I’d have to rifle through the annals to know for sure, but I’m pretty certain I’ve never covered a Bigfoot film; the reasoning is simple of course – I haven’t seen an older Bigfoot film worth covering (and Harry and the Hendersons doesn’t count). Until now that is. Night of the Demon (1980) doesn’t adopt a quasi-documentary style and hint at the monster through testimony; oh no, it gives you one (1) large hairy dude who messes up a lot of folks in a lot of messy ways. Night of the Demon isn’t very good, but it’s pretty damn great.
It was released on video by VCII Home Entertainment in ’83, where I’m sure some unsuspecting viewers were caught off guard by how grisly it is (as opposed to Grizzly). It even made the UK’s Video Nasty list back in the day; understandable as all the others I guess, although there’s a distinct lack of fetus eating on display. Don’t worry though; the film has plenty of goofy and gory for the whole, twisted family to enjoy!
While it isn’t done like a Legend of Boggy Creek docudrama, the film does subsist on numerous flashbacks – as our hero, Professor Nugent (Michael Cutt – Volcano), lays in hospital, the lone survivor of an expedition to find Bigfoot. Well, to find a student’s dad, actually; who starts the show by getting his arm ripped off, and I’m sure much worse.
So Nugent recounts the tale of how he and his students head to the woods to find answers; and it is possible if the screenplay by Mike Williams had approached coherency that we would have answers instead of more questions, like: What’s up with the satanic cult our gang comes across? Assuming they worship our furry fiend, why are they dropped from the story? Oh, and why does Bigfoot use an axe and a knife to kill some folks? Did he go to survivalist camp?
Yes, there are strange things in the previous paragraph, and I promise I’ll get to them. But for now, let’s press on with the story: Nugent tells the police that his expedition led him to another explorer who is suddenly mum on his Bigfoot findings, and a mysterious woodswoman named Wanda (Melanie Graham – On The Television) who survived a sordid encounter with the beast. All of it comes down to an ending where students and teachers alike get to finally meet Bigfoot, though I’m sure they wish they didn’t.
Here’s the deal: Night of the Demon is a wild ride of low budget ingenuity (more so than talent) and insane violence that, while not Savini level, gets the job done in a paint job of reds upon reds. I honestly don’t think the acting is as bad as some have said (I’ve seen worse, and you have too) - there is a reason that Cutt has gone on to have a solid career coming from rather humble beginnings.
But it’s been never since someone has said “Hey, how are the performances in that Bigfoot movie?” No, Night of the Demon is the Sasquatch film that leans into every exploitation angle the others were afraid to: See Bigfoot twirl a man in his sleeping bag then throw him on a large, and apparently very sturdy, tree branch! See Bigfoot rip off a biker’s handlebar when he goes to take a whiz! See…well, you get the idea. This is the film that shows you what Bigfoot does, and his rather inhospitable nature.
Perhaps the greatest feature of Night of the Demon is its (I’m sure accidental) nesting doll structure; Nugent proffers legend to his students of Bigfoot’s exploits in the area – hence every kill we see until the finale is a flashback (Nugent sure has great recall for a guy that was never present), causing an unusual pacing development – there isn’t any. But, this is offset by there being a kill every ten minutes or so, making it one of the better “body count” flicks to kick off the ‘80s – “better” referring to the quality and quantity of the deaths as opposed to other benchmarks; you know, direction, script, blah blah blah.
No famous composer on hand to give his son’s film a sheen, no sir; this one runs from respectability. But let’s be honest: Do you want a respectable Bigfoot flick, one with satisfying character arcs and a straightforward narrative? Why not. But it still won’t be respectable because it’s a giant hairball prancing around the woods ripping folks apart. Sometimes it’s better to look past respectability to a place where Bigfoot flogs someone with their own intestines; you need to see the furry forester for the spleen. (I’m not sorry.)
Night of the Demon is available on DVD as part of the Horror Collection Extravaganza from Image Entertainment.
*Editor's Note: All available trailers are age restricted and cannot be embedded, but you can view the trailer directly right here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDjAr2C0UXANext: Drive-In Dust Offs: SHOCK (1977)