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Demonwarp (1988)

Part 3 of 3 of Bonkers Ass Bigfoot Week

So…for the five people who even noticed, my apologies for being late. I can actually sense the tension. After all, what’s the point of arbitrarily announcing a Bigfoot Week if you post your last Bigfoot article a week late? It’s just a Bigfoot movie review during a regular week—what in the absolute fuck? If only my work and personal life revolved around my self-imposed deadlines to weed through the most insane and trashy Bigfoot films ever made.

But I’m here now, and I’ve brought Demonwarp. Can bygones be bygones?

If I have one regret—and I do only have one regret after watching Demonwarp—is that I didn’t see this when I was twelve. This film was made squarely for the twelve-year-old brain. In fact, you’d have to present me with some kind of hard evidence it wasn’t made by actual twelve-year-olds. If you had asked me what I wanted in a movie at that age, I would have said zombies, aliens, Bigfoot, and boobs. And that’s the very essence of Demonwarp.

John Carl Buechler, who was decidedly not twelve, wrote the original draft of the screenplay with the intention that he would direct it. Buechler was a special effects guru coming off hot from Troll, Cellar Dweller, and From Beyond, and someone Roger Corman had just labeled “the best in the biz.” Apparently, he carried some cachet, as he had Jack Palance attached to Demonwarp, until ultimately, Buechler left to direct Friday the 13th Part VII, and Palance bailed.

Director Emmet Alston picked up the reigns, and Vidmark (the early iteration of Trimark) had the script reworked to be made on the cheap. They convinced Academy Award winner George Kennedy to come aboard with the stipulation that his daughter, Shannon be given a role. Which in hindsight, has got to be one of the worst deals ever. She’s only in the movie for about two minutes before Bigfoot rips her head off. I would say that’s a spoiler, but I can guarantee you won’t even know which character she is. Therefore, I’m guessing this wasn’t the star-turning vehicle it was meant to be.

The movie opens with a UFO crashing through the earth’s atmosphere from space, and for the life of me, I can’t tell if the shot is ripping off The Thing or Predator. A wandering priest in the 19th century, walking by himself and reciting Bible passages that I don’t think are even real, witnesses the crash. End of cold open. We cut to Bill Crafton (Kennedy), who is attempting to reconnect with his daughter (who is, curiously, not played by Kennedy’s actual daughter) in an isolated cabin. Their game of Trivial Pursuit is interrupted when Bigfoot breaks down the door, knocks Crafton out, and kidnaps his daughter. End of that cold open.

Now, we’re with Jack Bergman (David Michael O’Niell) and a group of friends driving to the same cabin for a weekend of fun…or so it seems. What the group is about to learn is that Jack has tricked them, and they’re really there to hunt the Bigfoot that kidnapped his uncle. George Kennedy is also around, camping in the woods, hunting the same Bigfoot and trying to find his daughter.

Demonwarp is a difficult film to give justice to, in terms of describing the sheer bonkers assness, because half of that would entail spoilers. Suffice to say, the origin of the Bigfoot creature involves aliens and zombies and stolen radio parts. Oh, you’re going to be scratching your head when Bigfoot bursts through the door of the cabin, mauls someone to death, and runs away with a ham radio.

I thought of Ed Wood a lot while watching Demonwarp. Not so much in regard to its dopey amateurishness, but in its pure ambition of scope—coupled with the complete lack of talent to pull it off. There is a certain amount of pleasure in watching someone shoot for the moon, despite their shortcomings in just about every aspect of filmmaking. That’s kind of what I meant by it being a twelve-year-old movie: the possession of a high level of imagination in a vacuum devoid of logic, practicality, and cynicism.

Unfortunately, the lagging middle section and gratingly unlikeable hero really hamper the proceedings a bit. The film suffers mightily by choosing to kill off all the likable characters so early. George Kennedy, though, does add an extra layer of charm, but he was only on set for a day, so he’s not in the movie too much. (I would venture to guess that’s why all the attack scenes he’s involved in take place during the daytime.) And the makeup effects are pretty rad. Out of the three Bigfoot movies I watched this week (Shriek of the Mutilated and Night of the Demon), this had by far my favorite creature design. The zombies are also done pretty well.

Night of the Demon was my favorite movie of the week, and when Demonwarp has a pissed off Bigfoot running around slashing and gashing like that film, it’s at its best. However, it just doesn’t have that extra ooomf to kick it into high gear. I’ll remember Night of the Demon ten years from now. Demonwarp not so much. It’s simply a matter of like versus love. I definitely like it and wish it well, but I think we should just be friends.

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