demon wind

Before this week, I pushed no “MUST SEE” Demon Wind agenda. As of three days ago, I hadn’t even indulged this not-often-discussed cult discovery. That’s until essential horror streaming resource Shudder added Charles Philip Moore’s 1990 “How did this get made?” case study to their already blushing catalog.

My interest was tickled with a confirmation tweet from the site’s official account, then fellow Twitter denizens started flooding their hyperbolic and dazed rants about a movie too tantalizingly terrible/insane to ignore. A film so divisive that its mere existence could part households, as confirmed by /Film’s own Jacob Hall:

The verdict was in. I had to watch this movie.

Given Shudder’s instantaneous accessibility, more of you should be joining the Demon Wind chorus above – also available via Blu-ray thanks to arthouse distribution company Vinegar Syndrome, if you’re a physical purist. Such is the beauty of cinema’s current resurgence of repertory/revival culture. Just as Christopher Nolan can resurrect 2001: A Space Odyssey on screens in purified 70mm, cultivators of the crazed can revitalize “ugly ducklings” that deserve a second chance. Hell, where’s the Demon Wind roadshow while we’re at it?

What the Hell is Demon Wind?

Mark my words. If the powers of heaven’s basement were able to grant time-hopping abilities – even with only a single use permitted – you’d find me transporting into the middle of Moore’s presumably hilarious pitch session. No hesitation. I imagine it went something like this:

Producer: “Okay. Demonic wind. How does that play out? Like, we get that it turns people into Evil Eds from Fright Night – but is there a reason?”

Moore: “Have you seen Evil Dead II or The Fog? I’m just going to riff off those a bunch.”

Producer: “Fine. Can the first line of dialogue just be the word ‘wind?’”

Moore: “How about not once, but twice?”

Producer: “Great. We don’t have much of an effects budget. Can you repurpose some oatmeal from craft services for the mouth goo? Wait, why is there mouth goo again?”

Moore: “Don’t ask and I’ll use the oatmeal, but then I get to make two of the characters into rough-and-tumble karate magicians. They enter stage left in a convertible, do an entire magic show and are unequivocally the coolest guys in the whole movie, ”

Producer: “Only for one scene, then you have to inexplicably convert them into slick greaser types who carry shotguns and pistols. Plus we have*to see boobs.”

Moore: “That can work…we’ll go full [time traveler whispers in ear] Demon Knight? Whatever that is. And I’ll give you boobs, but also a bare-assed flashback for the male hero whose father committed suicide and now he’s being drawn to a pile of burned farmhouse rubble.”

Producer: “Will his friends be invited along for absolutely no reason – and will one of them be a cute girl who takes her pants off and waves her tush in the middle of a roadside cafe?”

Moore: “Yeah, but that specific shot’s going to be horrendously out of place. Also, I have this idea for an obnoxiously alpha character who keeps repeating ‘That’s why I keep her around’ about his girlfriend and a mutation form that looks like [time traveler whispers in ear] One Punch Man…”

Producer: “Wasn’t this a movie about demon wind?”

Demon Wind is an impossibly rewarding, continuous grab bag of genre absurdity that is as flummoxing as it is utterly transcendent. It’s 20 billion different films slathered in excreted slimes. The cultist “cabin in the woods” isolator, zombie paranormal possession siege, slapstick haunted house rattler, burial ground sacrilege – something HAS to stick, right?

Seriously, What the Hell is Demon Wind?

You’re correct to assume Moore’s basket case baby is a disastrous mess of conflicting ideas, but you’re wrong to lose interest. Troll 2 wishes to share the same cafeteria table with Demon Wind, as Moore’s spiraling inability to control his titular gust sucks us in like a siren who’s cosplaying Ed Wood. This isn’t a “well made” movie, but it should be preserved for generations in a museum reserved for cinema’s most untouchable “late night” accomplishments next to The Room and Batman & Robin.

To set Moore’s stage, protagonist Cory mourns the death of his father shortly after they reconnect. He’s lead to a cursed plot of land with a ghost house (doorway leads in, no structure stands) and an evil barn that rebuilds itself. Also residing around the still-probably-safer-than-an-AirBNB invisible cottage is a misty “wind” (not John Carpenter’s fog) that raises the dead (not Deadites), who in turn attack Cory’s group of friends (who he’s enlisted for…support?). One by one, they fall into the wind’s chubby-faced undead ranks, only vanquishable for good by way of scribbled incantations in a book (not the Necronomicon) and a blessed dagger artifact (not the Kandarian Dagger). There’s also a cafe owned by ominous mountain folk (definitely not secret monsters), Cory’s unquestioned telepathic tie to landscape surroundings, and Dell’s toxic masculinity.

Oh, ’90s culture.

The greatest achievement of Demon Wind is Moore’s blissful indecision, as complications layer with barrel-chested bravado. Said “demon winds” admit no limitation of powers. Behold an entire scene where blanketing white smoke keeps transporting Cory’s friends to new forest locations (pure head-scratching gold), second-tier-weird to random zoom-in segues such as an empty eggshell filled with grubs/maggots/who cares what. Malicious manifestations include kitchen novelties that can throw themselves (DEFINITELY NOT RAIMI INFLUENCED SLAPSTICK), chest-exposed seductresses, three creepy little girls who can morph people into porcelain-faced dolls, mush-mouthed boil creatures and more. Is it a campy creature feature, a psychological harbinger? FEAR THE WIND, FOR REASONS THAT NEED ZERO EXPLANATION.

Kitchen. Goddamn. Sink.

Seriously, Asking for a Friend, What the Hell is Demon Wind?

