Thursday, August 18, 2016

Demon Wind (1990) - Part 1 of 2

Our last movie, The Nightmare Never Ends (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) delved into philosophy and theology, but our next masterpiece is a gripping tale of unadulterated terror.

In my Universe-Prime, 1990's Demon Wind is an acknowledged classic of that most venerated of all the genres, the cabin in the woods film. Inexplicably, however, this film is not as loved in your universe. For example, Jigsaw wrote, “I think that it was a little drawn out and some of the acting is awful." On Amazon, Francis DeMarco wrote, “This movie, I think, could have been alot better, if there was more gore, and made a little more sense.The acting was typical b-rated I guess. About as corny as you're gonna get.” However, not all your universe’s reviewers are so clueless. A Customer (finally, a real name!), also on Amazon, wrote: “Evil Dead and Night of the Living Dead in one, but alot better, with a better storyline!” Alot better, indeed.

The story begins with a prologue set in a farmhouse in 1929. A burning skeleton hangs from a cross. A woman has barricaded herself in a room, sealing the door with a big wooden crucifix. Something outside is trying to get in. She rushes into the arms of her husband George, but particularly nasty digestive issues are transforming him into a demon.

The woman thrusts a snowglobe into George's face, hoping it will bring his human memories back, but he lunges to bite her throat. Given no choice, she drops the snowglobe and it shatters against the floor. We all know what happens when a snowglobe breaks: The farmhouse explodes in a fiery conflagration, killing everyone and everything.

Sixty years later, a young girl points a stick at a car driving down a dirt road. Her stick-pointing is masterful. Even though she is a half mile from the car, her stick points straight at it. And we are privileged to watch her do it for several minutes. Until she directs it to the ground, where earthworms crawl atop a cow's skull.

The car is driven by Cory, who along with his girlfriend Elaine is searching for his grandparents' farm. They reach a mysterious gas station/cafe sitting in a field.

The sight of the gas station causes Cory to remember a dream in which he stood naked in front of this same gas station while his blood-stained grandmother welcomed him home. Naturally, Cory and Elaine stop and ask the gas station attendant for directions to the Carter farm. In a clever subversion of expectations, the white-haired attendant actually refuses to direct them to their destination, reporting that there is no such place. It seems the old man is wary because of events that transpired years ago.

Cory and Elaine enter the cafe, where the ambiguously gendered counter person offers them beer, Coke, water, or goat's milk.

As Cory and Elaine enjoy their Cokes, four of their friends arrive at the cafe. The friends are charmingly quirky, unique characters. Dell is athletic and brash, and he greets all the women by kissing them on the lips. Jack is introspective, wears glasses, and searches for logical explanations to apparently supernatural phenomena. Their girlfriends are unremarkable.

In the cafe, the audience is treated to not one but two scenes expositing on local history.

First, Cory explains why he has asked his friends to accompany him into the wilderness. When his father was four days old and sleeping in a hospital incubator, his family disappeared from their farmhouse. After Cory was born, his father returned to the farmhouse and apparently never left it, until recently when Cory found his father in an apartment and spoke with him for a few minutes, after which his father slit his wrists.

Next, holding the group at gunpoint, the old gas station attendant explains that in the summer of 1929 there was a wind was so hot that the cattle and the crops were burned to a crisp. When the Carter family missed church one Sunday, the attendant went to find them, but found only black blood on the walls and mysterious figures laughing in the dark.

"Please, boy. Don't go up there," the attendant says. Cory responds, "I have to." So the attendant says, "I know. Well, you just follow that road till it ends."

After they step outside, we are introduced to (apparently) the last of Cory's friends: an opera-caped Kung fu magician and his sidekick with a Mr. Microphone. When the beer-swilling bully of the group, Dell, tosses a beer can at the magician, the magician drop-kicks the can, then sends it back into Dell's face with a roundhouse kick.

The requisite shenanigans out of the way, the eight friends drive on to the Carter farmhouse. The day is sunny and cheerful. As they pass a bird's nest, an egg cracks open, revealing the traditional good-luck sign of wriggling earthworms.

But things take a darker turn when they reach the farmhouse and find it is just a burned ruin, the result of the tragic snowglobe accident from the prologue. The skeleton from 1929 still hangs on the cross out front.

Though I believe the skeleton would normally be interpreted as another good omen, Cory and his friends are wary. They investigate the ruins of the farmhouse, where only the front wall and door are left standing. But when they open the door, it leads into the fully intact--though in need of some light housekeeping--farmhouse.

Exploring the farmhouse, they find writing on one wall in both English and Latin. Of course, they speak the Latin phrase aloud, which results in all manner of spontaneous fireplace ignition, trembling roasted turkeys, shaking furniture, and flying cutlery.

Sensibly trying to get as far away as possible, but hampered by car batteries at least as dead as the skeleton on the cross, the friends set out on foot. They are soon overtaken by a cold fog driven by a light breeze (the titular demon wind). The fog transports them back to the farmhouse ruins.  Oh, and a frightening encounter with ghost children turns one of the unremarkable girls into a blood-stained doll that spontaneously combusts. With one gone, seven friends remain.

Beset by the cold fog and a script that has given them no choice, they spend the night in the  farmhouse. They sit down and try to get some sleep.

During the night, while Cory is exploring the farmhouse, his grandmother's bloody ghost appears. Surprisingly, Cory is not naked this time, as he was in his earlier dream set in front of the gas station. Beckoned by the ghost into a bedroom, Cory finds her diary, most of which is written in Nordic runes. Cory reads a passage in English whose purpose is to summon a demon called Delos for protection. Shockingly, his grandmother was a witch. The diary also directs Cory and Elaine where to find two magical daggers. It further explains that the farm is on land that housed a settlement of devil worshippers.

Later, after a comfortable fire has been made in the fireplace with the family photos as kindling, the magician and his sidekick stand watch. They peer outside to see a topless woman calling their names. In another twist that subverts our expectations, the topless woman is not a friendly passerby but a demon in disguise! Our heroes see through the clever ruse, load their assorted firearms, and venture outside to hunt the demons.

Fortunately for the prestidigitators, their guns make short work of the demonized settlers, but when the ammunition runs out, the only choice is Kung fu. After a roundhouse kick decapitates one of the demons, the other demons prove too much for our heroes, and tragically the body count climbs to three. When morning comes, the five remaining friends view the bodies of the magician and his sidekick lying in the field.

But fear not! The narrative still has tricks up its sleeve even if the late magicians do not. With the number of friends dwindling, it's time for two new characters drive to the farmhouse. Willy and Reena arrive in their Suzuki Samurai, ready to help Cory unlock the mystery of the family farm. Now the human occupants of the farmhouse number seven again.

What will happen to our seven intrepid friends as they investigate the mysteries of the farmhouse? By the time the mysteries are solved, will seven friends remain? The answer is no [spoiler]. Come back next time for more adventures of Cory and his companions (read Part 2 here). Farewell for now!