A psycho (sporting a nifty pair of knife-point tipped gloves) breaks into a house, nearly kills the Mother by sticking a bag on her head (as you do) and carries off her young Daughter, Emily, into the woods where much ripping of clothes and screaming takes place
but no body is found.
The distraught Mother and her Husband bring in (somehow) ex-U.S. Marine psychic investigator(!) Colonel Bill Carson (an already, even by '79, slumming Cameron Mitchell) to track the psycho and try and find out what happened to their Daughter.
Soon Carson is (sort of) on the pointy gloved, heavy breathing, killer's trail but the loony has already got more victims in his sights, pretty school teacher Mary (Jennifer Holmes, who also starred alongside Mitchell in the whacked out "Raw Force") and her Cousin Jo (Zoli Marky).
But will he be in time?...
Shot in South Africa "The Demon" at least has a novel evolution, and it makes for some weird accents as very English tones, and Afrikan mix with a bit of American twang. But otherwise there is almost nothing remarkable about the film and the South African locations are sadly underused, this could really be filmed anywhere.
The film obviously borrows much from Carpenter's earlier "Halloween", Mary catching glimpses of a stranger watching her for example echo the similar build-up with Laurie and 'The Shape' around Haddonfield, and only the hysterically overwrought psychic sub-plot adds any real feeling of individuality. In fact, like "Halloween", "Silent Night, Bloody Night" and "Black Christmas", this movie also foreshadows some of the 'Slasher' ingredients that would come to fruition in the 1980's (even if it does borrow the killer's lethal glove from Mario Bava's own exercise in 'Giallo' tinged psycho shenanigans, "Blood and Black Lace").
A huge fault with the movie is that all the murders/attacks are filmed in heavy darkness. The opening house invasion is almost impossible to make out , and despite wielding those knife tipped gloves the killer is never really shown cutting or stabbing his victims, instead the delightfully monikered Percival Rubens is more interested in the sounds of cloth ripping and screaming (a lot of screaming!) than actually showing any details of the murders, and what he does show is so dark it's almost invisible anyway.
The only, marginally, interesting aspect of the killer is his great strength. The scenes where he slaps people and they go flying and his casual disposal of a body by simply chucking it away like it weighed nothing at least give a bit of 'power' to this otherwise wimpy psycho.
At least we have a bit of welcome nudity from Zoli Marky and Jennifer Holmes (re-shot for international release, no nudity is seen in the South African version. Poor sods!) to add a little bit of exploitation to the proceedings.
Ruben's also seems to fall asleep for a good 70% of the running time as boring people hold boring conversations in boring locations whilst the film plods along like a TV movie. There is no pace to the proceedings and no interesting set-ups or characters (Mitchell's aside, for all the wrong reasons) to keep the viewer interested.
Only during the pretty effective (if far too dark again) finale does he seem to wake up and remember he has a Horror movie to direct. This finale also delivers the only bit of bloodshed in the film as well, but don't expect too much and look out for an unforgivable goof in the form of the psycho's on/off /on again mask!
At least one of the conversations between Jo and her 'mysterious' boyfriend Bobby (Mark Tanous) provides some unintentional laughs.
"Drive me to the moon!" announces a very happy Jo in the car, "Do you mind if we stop at my place first?" replies Bobby! Bobby also provides this nonsensical gem, "Could you love a man with roots growing out of his feet?" Two people where never more meant to be together!
Away from this stupendously silly slice of dialogue the highlight has to be good old Cameron Mitchell hamming away madly to himself.
His opening 'feeling' scenes in Emily's bedroom , as he tries to tune in to the killer, are a genuine hoot! It's a good job the Parents aren't in their Daughter's room at the time actually as Mitchell rubs his hands over her bed and makes rather obscene moaning and groaning noises as he pulls a face that would normally indicate the passing of a rather large and hard to shift turd.
When he's not pulling faces, groaning loudly and wringing his hair Mitchell is delivering such psychic mumbo jumbo as "What we're dealing with here is an aberration of the species - hallucinating evil",
"He's less than a man, and more than a man
much more" (while unhelpfully describing the killer), "She's high. She's high up. She's floating, there's always the wind" (while unhelpfully, though it does have a nicely macabre pay-off later, telling Emily's Parents where she is as he sniffs a bit of her dress!) and "The time of the Demon, our Demon, is drawing close", as he unhelpfully spouts unhelpful predictions of doom.
In fact Mitchell's character and his whole disconnected sub-plot (which makes the movie feel like two films edited together) provides the one genuine surprise in the otherwise routine and generally uninteresting plot. It's a really unexpected twist and should catch you off balance
and as such it's a welcome (if damn weird) occurrence.
Overall then we have a pretty damn big clunker that fails to deliver any thrills or chills, is hampered by pedestrian Direction, awful cinematography and a really messy script.
Only worth viewing at all for Mitchell's 'so bad it's good' performance and the general weirdness of his utterly useless psychic investigation. Otherwise good reader this is one to avoid at all costs.