Sunday, January 31, 2016
Filmed in Guanajuato, Mexico City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Oxnard (!), DEMONOID starts South of the Border where miner Mark Baines (Roy Jenson, somehow not cast as a heavy) is having trouble convincing his superstitious workers to go into a silver mine that housed a Satanic torture chamber 300 years earlier. Mark and his wife Jennifer (THE BROOD’s Samantha Eggar) find a hand-shaped box down there and bring it back to their hotel room, where it attacks a drunken Mark and possesses him.
After blowing up all the miners, Mark dashes to Las Vegas, where he runs off a spectacular winning streak at craps (due, apparently, to his spirited new hand) and is kidnapped by a gambler (Ted White, who played Jason in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING) and his moll (former Russ Meyer model Haji), who threaten to slice off his hands unless he reveals his winning formula. Mark kills his attackers and immolates himself.
Meanwhile, Jennifer, in search of her mass-murderer husband (law enforcement officials apparently aren’t), travels to Los Angeles, where she believes Mark’s body is buried (why an unidentified corpse found near Las Vegas would be buried in L.A. is a point I didn’t quite understand). Father Cunningham (former Oscar nominee Stuart Whitman) isn’t convinced of her story of a Satanic hand that crawls, leaps through the air, crushes the faces of its victims with spectacular strength, and possesses their souls, not even after it appears Mark’s corpse (played by a much smaller actor than Roy Jenson) has leapt out of the ground, cut off its hand in the door of a police car, and possessed a cop who fights Cunningham in a boxing ring the next day.
From there, DEMONOID turns into “Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?” with the shriveled hand in place of the button. The cop (Lew Saunders) kidnaps Jennifer and takes her to a plastic surgeon, on whom he pulls his pistol and demands, “Either you cut off my hand, or I’ll kill you.” Using a ridiculously futuristic scalpel that “cauterizes while it cuts,” the doctor (Narciso Busquets) cuts off the possessed hand, which leaps to a nearby table, grabs the cop’s gun, and blasts the boobilicious nurse (Erika Carlsson) in the back before taking over the doctor. The now-possessed doctor kidnaps Jennifer and straps her to his table so he can take her hand, before the lurching Irish priest Cunningham somehow figures out where she is and rescues her. A T.J. HOOKER car chase culminates in a few crashes and the plastic surgeon letting a train run over his hand to amputate it.
The hand goes on to log even more travel time than the L.A. Lakers during the regular season, showing up at the most inopportune moments without competent explanation from director Zacarias or his co-writers David Fein (CHEERLEADER CAMP) and F. Amos Powell (CURSE OF THE STONE HAND). Adding to the general hilarity of the script and lackluster direction is the wildly overplayed score by Richard Gillis (augmented by library cues) and the somnambulant performance by Whitman, whose accent fluctuates from scene to scene (hell, line to line). He’s so bored (wouldn’t you be?), he handles a scene in which he burns his own hand off like he’s calmly spraying Off on a mosquito bite.
DEMONOID closes on an overwrought, downbeat manner that flies in the face of physics or logic, but it’s only 79 minutes long, and what better do you have to do? This is a terrible movie, but a compulsively watchable one that’s too crazy and dumb to be boring. A tacked-on prologue was filmed in Bronson Caverns. Sets, photography, stunts, and special effects — aside from the laughably phony rubber hands — are well done, so Zacarias wasn’t without talent. The director originally released DEMONOID himself under his American Panorama banner, which released the even more incredible RAW FORCE. Sure, it’s only two films, but not many studios can boast a 1.000 batting average.