Oddly – or maybe not-so-oddly – the effects work doesn’t always sell ’90s quality. Demon Wind dabbles in optical tricks like a musty ’70s/’80s relic. Location dressings are nothing more than mom n’ pop pit stops and vacant plots of land with scorched house remnants strewn about. Dumpster Dive: The Movie. And how does Moore convince our eyes that no physical middle-of-bumbleheck shack exists? By using split-screen masking, somehow with less fluidity than Georges Melies’ spliced back in the early 1900s. Stretches of the film feel almost Harryhausien at times until a shiny Jeep byproduct drives into frame (flanking other cars torn from different eras). It’s a movie with absolutely no identity yet unforgettable presence, right down to the practical lightning bolt effects that shoot from people’s hands like lasers from an early ’60s sci-fi escape.

Low budgets are one thing, but with a 1990 release date, we’re forced into comparison points like Jacob’s Ladder, Tremors, Nightbreed, Child’s Play 2, Gremlins 2: The New Batch and Arachnophobia. More polished and financially stable monster flicks and slashers, sure – but once you watch Demon Wind, you’ll understand. The ’90s have a certain self-referential, metaphysical feel, while Demon Wind is stuck in the tars of yesteryear horror trends. Trying to hash out in real time how horror and comedy could beneficially coexist with none of the right tools.

Speaking of tools, holy baloney this cast. Only once per Willenium does such a hapless unification of dead emotions and off-cued reactions stumble through horror romances with the natural chemistry of pet rocks this effectively. You won’t recognize any actors despite future credits that include Thirteen Erotic Ghosts and Seduce Me: Pamela Principle 2, and with gosh darn good reason. But their “talents” complement a director’s vision destined for cult absurdity. Asses bafflingly shimmied, dead girlfriends forgotten within literal seconds.

Let me try and set the mood with an example.

Dell – dressed like beefcake Marty McFly – is currently dating Terri. Chuck – mister “I roundhouse kick beer cans in mid air” – is Terri’s ex. This puts the two at odds despite the fact that Dell could squash the wiry David Blaine wannabe, which proves violent after Chuck questions Terri in front of Dell. “C’mon Terri, I can see it in your eyes back at the cafe.” “Chuck you’re mistaken I’m with Dell now I’m gonna stay with him” (read without punctuation because, yeah, that’s exactly how the line is spat out). But the beauty of it all? Past the forced relationship banter neither actor sells, past the ghastly connection these two rigid corpses try and feign, is how the cinematography frames the confrontation. Chuck to the left, Terri to the right. A large gap between so we can see Dell in the background standing there, shaking his head and swallowing nervously just watching the whole scenario. It’s…SO AMAZINGLY STAGED AND ASTOUNDINGLY UNCOMFORTABLE.

Then Dell walks over and punches Chuck in the face, who gets up brandishing his waistband pistol. Next, this interaction happens: “We could fight if you want to, but we don’t have anything to fight about.” “Well let’s go inside then.” “Good idea.”

CUT TO EVERYONE WALKING INSIDE THE GHOST CABIN AND OH YEAH, WASN’T THIS A MOVIE ABOUT DEMON WIND?!

Maybe I Should Just Stop Asking Questions?

There’s no defense of Demon Wind as a structurally sound cinematic product, yet every reason to sit awestruck by its nonconformity. ADR work is mismatching to the point where you wonder if sound engineers just gained their audible senses (ENGINE REVVING DOESN’T MAKE THAT NOISE). Death is barely recognized as “old friends” pass on. New characters are introduced out of THIN AIR with BARELY 30 MINUTES left in the film. It’s almost as if Moore dropped his script and the papers scattered, his final product a compilation of the pages he was able to rescue. It takes 40 minutes for Cody to expose pertinent backstory about preachers named Enders (spelling?), Grandma’s protective spells, and child sacrifices. Witness a film so obscurely paced that grand motivations are often forgotten as long spans pass with demon-frenzy blasting and general grotesqueries slapped atop lumpy layers of creature makeup, only to revert back to egregiously cheesetastic one-liners with a pungent Limburger smell.

And kissing. Dell’s slobbery, bird-lipped kissing.

Party City Halloween decorations and lifted dialogue from discarded bottom-tier scripts that never saw Hollywood daylight be damned, Charles Philip Moore’s creation delivers on every blood-curdling cry of midnight movie wilds. You can thank special effects makeup teams who went on to design such films as Men In Black, Dawn Of The Dead (2004) and Cabin In The Woods. No slouches. Kill sequences may not be able to capture more than exploding squibs given monetary restraints – characters simply turn around with throat gashes, for example – but Moore’s living, breathing vessels of terror shimmer vaseline slickness atop ghoulishly gruesome forms. As Chuck and “partner” Stacy gun down shambling minions who spill mustard-yellow sludge when shot, schlock cinema reigns uproariously supreme (“They’re playin’ our song,” “Time to face the music,” kind of stuff). Technical shoddiness? Outdated VFX? A title that doesn’t seem to have any importance besides the constant whoosh sound of flowing air? All that and Demon Wind is still a horror fan’s gift that keeps on giving. Like it or not, you will never be bored.

I could go on about this movie all day. Dolls talk. Deaths range from spiked nail gouging to backward soul transferences that turn men into doves. Meaty goat haunches hold up a final boss who challenges martian dome Cory to a duel, capping off a hog wild third act by anyone’s standards. Grab your closest after dark warriors, crack multiple beers and dive headfirst into this mucusy mess of too many subgenres to count. Love every unforgivable pun. Drink every time out-of-place humor crashes any scene to halt. Take a shot whenever you scream “WHAT THE HELL IS ACTUALLY GOING ON.” Demon Wind doesn’t care. Demon Wind doesn’t need your approval. Demon Wind will outlive us all. Demon Wind is life.

“God turned you into a snake and a chickenshit at the same time.” C’mon, don’t miss out on gold like this!

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