Review based on the Redemption (1999) version.
By all rights "Demoniacs" should have been numbered among Rollin's greats. It provides ample room for his trademark surreal gothic sexcapades. Yet it is one of his worst fantastics. The opening of this movie gives us a hint of what we are in for.
The film starts with a monologue. Dialog is not one of Rollin's fortes and his actors, picked for their outstanding looks, have never been known for their ability to speak. As the film progress we are treated to more monologues. Character seldom talk to each other, they soliloquize like actors in a Shakespearian drama. Rollin is not Shakespeare though and the words leave us cold.
The second major fault of Demoniacs is Rollin's utilizes theatrical sets for major scenes. Rollin has always had eye for natural settings in which to place his works. In the film the jagged coast with it pinnacles where he places a gem of a love scenes, gothic ruins with there surreal inhabitants and the ship's graveyard are excellent examples of his eye for local. These scenes are contrasted with the bar where much of the movie takes place. The bar is cheesy with its glowing eyed vampire statue, bloody genitaled woman, bats and skulls. The coastal scenes are briefly scattered amid otherwise dark shooting of the dark deeds of the ship wreckers. The ship's graveyard is marred by a chase action more suitable to an action adventure than a Rollin's fantastic. A slow action scene I might add, marred by excess talk and posturing. The gothic ruins, which we don't even see till the second half of the film, are among Rollin's least impressive.
This brings us to a third fault, pace. The pace of this film is dreadfully slow. Rollin's films could never be compared to a speeding express, but one is usually too busy enjoying the scenery, lighting, girls and surreal plotting to notice. The scenery I have already commented on. The girls are lovely but are out numbered by a male heavy cast. The surrealism is surprisingly absent. The clown theme of "Requiem for a Vampire" is repeated. There is an absolutely wonderful Rasputin like keeper of the ruins and the gorgeous ships graveyard. The liner notes for the film say that it "is considered by many to be his most 'expressionistic.'" Perhaps so but expressionism isn't what Rollin does best.
What of two of Rollin's strengths: beautiful girls in sex scenes and surreal symbolism? The girls are lovely and when making love to the evil in the ruins give a delightful performance. These scenes lift the film above the average soft-core sex film with their bored actress. The theme of rape is prominent in the film and Rollin makes no attempt to make it sexual. One is hard pressed to find anything erotic in them. The Demoniac twins played by Lieva Lone and Patricia Hermenier are clad first in long white nightgown which emphases their innocence and make for entrancing scenes when the stagger through the black night. Later they are clad in lose tunic dresses which harkens to the ultra-erotic robes of his later films "Lips of Blood" and "Facination."
As already mentioned the surrealism of this film is at
low ebb for Rollin's fantantics.
While the film may lack Rollin's surrealism it does not lack symbology, both small and large. The observant viewer will see a sailor with a Dracula doll, and four crabs in a neat line. These seem to belong to the category of Rollin throw away symbology that hint at meaning but in fact have none. More significantly there is a wonderful scene where a religious statue falls in such a way as to enact a symbolic rape of one of the villains. On the largest scale Demoniacs is a tale of corrupted innocence freeing a long dormant evil but purity wins out in the end redeeming the corrupt and karma balance the scales.
Should you run out and buy Demoniacs? If you're a true fan of Jean Rollin, you will find enough here to make the film worth watching. Otherwise stick to the films when Rollin was at his peak, "Lips of Blood" and "Fascination."