Review: THE DEMON’S ROOK (2014){0}

If you grew up as a horror film fanatic in the 1980s, you may have run through most of the American slasher flicks and occult thrillers – and then you rented Lucio Fulci’s 1980 cult favourite Zombie, which hopefully led you to all sorts of gore-laden apocalyptic mayhem from Italian splatter-slingers like Umberto Lenzi (Nightmare City), Lamberto Bava (Demons), and Bruno Mattei (Night of the Zombies) – which hopefully led you back to more Lucio Fulci. Anyway that’s sort of what happened to me, and while it’s true that the more refined “giallo” thrillers from directors like Dario Argento seem to get most of the respect these days, lots of horror fans still enjoy those cheap, gory, sometimes awful Italian zombie flicks.

If you’re one of those people, there’s a very good chance you’ll enjoy a new low-budget independent horror flick calledThe Demon’s Rook, which was made by a bunch of first-timers from Georgia who clearly grew up on the same splatter films I did. If you’re looking to scoff at amateurish actors and roll your eyes at silly dialogue, you’re missing the point ofThe Demon’s Rook; it’s an homage to a very specific type of film – right down to its plainly evident shortcomings.

The story of a young boy who grows up in a demonic dimension but escapes back to Earth and causes all sorts of trouble when his mama demon gives chase,The Demon’s Rook is most interested in delivering elaborately gory set-pieces in which shock value and visceral lunacy are the only thing on the menu. Poor, bedraggled Roscoe (writer/director James Sizemore) seems to have a plan to stop the stunningly powerful Dimwos from invading our world, but that doesn’t stop the infuriated demon from possessing dozens of people, slaughtering a hundred more, and bringing a few graveyards full of corpses back from the dead.

It all gets really messy, believe me.

If several of the film’s acting performances are a bit “raw” (at best), and if Mr. Sizemore dallies perhaps a bit too long within an Act II flashback story, those could be dismissed as either minor problems or as intentional call-backs to a sub-genre of Italian horror flicks that had lot of “raw” acting and over-stuffed mid-sections. That’s not to say one should forgive a film’s “flaws” just because they’re intentional (indeed I think The Demon’s Rook would be better 15 minutes shorter), but it’s interesting to consider that clunky performances and florid flashback stories could actually be part of the homage as a whole.

What is pretty much undeniable is that The Demon’s Rook has a massive array of wonderfully garish practical effects. Demonic masks, zombie hordes, tons of arterial sprays and sloppy intestines, you name it. Well-designed and cleverly photographed (and often in broad daylight!), the almost non-stop carnage is clearly the star of the movie, and it’s always nice to see good ol’ American gore done on a tight budget and (of course) completely lacking in CGI touch-ups.

A virtual love letter to early-’80s Italian zombie cinema (with a few dashes of early Peter Jackson affection, if I’m not mistaken),The Demon’s Rook is most assuredly a “niche” horror flick. It’s made almost exclusively for people who know and love the films it’s referencing – but it’s also just good enough to maybe create some new Lucio Fulci fans. Surely that’s the goal of a worthwhile homage in the first place.


Scott Weinberg (@ScottEWeinberg)