Thursday, May 6, 2021

In short: Demon Lover Diary (1980)

In this verité style documentary, Joel DeMott shoots the troubles and travails that occur when her boyfriend Jeff Kreines hires on (well, since he isn’t initially meant to get paid, “volunteers” might be the better term) as a director of photography for The Demon Lover, the very first film of Donald G. Jackson, who would be come so indefatigable a filmmaker of indie genre movies, he’s still getting production and direction credits nearly two decades after his death. If no possessed spirit mediums are involved, I don’t want to hear it.

As you know Jim, Jackson would go on to direct kinda-sorta classics like Hell Comes to Frogtown and an absurd amount of rollerblade based post-apocalyptic films (some of which genuinely manage to be incredibly boring and mind-blowing at the same time). At this point in time, he is apparently pretending to be sick so he can shoot his movie while still keeping his employment in a factory, partnering on the direction side with the clearly much more defatigable Jerry Younkins, who, going by what the film tells us, has hacked off a couple of his fingers on his job to get insurance money to finance their film.

As you can imagine with this kind of backstory, DeMott’s film, looking as rough as it really should be, is full of scenes of passive aggression, very active aggression, and of people losing their shit for very minor reasons indeed while shrugging off much more complicated parts of what’s going on. The production is in a state of chaos, barely held together by wheedling and said passive aggression, with basically nobody involved seeming to have much of a clue of what they are doing, and doing this on little sleep (which explains a lot of the passive aggression) and no money. There are great, teachable moments for budding filmmakers here too, like the reason why directors don’t carry equipment, why one shouldn’t ask their teenage actresses to improvise, why one might want to avoid Ted Nugent (cough, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, cough), and so on and so forth.

While this may sound a lot like a “point and laugh at these idiots” kind of affair, I really prefer to read it as a paean to a particular kind of insanity, that filmmaking bug that can look like hubris, or a way to make a quick buck, yet in truth is something very special indeed, a thing of awe, wonder and utter ridiculousness. And really, look at this horrifying mess, and just stand in awe at the fact that Jackson never really seems to have stopped making movies afterwards – not even after his death. Please also spend a thought for his mom, who was clearly hoping her son would put that filmmaking business behind him after this whole affair had run its course.

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