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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Demon of Paradise (1987)

Demon of Paradise (1987) - I have not been writing for a while, first there was the exhaustion from covering the Boston Science Fiction Film Festival, then I went on the oldest of winter activities a beach vacation. Yes nine days in the beautiful warmth of Sanibel Island FL for walks on the beach, sipping adult beverages and visiting my favorite baseball team the Boston Red Sox. Not that vacations are commonplace in this life. The last one this family had was in 2005 so it has been a good span of time since we left the winter behind. A graduation gift for my lovely daughter the trip was just what was needed to deal with what has been a very long and hard winter. Joy is finishing her senior year at college and we wanted to fit this trip to Spring Training in before she heads off to law school.
  The beach part of the trip is not my thing, I don't really like the beach, or the ocean but my wife loves it. She can sit for hours doing nothing while I am more of the climb a mountain or go fishing kind of guy. I was able to fill in the stretches of boredom with wildlife seeking, Sanibel has some extensive wildlife areas and geocaching. For my wife Elisa it was certainly a vacation paradise with her favorite activities sitting on the beach and bike riding.
We also spent a couple full days doing nothing but sitting in the sun baking a nice layer of redness onto our skins at the ball park. Meaningless games but still a wonderful relaxing experience. We have never been down to spring training and if I had planned this vacation I would have spent more time checking out the player routines and talking to people around the park. Still I have to say the vacation was a fair compromise and everyone ended up with something they liked from it.  So with the relaxation of vacation in mind I will be doing some movies having to do with going on vacation and how things can go horribly wrong, hey this is a horror blog after all.
  First up is the Roger Corman distributed film Demon in Paradise (1987) set in the islands of Hawaii it is a monster movie set around a lakefront resort which is the place most of us would love to vacation in. This is a low budget horror film  and should be treated like it. Like many Corman films the script is serviceable with a through plot but lacking that special something that would separate it from other classic horror films like The Creature from the Black Lagoon.  The struggle the film has it has a bunch of character development but never really settles on which of the characters are going to drive the story. Many of them are reactionary to the events of the film while others are only developed to trigger plot points. One that does not work is the dead end plot points concerning the dynamite fishermen. They are the reason the mythical creature "Akua" is awakened from his slumber to terrorized the locals. They have a dual plot line with a pair of them four men building TNT sticks and wanting to get the other two to sell the excess. The second two guys have a plan to bring in "mob" TNT already packaged and want to cut the first pair out of the business. So in the end they served their purpose but the development of all this other stuff was not particularly useful in moving the main plot forward after the creature is up and attacking. Then there is the climax hostage scene that ends in an explosion as all hell is breaking loose and the monster is attacking. It is certainly causal but awkward in its resolution.
  The main plot centers around how the local authorities deal with what looks like a murder and what is later learned to be a sea creature. Actually right from the start the locals are telling the main cop Keefer (William Steis) that it is the mythical monster but apparently eye witnesses are not enough for him to believe it. Maybe its because he is too busy flirting with herpetologist Annie (Kathryn Witt) to listen besides his back story is he left the big city for the small island life to avoid having to do any actual policing. Again there is a missed opportunity in that there is just enough chemistry between the two characters to establish that they like each other but the relationship is only tangentially explored. We needed Annie more to be the scientist who could confirm the possibility of the monster. She also gives us some suspenseful scenes where she is at risk while diving in the lake.  The creature of the rubber suit type is elusive but is attracted to the noise of the local resort.
 A secondary subplot where reporter Ike (Frederick Bailey) and resort owner Cahill (Laura Banks) exploit the monster angle to attract tourist serves the purpose of having many bodies around for the creature to kill later in the film. They also never believe that the thing is real either, at least until it is knocking down the door. Written by Bailey and C.J. Santiago the story never fully develops any of these characters into a proper protagonist so it is difficult to stay interested in the film. Ike and Cahill are also very unlikable characters making them the last people you want to center a story around. Coming in close to being the lead character is Keefer our cop who does not really want to deal with the shit that is going down.  He at least has some bonding scenes with Annie and a back story. That leaves the creature itself  but it really is not its story either, the monster is just a threat to all these other character none of which carries the plot forward with a story arc that is satisfying. The film does throw in some odd characters and the requisite skin shot provided by Leslie Scarborough who plays Gabby a coked up model who goes swimming topless.
 Good things I can say about this film is that it does have a couple decent gore shots to show the damage the monster can do. The film also escalates really fast all the way to the climatic scenes when the National Guard is involved and using its ample firepower to end the situation. Although not totally a lost cause this film just misses that something that is needed to make it a classic monster movie. I don't think I will recommend it but I can't say that it was hard to watch either.

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