Demon Wind (1990)

Directed by: Charles Philip Moore
Starring: Eric Larson, Francine Lapensée, Rufus Norris, Jack Vogel, Stephen Quadros, Mark David Fritsche and Sherry Leigh
Written by: Charles Philip Moore
Runtime: 98 minutes
Release Date: July 20, 1990
Home Video Release:  Vinegar Syndrome, October 2017, Blu-ray/DVD combo edition

DEMON WIND’s plot is best summarized by film restoration company Vinegar Syndrome’s marketing team on the back of their recent home video release:

“The strange and brutal deaths of Cory’s grandparents have haunted him for years. Determined to discover the truth, he has returned to the desolate region where they lived, along with a group of friends, to try and uncover the mystery. Ignoring warnings from the locals that the area is cursed, Cory and his friends soon realize that the legend is true, as the Demon Wind, possesses and destroys them, one by one, turning them into monsters from hell.”

The movie meanders around the introduction of a large cast, flashbacks to the past, and fantastic supernatural elements inflicted as distorted hallucinogenic mind games upon our main characters.  While the plot summary’s accuracy is spot-on, it’s also a masterfully taught bit of jazzed up prose seducing the viewer into tasting a rather bland story stew.  I admire that.  Good, purposeful writing is hard to find these days and I’m happy to see it in the service of promoting entertaining genre films.

DEMON WIND is a product of the late 1980s horror cycle, fully infused with the aesthetic charm of that era.  The young actors who eventually become demon fodder all feature a signature 1980s big hair style with most of the women going for teased out volume common amongst teenage mallrats while the men sport big blow-dried mullets to showcase their earrings.  Dialog is typically delivered with an amateurish charm that builds goodwill with the viewer.  Most of the male actors have distinctive looks, making the expressions of serious brooding that occupy some of the screen time fascinating, groan-inducing moments.  The fashion follows suit, firmly rooting the film in its time period.

The influences from filmmakers that preceded this production are pretty obvious, with strong nods to the works of Lucio Fulci and Sam Raimi.  The plot skips around with a lack of coherency that definitely recalls Fulci’s output, especially when punctuated by extremely skilled makeup and gore effects.  Raimi’s inspiration is peppered throughout, including the basic set pieces of a small cabin and accompanying shed (a barn in this case) clearly harkening back to THE EVIL DEAD (1981) and EVIL DEAD II (1987).  While not as adept as Raimi’s work, DEMON WIND competently uses well executed comedy-horror moments to move the audience along toward the film’s conclusion.  The creature effects and carnage are plentiful, providing a steady stream of satisfying bloodletting that makes viewing this film worthy of consideration.

While the main cast mostly pursued their careers in television, there are two notable bits of acting trivia worth mentioning about DEMON WIND.  Lou Diamond Phillips, under the name Louis Gem Phips, plays a goopy, pus-ridden demon.  Phillips had recently been recognized for his lead performance in LA BAMBA (1987), portraying the tragic early rock ‘n roll icon Ritchie Valens, followed by a prominent role in YOUNG GUNS (1988) where he was teamed with some of the hot young actors of the time.  The lure to pull a small paycheck in a relatively anonymous role as one the 25 credited demons must have been pretty appealing for him to invest his talent here.

The other minor bit of interest comes from one of the stunning examples of gratuitous nudity delivered by future adult film star and former wrestler from the Glorious Ladies of Wrestling (G.L.O.W.) Tiffany Million, credited here as Sandra Margot, a name she’d use in a number of low budget mainstream movies around this period.  Not to be confused with Phillips’ performance and the horde of other demons from the cast, Ms. Million’s performance is credited specifically as “beautiful demon”, which this reviewer can confirm is a fair and accurate label that’s not nearly as misleading as the marketing fluff on the Blu-ray’s media packaging.

About the Vinegar Syndrome Release:

Never released on DVD, DEMON WIND receives a brand new 2K restoration from its 35mm camera negative by the capable folks over at Vinegar Syndrome.  Framed at 1.85:1, the image proves solid and colorful throughout, allowing the special effects to be fully appreciated and giving the overall production a boost in quality.

The first 3,000 copies sold through Vinegar Syndrome feature a really amazing lenticular slipcover featuring a demon crashing through a window, recreating the 3D cover of the original VHS release from Prism Entertainment back in 1990.  For those into collecting physical media, the presentation of this Blu-ray is top notch.  Here’s a short list of the release’s features:

  • Region free Blu-ray/DVD combo pack
  • Newly scanned and restored in 2k from the 35mm original camera negative
  • Video interview with Sandy Horowitz (executive producer)
  • Video interview with Sherry Bendorf Leigh (actress)
  • Video interview with Thomas L. Callaway (cinematographer)
  • Audio interview with Christopher Roth (editor)
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Still gallery
  • Reversible cover artwork
  • English SDH subtitles

Final Thoughts:
While DEMON WIND isn’t necessarily a classic, it is an entertaining watch that delivers much of what made the lighter 1980s low budget horror films enjoyable.  The makeup and special effects prove quite good and the main draw.  While some of the performances tend towards wooden and awkward, the actors are fully invested in their efforts, winning the viewer over.  If you haven’t seen DEMON WIND, give it a try once you’ve hit the bigger horror titles.  If you decide there’s a minor stink to the whole affair, just blame the Demon Wind.

Contributed by Drew Beckmann