The Devil’s Nightmare
Director: Jean Brismee
Stars: Erika Blanc, Jean Servais, Daniel Emilfork
The next film on the Pure Terror DVD set I’ve been working my way through is ‘The Devil’s Nightmare’ a 1971 Italian horror production. In fact, the title given on the screen during the openign credits is: El Terrificante Notte Del Demonio which, thanks to all my experience working on The Cult of Joe D’Amato means “The Terrifying Night of the Demon.” It took me a couple tries to sit down and get the motivation to finish this film but when I finally did I found it to be quite enjoyable – much better than I initially expected it to be. Here I present 7 specific things about the film The Devil’s Nightmare.
strong>1. Dead Baby – No Joke
The movie opens with a sepia toned flashback to Berlin at the end of World War II. As Berlin is beseiged by a bombing raid, A German officer, Baron von Rhonenberg (Jean Servais) waits anxiously as his wife is giving birth. The baby is born and the Baron is eager to know if it was a son. The conversation he has with the maid is somthing like:
Baron: Is it a on?
Maid: Your wife died.
Baron: Is it a son?
Maid: It’s a beautiful girl.
And it is a beautiful baby. Not an actual newborn – but they never use newborn babies in movies because, to be honest, newborn babies are kinda freaky looking. Anyway, the baron sends everyone off to the shelter saying that he’ll “take care of his daughter.” The Baron christens the sweet, sleeping infant and then drives a dagger through its chest. Normally children, and especially babies, get a free ticket in horror films. The murder of a child is especially barbaric and very few filmmakers are ever daring enough to cross that line. When children are killed off in a horror film it is usually done offscreen or barely mentioned by characters in passing. Not in The Devil’s Nightmare. Here we see the knife in the baby and we see the infant writhe and scream in pain as she bleeds to death. This opening was a grisly scene I just wasn’t ready for. We do find out later that the Baron had his reasons for this – though it would have helped introduce this guy a little better if we knew why before watching him stab a baby!
2. Radically Redefining Continuity
After the opening credits we now see Baron Rhonenberg relaxing in his castle, looking to have only aged a week in the almost 30 years since the prologue. He’s having a discussion with a young reporter who is eager to learn about the history of his castle, his family and, most importantly, she’d like to take a few pictures of his majestic estate. Baron Babykiller warns the young reporter that taking pictures of the castle would be a terrible idea. She still does and, like in any horror movie, doing exactly what someone warned you not to is a good way to meet a grisly end.
For this reporter, her end comes in the form of an unseen menace. Now, here is the series of shots to chronicle this encounter.
You see that? Shots of her are at daytime next to her yellow car, but then this shot of something attacking her is at night and the car is red. Really, why is she so scared of this ting? Clearly there is no threat to her as whatever this demon is it’s attacking a completely different vehicle on a different day.
3. Worst European Road Trip Ever
Now we get to meet our lead group of characters – the busload of potential victims for this demonic themed slasher movie. What a motley crew they are. We’ve got a crabby old man who complains about every little thing. There is a middle aged married couple who are absolutely unhappy with each other. A young seminary student and a couple of cute young girls. Then there is Tubby the bus driver. This fat slob stuffs his face with food every chance he gets and was a delight the whole time. It really is your cliched stock of horror characters – the usual mix of serious people and comic relief. However, I happened to like these characters – even that bitter old man. Unlike more recent horror films where the slasher fodder are just a bunch of hateful people that I don’t care about, the characters in The Devil’s Nightmare offered up enough personality to get me interested and curious to see how things turned out for them.
They’re lost in the woods – a typical plot device – and end up having to spend the night at this strange, haunted castle. Strangely, some woman called ahead and told the Baron and his butler that this busload of tourists was en route, even told the butler the names of all these unexpected guests. NOBODY THINKS THIS IS UNUSUAL. The decision to stay at this castle was spontaneous – the only person they told was some farmer who gave them directions. Who was this woman who called and how did she know their names? We actually do find out later (supernatural reasons, of course) but even then, nobody thinks its peculiar – they just accept it and move on.
4. The Worst Butler Ever
Okay, so I know I say “the worst” but this guy was pretty awesome. As he shows all these unexpected but still somehow expected guests to their rooms he hatefucks them with history. Someone will go into their room and say something along the lines of: “Oh this is a lovely place.” Then the butler will point to a stain on the floor and say “A woman burned to death there” or similar things. He talks about people who committed suicide, people who murdered children and all kind of things guaranteed to make any dwelling haunted. He is bound and determined to make their stay in the castle as unpleasant as possible.
There is a scene later on where a blood drips from the ceiling onto one of the guests. Investigating the attic above her it is discovered that a cat somehow became impaled on spikes and bleed everywhere. They find an entire torture museum upstairs, complete with a functional iron maiden. The Butler comes in and doesn’t say a word about this – doesn’t have to. He just starts cleaning up the blood with a bitter attitude, almost blaming these guests for this work. Ah, what a butler, a cold and self-centered mind that would make even the most antisocial personality proud.
5. Lesbian Sex Scene
It serves no purpose. Two girls go at it for awhile for no reason whatsoever – they’re not even lesbians or a couple. It just happens and is totally erotic.
6. Redefining Succubus
Over dinner the Baron explains the family curse that has plagued his family for generations. One of his ancestors made a deal with the devil, in exchange for wealth and power every female born into this family is a servant of the devil as a succubus. This is why the Baron killed his infant daughter at the film’s opening. The Succubus here – whose existence is barely explained at the end of the movie, happens to show up for dinner as well. Now I REALLY like what they did with the Succubus here and found it to be one of the most creative takes on the mythos I’ve ever seen. To start, here is the wikipedia definition of succubus.
a succubus (plural succubi) is a female demon or supernatural being appearing in dreams who takes the form of a
human woman in order to seduce men Now, one automatically assumes seduction to be a sexual thing.
However, in The Devil’s Nightmare – the succubus simply plays off of people’s desires to lead them to death. For the fat bus driver she assembles a feast for him which he dies eating. Another character is obsessed with finding whatever treasure the Baron might be hiding in his castle so the succubus leads her to a room full of gold in which she drowns, Scrooge McDuck style.
7. Seven Deadly Sins
As I mentioned before, this Succubus murders people according to their desires – those desires all happen to fall into line with the seven deadly sins – making this a fun version of the movie Seven. A few examples:
Fat bus driver = Gluttony
Treasure hunting lady = Greed
A fornicating couple = Lust
Grumpy old Man = Wrath
And so forth. When paired with the fact that the succubus seduced people with desire that wasn’t always sexual to be one of the most original ideas I’ve come across in a horror film recently.
The film winds itself down with an ending that, while relatively weak, doesn’t spoil all the fun this movie had to offer. It was really one of the most creative and enjoyable horror films I’ve come across in awhile and I really do recommend it to anyone whose tired of the downward spiral modern horror cinema has found itself in lately. That is it for Disc 3 of the Pure Terror DVD set. Up next on Disc 4 is The Sadist which apparently stars Eeegah‘s Arch Hall Jr. I anticipate that it’ll take me a bit to get through that one.