Curse of the Demon (1957) – Review 2

Grade: B+

First off, my apologies for the tardiness. I shall condemn myself by watching endless hours of Friday the 13th films, all the while laughing and uncontrollably being fixated upon the travesty that is the Friday franchise.  However, to the review!

I have not watched a lot of Satanic films, but so far, I’ve been intrigued with the genre, and I desperately want to see more of these types of films.  So I went in to Curse of the Demon with relatively high expectations of the film.  For a plot summation, see Warden Walker’s review of the film.  Much of what I have to add to the film he already covered (effects, mood, etc.), but I wanted to talk more about the protagonist.  And I use the term ‘protagonist’ in the most technical of terms, because to be frank, I found John to be one of the most difficult protagonist to root for in recent memory.

John is defined in his pragmatism.  He spends the majority of the film rooted in the realm of reality and science: any occurrence that seems even the remotely supernatural is rationalized with a scientific explanation.  This is perfectly fine as a character trait (it’s one horror trope that is often used by the protagonists, as it’s a good method for skeptical audience members to accept the events of the film.  As the protagonist slowly descends into the supernatural, the audience is eased into the illusion of horror), but John is, quite aptly put by Warden Walker, an ass.  He spends a great deal of time displaying his contempt for any who would even consider the supernatural as a reality of life.  His relationship with Joanna Harrington (niece of the slain Henry Harrington) is extremely toxic, as his blatant contempt of her beliefs influences his negative behavior towards her.  In general, he simply emits a terribly off-putting attitude throughout the film.

It is one thing to make your protagonist a jerk if the narrative calls for it.  However, we are supposed to be rooting for John to try and outwit Karswell (who I found to be a wonderfully delicious villain.  Niall MacGinnis is clearly having a blast playing the Satanic cult leader), but I found myself not really caring about whether John succeeds or not.  It’s really quite an annoying element of the film, as John Holden is really the film’s biggest flaw.  Thankfully, however, it’s a flaw that doesn’t dismantle the film’s solid core.

Seriously. Look how much of a jerk he is.

A recurring element that I wanted to briefly touch upon is the continuing struggle between science and the supernatural in horror films, and Curse of the Demon director Jacques Tourneur cleverly plays upon the tropes of the conflict.  John’s faith in science borders on the same level of loyalty Karswell shows to the occult.  John increasingly uses flimsy and unrealistic scientific rationale for the incidents of the film, and it struck me as a reversal of the same devotion religious persons face when presented with arguments against the existence of God.  Tourneur definitely suggests that there is a relationship between science and faith, and the topic is thoroughly discussed in the film.

Final Thoughts: Curse of the Demon was an excellent film.  The technical aspects of the film are very good, and the storyline is equally compelling.  Some character flaws definitely hinder the experience, but overall, it’s very much worth your time.  I’m eagerly awaiting to see more films in the Satanic genre.  See it, and fear the smoke monster in the woods!

Final Grade: B+

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