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Classic 1957 horror film, sometimes titled "Curse of the Demon." It was directed by Jacques Tourneur and produced by Hal E. Chester, based on the short story "Casting the Runes" by MR James.
It starred Dana Andrews as skeptical professor John Holden, Peggy Cummins as the less-skeptical Joanna Harrington, and Niall MacGinnis as evil but charming cult leader Julian Karswell.
The plot involves Holden's attempts to put down a devil-worshipping cult led by Karswell, who is able to use Celtic runes to cause a demon to attack his enemies. Of course, Karswell is able to slip some runes on Holden, who must try to avoid death at the demon's scaly hands.
This has all the appearance of an incredibly cheesy horror flick -- particularly, the demon pictured in close-up in the cover looks silly, not scary, and the film's low budget is sometimes apparent. Don't let that put you off. The script is very intelligent, the characterizations are awfully good, and it's got a slew of creepy moments and excellent suspense. The demon is only used twice, and the other effects, though not particularly fancy, do a good job of ramping up the fright.
Night of the Demon provides examples of:
- Affably Evil: Karswell is an extremely likeable, charming man. He's also a spell-casting Satanist who murders casual acquaintances.
- Agent Scully: Holden is a rock-solid skeptic about the supernatural.
- All Hallow's Eve: Karswell hosts a Halloween party for the local children.
- Elemental Powers: Karswell very casually conjures up a terrific windstorm.
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Karswell's relationship with his mother is very gentle and loving, even after she betrays him.
- Evil Is One Big Happy Family: Rand Hobart's creepy family rejected him because he wasn't dedicated enough to Karswell's cult.
- Friend to All Children: Karswell hosts Halloween parties for local children. He appears to really like them, and vice versa.
- Instant Runes: Averted. Karswell's runes are written on simple strips of paper.
- Monster Clown: Karswell dresses as a clown for the Halloween party. He's not a particularly monstrous clown, he's nice to all the children, and basically friendly with the protagonist... but the guy is a storm-summoning Satanist...
- Railroad Tracks of Doom: What gets the blame when the demon kills Karswell.
- Religion of Evil
- Secret Circle of Secrets
- Skeptic No Longer: Holden finally gives up his skepticism, at least about Karswell's powers.
- Spooky Silent Library: Holden has a creepy encounter with Karswell in the British Library.
- Spooky Seance: Karswell's mother takes Holden and Joanna to a seance to try to convince them to believe in the supernatural.
- Super Smoke: The demon's appearance is heralded by an approaching ball of smoke, with the demon rising out of it.
- Super Window Jump: How Rand Hobart kills himself.