Monday, January 23, 2017

"My Sacred Dagger is Raised in Trembling Anticipation" - Demonwarp (1988) - Part 3 of 3

This is Part 3 of our discussion of Demonwarp (1988). You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here. At this point, Jack follows a zombified Cindy through the forest.

The film cuts to the cave in Bronson Canyon, familiar from decades of classic and non-classic films alike.

But there appears to be no filming occurring today, as Cindy's zombie staggers into the depths of the cave. Jack, following from a different direction, also enters the cave.

The bigfoot appears and Jack shoots it. This time, he has not frozen. It falls over and appears to be dying.

Jack takes pity on the bleeding creature. He kneels down next to it, and he is shocked to witness the beast's face transforming from that of the wild bigfoot to his own Uncle Clem. "I didn't want to hurt you," the dying man says. "They made me. They changed me." Then he dies.

Jack continues deeper into the cave, where the natural light reveals old electronic equipment littered around the floor.

Jack is fortunate that the natural light somehow extends throughout the cave. He makes his way deeper, only to find creatures that appear to be alien zombies carrying equipment. Eerily, the creatures hiss like Sleestak from Land of the Lost.

Fortunately for Jack, the alien zombies do not notice him. He makes his way deeper into the cave, eventually finding Fred, who is still wearing the gorilla mask from his prank at the cabin. Fred sits in front of what appears to be an alien spacecraft sitting in the cave.

Fred tells Jack that Carrie is alive inside the craft. "There's this thing, this priest," says Fred. The priest wants to use Carrie and another girl for something, but Fred does not know what that something is.

Jack gives Fred a knife, then turns to enter the spacecraft, but he is blocked by a reanimated Tom.

The zombie attempts a Jack Nicholson impersonation in order to convince Jack to join the space zombies.

Despite the convincing argument and somewhat less convincing Nicholson impression, Jack is not convinced. He shoots the zombies in the head. One of them wears a t-shirt for the band The Residents, perhaps representing trenchant artistic criticism on the part of the filmmakers.

The Residents-shirt-wearing zombie is not shot in the head but rather punched by Jack when his ammunition runs out, so the exact meaning of the artistic criticism is not entirely clear. Following the tried and true methods of the zombie genre, Jack's punches are nearly as effective as gunshots in the head, but unfortunately for him the zombies outnumber him and force him to the ground.

Meanwhile, inside the alien spacecraft, the aforementioned alien priest stands--or possibly a human in a black robe--over the topless sunbather, who lies on a slab. The priest holds a long knife and chants, "Asdreth is lord." In well practiced English, he explains the situation: "My master dwells within the sacred chamber, his vessel buried deep within the bowels of the earth. He eats of the flesh, of the land, waiting patiently, gathering his strength for a return journey to the stars. I am his faithful shepherd, his servant of the table. My sacred dagger is raised in trembling anticipation."

The lord Asdreth is some kind of small cyborg puppet-monster sitting to one side of the sacrificial slab.

Finally, the priest performs the sacrifice, knifing the sunbather and tearing out her heart. He feeds the heart to the cyborg puppet-monster.

In the cave in front of the spacecraft, Jack has not been eaten but merely dragged back to join his friend Fred. The zombies then drag both Jack and Fred into the craft, where they see the priest and Asdreth preparing to sacrifice Carrie.

The priest continues to explain the story. The aliens have used the zombies to repair the spacecraft, apparently using discarded circuit boards and electronic equipment, including the toaster stolen by the bigfoot that had been Jack's Uncle Clem.

While the priest is explaining the situation, Jack wrestles the alien's knife from him and stabs him. The priest dies on the floor.

A fight ensues, during which Jack fires his pistol to kill another alien, making the knife somewhat superfluous. Jack uses the pistol to shoot Asdreth repeatedly, saving his remaining friends. 

Jack packs dynamite throughout the spacecraft. He and Carrie attempt to take an injured Fred out of the ceremonial chamber, but Fred reveals that he is turning into a bigfoot, signified by fur on his arms.

As zombies pour into the chamber, Jack again shows that punching is more effective than any weapon at rendering zombies helpless. He throws them to one side and the other, pushing his way out of the chamber with Carrie following. 

They run toward the exit as the transforming Fred, back in the ceremonial chamber, grabs the dynamite for unspecified reasons.

The cave explodes.

In another display of creativity, the film cuts to a dark bedroom. Jack wakes up next to Carrie. Was it all a dream?

"I just can't get it out of my head," Jack says. 

It was not a dream.

Carrie says they can make plans for tomorrow, pack a picnic for the beach. At that moment, a horde of monsters emerges from the darkness, bearing down on Jack and Carrie.

Jack wakes up again--the horde of monsters were in a dream. He is lying next to Carrie, who wears a kind of green scaly makeup.

Jack wakes up yet again--the scaly makeup was a dream. Jack is all alone this time. 

Fade to black, then the credits, as we realize that the message of the film was the impenetrable loneliness of Jack's tragic existence.

Like the other bigfoot classics we have discussed here--Shriek of the Mutilated and Night of the Demon--Demonwarp is not content merely retelling the story of a bigfoot hunt but adds significant elements to the bigfoot mythology. In the case of Shriek of the Mutilated, bigfoot was a ruse designed to cover the activities of a cannibal cult. In the case of Night of the Demon, bigfoot was real and worshipped by a backwoods cultists. In Demonwarp, the cult is a group of brainwashed zombies assembling used toasters into an interplanetary spacecraft. This delightful surprise is the key to Demonwarp's genius.

The filmmaking skills on display throughout the film only add to the wonder and excitement that define Demonwarp. Never has walking through a forest, punctuated by occasional confused tantrums, felt so gripping or meaningful. The multiple levels of deception in the film—Jack’s hidden purpose about the trip, the bigfoot’s true identity as Uncle Clem, the possible link between the Old West preacher in the prologue and the Lovecraftian priest at the climax—make Demonwarp a puzzle box of endless cinematic delights.

It is no surprise that Demonwarp is the brainchild of creative superstar John Carl Buechler, special effects artist and director of subtle, thinking man’s films such as Troll and Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood. Mr. Buechler wrote the story for this genre-bending film, and it was ably directed by Emmett Alston, who had previously directed the suspenseful Pinky Tuscadero vehicle New Year’s Evil.

Demonwarp is yet another reminder that the best movies are always bigfoot movies.