The Demon

"Excellent"

The Demon Review


One of the great things about writing about movies is the ongoing realization that, no matter how deep you delve, there always remain revelations to be made. There are a number of heroic distributors who make their money proving it, among them Chicago's Home Vision Entertainment; a pair of recent DVD releases of films by Japanese director Yoshitaro Nomura are the latest example of fascinating offerings to be shepherded by HVE from relative obscurity to a conveniently nearby video store.

Like its companion release Zero Focus, what registers first about 1978's The Demon is its Hitchcockian air. Based on a story by Seicho Matsumoto, the best-selling Japanese mystery writer of his day, The Demon tracks the domestic horrors that befall three young children whose mother abandons them to their father's care. I use "abandon" because the father is not ideally positioned to care for them: he's married, and the mother of these children is not the wife. What's more, his wife has no inkling of the children's existence until the very day they're dumped at the small printing shop the couple runs. You might say that she does not react gracefully. Still, the demon of the title is not this resentful and cruel woman, nor a supernatural force of any kind - nothing happens in The Demon that science can't explain. Rather, this demon is the father himself. The tragedy and horror of the film reside not only in the acts this man commits, but in the way director Nomura ensures that the audience understands - maybe even, to a small extent, sympathizes with - the psychic terror this demon experiences at the thought of what he's done.

People, Nomura says, are capable of unimaginable things, and he presents his case compellingly; watching The Demon, the fact that the story is based on actual events comes to seem almost unnecessarily brutal, or, worse yet, beside the point. The dread builds incrementally: the youngest of the children, an infant boy, is sick to begin with, and there's cause to worry about the quality of his care. The father doesn't, or doesn't enough. In the interest of keeping peace in the house, he likewise hesitates to blame his wife for what appears to be active abuse. The situation is resolved - woefully - and when his wife next turns her attention to the four-year-old daughter, the audience waits in vain for help from the father that never comes.

And so it goes, until the children's sole caretaker is also the greatest risk to their well being. Suspense is built in to the situation, and Nomura adds flourishes of his own. But the true story arc of The Demon is that of the protagonist's loss of his soul. In the pivotal title role, actor Ken Ogata illuminates this process with painful precision; although much was made of his star turn the following year as the soulless, nonchalant murderer in Shohei Imamura's Vengeance Is Mine, he conveys greater depth here. As his contemptible wife, Shima Iwashita is a more than serviceable Lady Macbeth. And while the children are really very good, little Hiroki Iwase, as the nine-year-old (and thus oldest) son is heartbreakingly real. (The younger two may not have been old enough to be acting in a real sense.) By the film's conclusion, Iwase relays an incredible quandary - that of finding himself completely on his own, emotionally and in terms of his own safety - and he does so without overt display. Instead he shifts just perceptibly from moment to moment, depending, just as a child would.

The Home Vision release of The Demon includes a few extras, and the care afforded to the transfer really matters given Takashi Kawamata's splendid widescreen cinematography. More than anything, though, I'm grateful to HVE for having made The Demon available at all. It's a reminder that there's a whole world of film out there to discover, no matter how deeply invested you already are.

Aka Kichiku.



The Demon

Facts and Figures

Run time: 94 mins

In Theaters: Sunday 1st March 1981

Production compaines: Gold Key Entertainment, Hollard Productions, Percival Rubens Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

IMDB: 3.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: Jennifer Holmes as Mary, as Col. Bill Carson, Craig Gardner as Dean Turner, Zoli Marki as Jo, Peter J. Elliott as Mr. Parker, Moira Winslow as Joan Parker, Mark Tanous as Bobby, George Korelin as Dr. Stuart, Vera Blacker as Mrs. Stuart


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