Thursday, December 29, 2016

"Less Than a Man...And More Than a Man" - The Demon (1981) - Part 2 of 3

This is Part 2 of our discussion of the gritty South African slasher film The Demon. You can read Part 1 here.

So far, we have followed the grieving parents of a young girl kidnapped by a mysterious black-clad man as they hired the psychic Colonel Carson, played by Cameron Mitchell. We have also followed preschool teacher Mary, who is being stalked by the same black-clad man.

Colonel Carson continues his psychic investigation by sniffing around--again literally, as he is grasping and inhaling from an article of the girl's clothing that is probably best left unidentified.

"She's high," he says. "High up. She's floating." He can't be certain whether she is alive or dead. But she is probably dead.

The girl's clothing allows him to psychically connect with her abductor/probable killer. He sees that he is looking down on a crowd, and he is feeling good.

"If only we knew what he looked like," the girl's father, Mr. Parker, says. The colonel pulls some drawings out of a leather case.

The sketches are detailed but they are missing one part that might be considered important. "The face just doesn't come to me," Colonel Carson explains before he imparts the mysterious knowledge that "he's less than a man...and more than a man....much more."

The colonel has also sketched a building that he feels is associated with the abductor. Mr. Parker asks if he can keep the drawings.

When preschool lets out, American schoolteacher Mary sits meditating with her charming South African cousin, who also works at the school. Mary's cousin, though only 18, has a date with a man named Dean. Mary is suspicious that Dean is involved in something unsavory, but she allows her cousin to go on the date.

On the date, Mary's cousin Jo, drunk on French wine and lobster thermidor, allows Dean to drive her to his apartment in a skyscraper. Looking fetching in her purple, blue, and green striped poncho, Jo flirts with Dean--the actor is an enticing combination of Anthony Perkins and Adrian Zmed--while he explains his family is wealthy. She fends off his advances, and then agrees to go out with him again.

The next day at school, Mary looks out the window and sees the black-clad man, now maskless.

The film next spends what might be considered more time than necessary detailing Jo's courtship with Dean, including their difficulties deciding on their next date. Dean sets up a photography studio in his apartment to take photos of Jo while she psychoanalyzes him.

At night in an alley, a confusing scene occurs. Two women see the black-clad man and convince a group of four men to beat him up. Needless to say, the four men are unsuccessful. The black-clad man uses his razor-tipped brass knuckles to kill all of them.

The same night, Mary receives a phone call. The caller only breathes raspily. There is a knock at the door. It is Mary's neighbor with a long story, delivered breathlessly but charmingly, about why he came over: "Chippy's been making a devil of a row, hackles up and all. Janet thought she saw someone prowling around under your trees. I went out to have a look but he vanished. Then about half an hour later, Chippy started up again. This time I thought I saw someone. Again, he vanished. Anyway, I thought I'd come over to see if you girls were all right. Any trouble, I'll be right over...with the old .38 special."

Back in the house, the phone, despite sitting in focus in the foreground, fails to ring.

When Mary returns to bed, we watch as the door opens silently and a black-clad figure enters the bedroom. It turns out to be Jo who, in time-honored cinematic tradition, climbs into Mary's bed to tell her about her date tonight. But Jo sits there silently, so Mary tells her about the mysterious caller and Chippy.

Meanwhile, Mr. Parker has been searching the city for the building in Colonel Carson's psychic sketches. He finds one that looks similar, so he makes note of the one apartment in the building with a light on, then enters the unlocked building. Negotiating a series of staircases, Parker finds the lighted apartment.

He pulls a gun and opens the unlocked door.

Parker is suddenly assaulted by the black-clad man, who appears to have superhuman strength. Parker is killed. The black-clad man carries the body to another room in the building.

The Parkers' story comes to a tragic end. Mr. Parker has been killed, and then his daughter's skeleton is found high in a tree. Only Mrs. Parker remains. Colonel Carson visits her home, and Mrs. Parker berates him, even suggesting that Carson might be the abductor and murderer.

The colonel responds by saying, "The time of the demon--our demon--is drawing close."

Surprisingly, Mrs. Parker pulls a gun on Carson. In her charming accent, she says, "Did your extrasensory perception prepare you for this?"

She shoots him in the forehead, killing him [spoiler]. (Perhaps she deduced that Colonel Carson was the one who pocketed her late daughter's necklace earlier.)

Thus ends another of Cameron Mitchell's fine performances.

In his apartment, the black-clad killer sits in a chair and rips up pictures of women in bikinis. Then he washes his featureless mask in the sink.

The film then intercuts two romantic dates, as Jo and Dean spend time at Mary and Jo's house, while Mary and her date Bob go to Bob's place. Both couples end up in bed almost immediately. Then, suddenly, Jo and Dean are skinny-dipping in a swimming pool, where Dean proposes and Jo accepts.

After they get dressed, Dean gets in his car to leave, but he is strangled by the black-clad man from the back seat. The man wraps Dean's head in plastic and suffocates him.

Jo is in the house alone. There is a knock at the door. She opens it to see the killer standing there. He punches her and she flies backward, somersaulting to the carpet. Following his usual procedure, he picks her up and carries her through the house.

We hear Jo scream behind a closed door.

Could this be the end of Mary's cousin Jo? The answer is yes. What will happen next? We will have to wait for the thrilling conclusion in Part 3 of our discussion of The Demon.