Friday, October 31, 2008

Demon of Paradise (1987)

Directed by:
Cirio H. Santiago (R.I.P.!)

In Kihono, Hawaii, some scaly, clawed hands emerge from the waters and start shaking the boat of a bunch of dynamite fisherman, causing one of the guys to drop a stick of lit dynamite that blows up the boat. Those scaly hands naturally belong to a silly-looking man-in-a-rubber-suit creature that starts causing the usual problems in and around a tropical resort. Well, it's supposed to be a tropical resort, but they must have been filming during the off season because the scenery isn't even all that great in this one. Don't expect to see bikini-clad babes frolicking in the waves, long sandy beaches stretching for miles or sunlight glistening off of crystal blue water. Here, the clouds are dark, the sky is overcast and the water is murky and muddy. Now while the "filming locations" section over at IMDb claims this movie WAS actually shot in Hawaii, I have my doubts. Not only is it a Filipino/US co-production, but the director is from the Philippines and normally films his movies over there, so I wouldn't be a bit surprised if this one was filmed there, too. The native vegetation, the waterways, the buildings and much of the supporting cast certainly don't look Hawaiian to me, though I could be mistaken.

Superstitious local villagers do a hilarious ceremonial hula/fire dance, chant and throw leis into the ocean to try to appease the beast, but it kills their tribal leader anyway, so they begin to flee the area. Not so easily scared off is herpetologist Annie Essex (Kathryn Witt), who is on the island researching "the legend of the Akua." She teams up with skeptical new-sheriff-in-town Keefer (William Steis) to investigate. There's a bare minimum of character development between these two; she's ambitious and wants to discover a new species, while he is a widower who has come to the area to escape "the psychotic bulls**t" he encountered at his previous job in Reno. There's also a half-baked romance that starts to develop between them, but it's not really followed through with. Also sticking around are pushy, bearded, unbelievably obnoxious news reporter Ike (played by screenwriter Frederick Bailey), drug-addicted skin mag model Gobby (Lesley Huntly), British photographer Ted (Paul Holmes) and a slew of criminals who specialize in making illegal explosives. Also there is Ms. Cahill (Laura Banks), bitchy owner of the Paradise Resort, who uses the legend of the sea beast to bring in more tourists, against the wishes of the sheriff and lady scientist. The actors (who are mediocre, but not too bad) get to hurl around lame insults such as "You incompetent slouch!" and "Take a hike spaz ass!" The rest of the dialogue, as well as the plot, characters and horror/action scenes, are hopelessly clichéd and fail to save this from becoming a complete bore.

As far as the monster is concerned, it's a standard issue rubber suit with some seaweed glued on it, and we barely get to see much of until the very end. The doctor refers to it as a "carniverous lizard man of the Triassic age" and says it's a nocturnal eater and light sensitive, which doesn't really explain why the first two attacks take place in broad daylight. The creature does manage to cause around half a dozen explosions in the film, though. It even manages to make a little water front dynamite factory blow up. The National Guard are finally called in and show their professionalism by igniting sticks of dynamite with a lit cigarette to hurl down at the beast from a helicopter above. From a stationary position in the water, the beast manages to leap upward about fifteen feet, grabs the copter and pulls it down into the water. The almost entirely submerged aircraft then manages to explode. So much for realism...

There's also a monster egg hunt at the resort (don't ask), a police shoot out, one topless scene (from Ms. Huntly during a topless photo shoot) and overuse of a fog machine during all of the night scenes. The violence is very mild, most of the kills take place off screen and the gore is minimal. Not much else to say about this one, other than you've probably seen it all before. There are both better and worse films out there with nearly the same exact plot line, which doesn't make this any less monotonous to sit through for anyone who has ever seen a monster movie before.


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