Sunday, 24 February 2008

Demons III: The Ogre (1988)

Hope you like scenes of people wandering around in dimly lit cellars

It's never a good sign when a film has the title X [numeral]: The Y, where creature Y has no relation to creature X. It's a good indication that an unrelated film has been shoehorned into the franchise. Demons III: The Ogre bears absolutely no relation to Demons or Demons 2, save being written and directed by Lamberto Bava, and that's nothing to brag about. It was originally an Italian TV movie, which is worse because it means it's even cheaper than usual with no blood and gore.

The film begins in Portland, Oregon with a young girl in the midst of a terrible nightmare. She finds herself in a spooky house and like any sensible person, heads down to the darkened cellar, teddy bear in tow. She finds a slimy, pulsing cocoon hanging from the ceiling, but wakes up before the creature inside fully emerges.

Many years later, Charel (Virginia Bryant), a bestselling horror author (not that you'd realise from her writing), and her family are taking a working-vacation to an ancient Italian villa in their comfortable and luxurious Jeep Cherokee Chief. The family consists of Charel (pronounced "Cheryl", by the way), her husband Tom (Paolo Malco, from House by the Cemetery) and son Bobby (Patrizio Vinci, with a shocking dub, though not as bad as the same-named son from House by the Cemetery). On their journey, they stop in at a village where the locals grow hostile upon mention of the villa, and the camera holds on a random bunch of orchids for a really long time (that's what pros like Bava call "foreshadowing").

Although the film doesn't bother explaining it, Charel is the little girl from the beginning of the film, and upon arrival she realises that it's the same villa from her childhood nightmares. She even finds her childhood teddy bear in the cellar! During their stay, she keeps coming across evidence of an ogre infestation, like hand-prints in the flour. When her husband arrives they're always gone and if you think he does anything other than belittle her and call her crazy, then you haven't seen too many haunted house films.

When he's not too busy slapping her or denigrating her life's work, he goes hiking with her son so we can be treated to repetitive scenes of Charel wandering around the house alone, for minutes on end. She does find a hidden room full of random junk, but it's never referred to again.

The spooky ambience inspires her, and soon she's feverishly writing out her latest masterpiece, A Drawer Full of Teeth - Fantastic Novel by Charel Bates Mancuso (way to toot your own horn). She also befriends a local, Anna (Sabrina Ferilli), who may or may not be a witch, and her sister Maria (Stefania Montorsi) comes to babysit so Charel and Tom can play grab-ass in the tub. It is also revealed that the ogre is attracted to orchids, but I don't know what that has to do with anything. Eventually, Maria falls victim to the ogre during a game of hide-and-seek. Enraged by her ugly 80s knitwear, he tears the jumper from her body and kills her.

Soon Charel realises that everything she is writing in her story is coming true, and with a bit of investigation she discovers Maria's bloated corpse, among others, in a (surprisingly deep) fetid pool of water in the cellar. Tom is still not convinced, and upon reading a chapter where Anna is molested by the ogre (a scene that is played out as he reads), dismisses her writing as the "sexual fantasies of a bored, frustrated housewife"; nothing turns a woman on more than ogre rape!

Eventually their son goes missing, and Tom and Charel find him in the cellar, along with the ogre. Tom manages to stun it by smashing it with a huge barrel of wine (nooooo! What a waste!) while Cheryl heads out to their Jeep Cherokee Chief, where their son is already reclining in the plush interior. She runs over the ogre several times but, thanks to it's hardy construction and excellent safety features, the vehicle is undamaged. Upon death, the corpse fades away (try explaining that to the insurance company).

The next morning they are packing up their Jeep Cherokee Chief to leave (it's roomy interior providing ample storage for their luggage) and a throwaway line reveals that Maria came home that morning and Anna is fine, so I guess it was all in her mind after all? During the credits, they are sure to thank Renault Italia for the generous loan of the Jeep Cherokee Chief.

The ogre is a deformed monster in a ruff and tunic that make him look like a ren faire reject. The outfit and the other artifacts Charel finds might make you think that the origin of the ogre is explained during the 90 minute runtime. It isn't. Neither is it's connection to orchids, the old man who paints pictures of the ogre cocoon, or Anna's connection to witchcraft. Perhaps all that had to be jettisoned to fit in all the crucial scenes of Charel wandering around the cellar?

Some scenes, such as where Charel discovers Maria's body underwater, work very well. The villa is also a pretty spooky place, though if you've seen one haunted house, you've scene them all. Since this was a TV movie, there's no gore and the budget is limited, but that's no excuse for the movie being so utterly dull. Fans of the gory, action-packed Demons and Demons 2 are advised to stay away.

The film also suffers for having no likable characters. Charel is a hysterical ninny; at one point she's frightened to death of a cow. Tom is an insensitive tool who manhandles her more than the ogre. I would probably skip this film except for the stunning shots of the fabulous Jeep Cherokee Chief, available at a Renault Italia near you!

No comments: