Friday, January 1

Some quick thoughts on Black Demons (1991)

Three young reporters travel to Brazil for some reason with one of them obsessed with finding a Macumba priest for some reason. This particular reporter is accepted to view nighttime tribal rites to which he records on cassette and is given a necklace with a symbol that looks like it could be from Jane Seymour's Open Heart Collection by the blind high priest. Upon meeting another young couple, all decide to hold up in a large homestead that sits atop a former slave plantation. The white boy now seems possessed by the necklace and playing the ritualistic recording gives rise to a small graveyard full of black slave undead seeking revenge.

With Black Demons, cinéma fantasque auteur extraordinaire Umberto Lenzi presents us with the most challenging social question in his consummate oeuvre, "At the dawn of the 21st century, should we still be fearful of the Legend of the Six Negro Slaves?" I'm unsure whether Lenzi and screenwriter Olga Pehar intentionally decided to inject in seriously distasteful racial commentary, but some topics/elements the horror genre just shouldn't touch. Blinded and lynched slaves called upon to be a stock zombie menace being one of them.

It wouldn't be so bad if the slaves returned to exact terror on those directly responsible. Though Lenzi places the events in modern day and has the six rotting slaves desiring to indiscriminately murder six whites as the "Legend of the Six Negro Slaves" (not kidding) foretells. This discredits the inhuman plight of human slave labor as simple fodder for an extremely cheap and lazy Italian horror programmer. At one point, while trying to figure out their motives, the slaves are even referred to as "criminals" for attempting to escape to freedom from their owners. It doesn't help the word "negro" is uttered numerous times, "did the negros do it?", or that some Michael Cera-looking guy with curly brown hair and a heavy Russian/Serbian/Something accent repeatedly berates his black housemaid/indentured servant for trying to help rid the place of the evil slaves. To top it off, at the conclusion there's an inference to Christianity being the "right" and "good" religion over Macumba.

Otherwise, Black Demons actually isn't that bad considering how delicately it walks upon the all but collapsed old Italian film industry system. By the early '90s, even the made-for-Italian-television bottom had fallen out from under horror directors like Lenzi, and this is why this 1991 film sank into obscurity the minute the negative's reels were filed away. After watching a diet of D-list Mattei and Fragasso-directed drivel lately, Lenzi shows he hadn't lost his touch in the director's chair. Good use of panning, zooming, appropriate focus, and threadbare scary movie camera trickery are evidence that at least the director remembered how to swing a lens around from his glory days. Gore and make-up effects aren't abundant or intricate; but they're well done in that "old style" with admittedly creepy close-ups of acid-burned black physiognomies, fleshy eye gouges, and garden tool violence. For B-level pasta horror diehards, Lenzi fetishists, and perhaps white supremacists only.

As a sidenote concerning the interview on Shriek Show's DVD (which looks great BTW), Lenzi, being way too serious of his work as usual, calls actress Sonia Curtis mediocre, short, and ugly. He also places most of the blame for the cast sucking on her and even says the crew and Brazilian physicians thought she might have had AIDS after being admitted to the hospital for drinking unpasteurized milk. Stay classy, Umberto...


J. Astro said...

Awwww, and here I thought an article entitled 'Some Quick Thoughts on Black Demons' would turn out to be a scathing commentary on modern-day racism. Dammit, Jayson, you've tricked me again!

Happy New Year, bud.

DrunkethWizerd said...

If Sheva knew about this, Chris would be pissed...

Jayson Kennedy said...

Same to you , J!

...and Deth I have no idea what you talking about, dude...hahaha

I Like Horror Movies said...

This long held my Most Eyeball Gouging Award until Black Xmas pulled the rug out from underneath its feet

Anonymous said...

Keep posting stuff like this i really like it.

Franco Macabro said...

Umberto Lenzi...he was responsiblef or Nightmare City, which I found quite enjoyable!

His movies sometimes have no logic, but this is also true of a lot of Italian films, certain things seem to happen without any reason.

Im curious for this one, simply because of its title! Was this one considered to be some sort of sequel to the other Demon movies? you dare tread upon the staircase?

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