Friday 28 September 2007

Demons 3: The Ogre

What is it with Italian TV? Some of its prime-time TV movies dating back to the 1980s are so violent and gory it's only recently that the BBFC have seen fit to pass them uncut (for an extreme example, see A Blade in the Dark). While the same can't quite be said for 1988's Demons 3: The Ogre, I doubt we'll be seeing Amanda Redman in anything as slimy anytime soon.

“It’s not every day that one goes on vacation and finds the basement of one’s childhood fantasies,” remarks American horror novelist Charel Bates-Mancuso (Virginia Bryant), referring to the fact that the cellar of the Italian castle she’s rented with her family looks just like the one she dreamed about as a little girl growing up in Oregon. “Then you add to that a lost teddy bear and another person obsessed by the same nightmare—” Oops! Steady on, Charel, let’s not give too much away!

It seems that, as a child, Charel was plagued with Simon Boswell-scored nightmares in which she would tiptoe down into an enormous, creepy – and enormously creepy – basement on a dark and stormy night. Once there, she would discover a pulsating cocoon hanging from the ceiling, and witness the “hatching” of an ogre-like creature that not only chased her around the cellar, but also stole a flower from behind her teddy bear’s ear. No wonder she grew up to be a horror writer!

Now, twenty years later, Charel is married with a badly-dubbed child of her own, and is torturing touring the Italian countryside in a prominently featured Cherokee Chief (that raised suspension may well come in handy for backing over troublesome ogres later on). Having stopped off at a cafe for directions, the Bates-Mancuso family find that the locals go ominously quiet at the mention of the remote castle they’re heading for but, as Dad explains, “People are strange in small towns,” and soon they’re settling in at the vast country estate.

It’s not long, however, before things start to get a little, well, spooky… The castle’s basement looks strangely familiar to Charel – and, not only that, but she finds a teddy bear down there that looks just like the one she lost as a child. She also discovers collection of teeth inside an old desk, which inspire her to start a new book entitled A Drawer Full of Teeth: Fantastic Novel by Charel Bates-Mancuso (well, they do say you should write what you know). Then there's the ogre-shaped handprints she keeps finding everywhere... Could her long-ago dreams finally be coming true? And, if so, will Charel be able to escape the clutches of... [Demons 3] The Ogre?!

Despite coming from the same director, this mixture of gothic horror and haunted house story bears no relation to Demons and Demons 2 (the latter of which – confusingly enough – also starred Virginia Bryant). In fact, it’s one of four TV movies Lamberto Bava made in 1988, and was originally titled La Casa Dell'orco (The House of the Ogre) before being renamed for international audiences. While the Demons movies weren’t high art, they were fast-paced and very entertaining, something that unfortunately can’t be said for this film. For, while there’s an interesting story in place, it would have required considerable padding to stretch it out to the one hour-mark, never mind the 90 minutes of varying tedium on offer here. If you’re looking for another Demons film, you’d be better off with 1989’s The Church (itself also known as Demons 3 in some quarters!).

That said, it’s not a complete waste of time if you can get past the slow pace. The dream sequences, with their skeletal, slime-covered demon, are pretty effective, and the whole scenario is just off-the-wall enough to hold the interest. There’s also an interesting sequence in which Bava essentially recreates the famous underwater scene from Dario Argento’s Inferno – a set piece often mistakenly attributed to Mario Bava (Lamberto’s father). As such, the idea works on several levels, not least of which being the fact that it’s one of the more exciting sections of this film.

Anyway, here are a few things I learned about ogres from this movie:

  • Ogres “mate with women who smell of orchids”.
  • Ogres prefer medieval dress, incorporating a light, sleeveless tunic and ruffled collar.
  • Fully-grown ogres hatch from a glowing green egg sac, often found suspended from ceilings in abandoned basements.
  • For the ultimate scare, ogres may burst out from inside wine barrels.
  • Ogres leave distinctive handprints in flour, which disappear when you try to show them to anyone.
  • Ogres may or may not collect teeth and leave them in drawers (who the hell knows?!).

Ultimately, nothing in Demons 3 makes any real sense – which wouldn’t be a problem if it had the shock-logic of City of the Living Dead or the whirling intensity of Suspiria. Instead, everything remains unexplained in favour of a frustrating gag ending. With a little more belief in itself, this might have achieved a real sense of creepiness; as it is, it’s the silly moments you’re more likely to remember.

Rating: 2/5

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