Saturday, February 12, 2011

In short: Demon of Paradise (1987)

Hawaii. A couple of dynamite fishers awakens an ancient fish-person with their antics. The fish guy does not approve of their ecological dubious methods and kills them, and - now that he's awake - decides to pop up from time to time to kill other people, usually by pawing at them from the water.

The local herpetologist Annie (Kathryn Witt) is soon convinced that the murders and disappearances are being committed by a prehistoric amphibian. Her attempts at convincing Keefer (William Steis and a cowboy hat), the local chief of police of her theory aren't too successful. Keefer falls in love with her, but not her brains, and continues to think the killer is a simple human serial killer. And Keefer's got to know, seeing that he once was "the High Sheriff of Reno", and lost his job there when he couldn't catch a serial killer (yup, that's the film's main attempt at character psychology).

Keefer does at least care about people getting murdered, which is more than can be said of the mayor of AmityCahill (Laura Banks), a local hotelier who uses the newfound monster mania to improve her business and cart more tourists into her place. As is traditional in films like this, she, like the guys who sold the dynamite to the explosive fishermen, will be sorry later on.

One cannot overstate the importance of Cirio H. Santiago as a producer of Philippines-made exploitation movies for the US market and as a partner in crime of Roger Corman; one also cannot overstate how painfully boring the movies Santiago directed himself were. There are a few exceptions to the latter statement, like the mad and wonderful TNT Jackson, but the larger part of Santiago's output suffers from the man's frightful ability to turn perfectly fun exploitation ideas (vampire hookers, for Cthulhu's sake!) into slow-moving abominations (Vampire Hookers, for Cthulhu's sake!).

Demon of Paradise was supposedly shot in Hawaii, but the omnipresence of Filipinos before and behind the camera suggests a shooting location a bit closer to Santiago's home. And Hawaii looked quite different in Lost, too.

Anyway, as my attempts to avoid talking about the actual movie at hand might hint at, Demon is one of Santiago's truly bad movies, if "bad" is the correct term to use for a film that you could very successfully sell as medication for most forms of insomnia. As is to be expected, the film's boring from beginning to end, with boring-bad acting (Steis's hat might be the most charismatic actor on screen), a boring and draggy script, a boring monster in a bad yet boring suit that is involved in intensely lackluster (and boring) murders, boring sub-plots with more boring characters, boring dancing, a boring scene of monster versus helicopter (resulting in a boring explosion) and even boring nudity. Whenever a scene threatens to become mildly exciting, Santiago applies his awesome skill at entertainment prevention by doing some insane stunt of directorial self-sabotage, like, just for instance, intercutting a fisher fighting against the monster's attempts at pulling his whole boat under (it sounds more exciting than it looks anyway, to be honest) with some folkloric "Hawaiian dancing".

I rest my case.


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