Night of the Demon

Who will be the next in line to defy the curse?

Fantasy Horror Mystery
96 min     7     1957     United Kingdom


American professor John Holden arrives in London for a conference on parapsychology only to discover that the colleague he was supposed to meet was killed in a freak accident the day before. It turns out that the deceased had been investigating a cult lead by Dr. Julian Karswell. Though a skeptic, Holden is suspicious of the devil-worshiping Karswell. Following a trail of mysterious manuscripts, Holden enters a world that makes him question his faith in science.


John Chard wrote:
You know, the devil has something here. Very pleasant. Dr. John Holden arrives in England to attend a paranormal convention where the recently deceased Professor Harrington had intended to expose Dr. Julian Karswell as being the leader of satanic cult. Upon learning of Harrington's death, Holden finds that the only link to the mysterious death and Karswell's alleged cult is an accused murderer called Rand Hobart, who is currently in a catatonic state. While Harrington's niece Joanna is convinced her uncle was felled by supernatural forces, Holden sets about debunking it all as pure hogwash. Something that may yet prove to be fatal to his well being? Prior to 1957, director Jacques Tourneur could boast on his résumé psychological horror classics I Walked With A Zombie & Cat People, the simmering pot boiling Western Canyon Passage and the rightly heralded film-noir piece that is Out Of The Past. He was in short the perfect choice to direct this loose adaptation of M.R. James' story "Casting the Runes". Why then? That producer Hal E. Chester chose to interfere and not let Tourneur have full rein to deliver a supernatural picture that is more about what you don't see is actually what scares you? Is open for scornful debate. The problem, and the source of much discussion over the years, concerns the demon of the title. Goofy looking and at once taking away the quizzical factor for the audience, Chester had the demon appear both at the beginning and the end of the piece. It was also featured heavily in the film's advertising material (it's on the poster for instance), which quite frankly killed off the minuscule chance the less than scary vision had of shocking the audience. It's now all the years later considered across the board that it would have been better to not have seen the demon at all, certainly at the least to not see it at the beginning of the film. Thankfully though, and with much credit to Tourneur, his team and the cast, Night Of The Demon is still a nerve pulling piece of work that shines bright today as a true classic horror picture. After the demon has shown its unremarkable face, we follow Holden (a knowingly effective and stoic turn from Dana Andrews) as he delves deeper into murky waters that he's convinced do not exist. Only to realise he's in a devilish trap laid by the creepy Karswell (Niall MacGinnis), a trap from which he must escape or face the dire consequence. The tension has been built up beautifully by Tourneur, tension given an added dimension by Ken Adam's spookily adroit set designs. So come the glorious train station finale, nobody can be quite sure what will happen, and this in spite of us knowing the existence of the said demon thanks to the appearance of "it" at the beginning. The film was cut by 12 minutes and retitled Curse Of the Demon for the American market, but both versions have readily been available in disc form in the US. Odd then that in the country where the film is proudly called one of its own better horror entries, it had to wait till 2010 for a home disc release! That is almost as criminal as Chester's insistence on the demon appearing at the start of the film. Only almost mind you. 9/10