Monday, May 14, 2012

Le démon dans l'île (1983)

... aka: Demon Is on the Island, The
... aka: Demon of the Island

Directed by:
Francis Leroi

Ever cut yourself shaving? Yeah, me too. How about twice in the same shave? Hey, we all get a little rushed sometimes. Ever cut yourself so badly that instead of using specks of toilet paper you had to use a bath towel to sop up all the blood? Can't say that I have, but so begins this French horror-mystery, which turned out to be much better than I had anticipated. Why didn't I expect much? For starters, the few reviews I could find online were very mixed. However, the primary reason I set my expectations low was because this was made by Francis Leroi, who is best known for making several of the lesser entries in the long-running EMMANUELLE soft core porn series; parts IV and VI, as well as a long-running 1993 series which frequently played on cable TV and make up the bulk of his filmography. Seldom seen outside of its home country and never released in America, Le démon dans l'île ("Demon of the Island" or "The Demon Is on the Island") successfully plays upon one's fears of common everyday objects found in most homes. I know I can't be the only person out there who's watched my micro meal slowly spinning around in the oven and wondering what would happen if I accidentally left my fork on the plate. Or sticking my hand down the garbage disposal hoping the thing doesn't automatically start up.

After the aforementioned messy shaving accident, chain-smoking doctor Gabrielle Martin (Anny Duperey) arrives on a small, picturesque island. She's been hired to replace the town's doctor and thinks the small community and isolation will do her some good (she just recently lost her husband and young son in a car accident). After being introduced around by the mayor (Pierre Santini) and his secretary (Cerise) and moving into her new home, Gabrielle discovers the physician she was supposed to replace - the mysterious Dr. Paul Henry Marshall (Jean-Claude Brialy) - is still there and still seeing patients. He even seems to be beating her to all of her house calls. When she questions why she's even been called there, she's told that nobody in the village trusts the current doctor. If that isn't weird enough, common household items seem to be mutilating (or killing) people in freak accidents, while somehow also infecting them with a strange disease. Gabrielle, who initially wants to leave the island, is drawn in to the mystery and decides to start investigating on her own. Upon realizing all of the items which malfunctioned were purchased from the same supermarket, she decides to camp out there for the evening to discover just what's going on. And the results may surprise you. They did me!

This is an entertaining, well-made film which manages to generate a good deal of intrigue and suspense before the finale and has several genuinely creepy moments. One of the key scenes here, taking place after the household-appliances-gone-berserk theme has been well-established, focuses in on a family of three doing everyday things (a father takes apart the TV and works on it, the young daughter shaves carrots, uses a dicer and a juicer and the mother uses a can opener, a gas stove and an oven) as we just sit back and wait for something horrible to happen! Other scenes involve a coffee pot exploding and scalding a woman's face, an electric carving knife slicing off fingers (after the father hilarious warns the son not to play with it), a drum-playing toy monkey poking out a little girls eyeball, a propane tank exploding and blowing up a boat with two naked teenagers on it and a champagne glass busting in someone's mouth.

I have seen this (erroneously, I think) listed as having been made for TV, but I doubt it. Either way, definitely don't let the stigma of 'made for TV' put you off from seeing it. The production values are up to snuff with theatrical releases of its time and (unlike older American films which were made for television) it contains blood, a little gore, profanity and even some nudity. It's handsomely photographed by Jacques Assuérus and often utilizes lovely seaside locations. In addition, the entire cast (particularly the two leads) put in very good - if not excellent - performances.

Currently, Demon has fewer than 100 votes on IMDb, but it deserves more viewers. It won awards at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival and Fantasporto but has never been released on video or DVD in America either dubbed or subtitled; the version I watched was a fairly good-quality TV print, which had custom made English fansubs. Some of the medical talk isn't quite dumbed down enough for people like me, but I guess it's not that big of deal googling stuff like "neuroendocrinian disease."

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