5

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