Friday, September 16, 2016

99. The Demon and 100. The Disappearance of Flight 412

Jump to The Disappearance of Flight 412 (1974)

099. The Demon (1981)
Director: Percival Rubens
Writer: Percival Rubens
From: Chilling

A serial killer stalks a young teacher while being hunted by a psychic investigator.

We start with the nameless, faceless killer breaking into a house and kidnapping a young girl. Her mother is left bound with a plastic bag over her head. The killer takes the girl into the woods where she sees something that horrifies her, but we can't see it because the print is too dark. The killer leaves town by strangling a driver and going into the city.

Two months later, our lord and savior, Cameron Mitchell is brought in as a psychic investigator. He gets some images of the killer and where he's living now, but nothing concrete or particularly useful.

I speak only truths.
Meanwhile, Mary, a young teacher, starts having visions of the killer. That night, the killer assaults, I think (murky print), her friend and co-worker after she leaves Boobs Disco, and, yes, seeing that club's sign was the highlight of the film. Two motorcyclists pass by, scaring the killer, who I will, for obvious reasons, refer to as “Brock Turner” for the rest of this post. The friend runs away, never to be seen in the film again.

Mary is concerned about her cousin (?) Jo dating a rich boy because she doesn't know how he made all his money. The next half-hour/forty-five minutes is them courting.

Slenderman got swole.
Back with the grieving parents, Mitchell provides sketches of his psychic visions: two pictures of Brock Turner without a face and a detailed drawing of his apartment building. The father is obsessed with vengeance, tracks down the building in the city, and gets killed by Brock Turner. The mother blames Mitchell for everything that's happened and shoots him in the face, ending that plotline entirely.

Jo and her boyfriend have a night at the house alone, Brock Turner kills the guy, then Jo, then Mary comes home. Turner chases her throughout the house with Mary ending up in the kitchen several times, but never grabbing a knife. She finally constructs some Home Alone-esque trap in the bathroom, and stabs Brock Turner in the neck. Then she runs screaming from the house as the credits roll.

I joked with a friend, and maybe before in an earlier review, that the Chilling set is so named because “Boring” wouldn't sell. This is a slow, dull, serial killer pic that clearly had some editing done after John Carpenter's Halloween. Brock Turner wears a generic white mask and most of the movie you don't see his face at all. There are occasional shots that echo Michael Myers' stalking Jamie Lee Curtis and it really feels like the mask shots were added after the fact, especially since he doesn't seem to be wearing it when he's killed, but is when there's a cut-away to his body.

A dull, dull movie. I was constantly asking, “What even is this?” and there's no revelation about who the killer is, why he's killing people, or why he's focused on these two women. The only reason the movie's called The Demon is that Mitchell refers to the killer, enigmatically, as “the Demon” just before he's shot. This isn't depressing or grim like a lot of these cinematic failures are, it's just dull. There's a lot of gratuitous nudity that makes it clear how the producers were hoping to sell the film. This is in the public domain so I've uploaded a copy to the Internet Archive here, but I can't recommend it in any way.

100. The Disappearance of Flight 412 (1974)
Director: Jud Taylor
Writers: George Simpson and Neal R. Burger
From: Cult Cinema

After spotting three UFOs on radar, the crew of Flight 412 are diverted to an undisclosed location and interrogated about their experience.

Flight 412 is engaged in standard exercises when a radar unit on the ground detects three unidentified objects in their vicinity. Two Marine jets are scrambled, but vanish once they reach the clouds, the unidentified objects vanishing with them. NORAD takes over the situation and redirects Flight 412 to Digger Base where the four members of the crew are isolated and questioned repeatedly about the events.

Meanwhile Colonel Pete Moore tries to find out where his crew has gone and what happened to them in the sky. He keeps getting stymied by military officials and double-dealing. Eventually he finds where his crew was taken, confronts the security personnel, and, the next morning, gets his crew back.

Outraged at the situation, Col. Moore takes his crew to the General to tell him what really happened. The General reveals that the military has a policy of keeping UFO sightings under wraps. The Colonel promises his crew that, eventually, things will change and they'll be able to tell the truth. A voice-over notes that four months later, a similar event happened with many witnesses, but the silence endured.

A simple mid-70's made-for-TV movie that works pretty well until just about the end. It opens with a bit of faux-documentary material about UFO sightings and expresses the tautology that if even one of the claims is real, then UFOs are real, or, as I have it in my notes, “If any reports are true. . . Aleeums!” Then it cuts to the actual movie that has far too much narration by a bargain-basement Rod Serling telling us things we can clearly see.

What we see, though, is kept nicely contained. The crew boards, flies, and encounters the phenomenon on radar, not in person. So while there's a nice chunk of stock footage of military planes through the first act, the movie quickly gets to its actual story: the experience of these Air Force members being involved in a UFO sighting. They have to endure low-level brainwashing about what they saw. Meanwhile, Col. Moore is trying to figure out what happened to his people, completely ignoring the alien element.

The movie's at its best when it's about the Colonel trying to find his men. The crew don't have much personality or character—they never have time to differentiate themselves—so the Colonel is the only one making choices. The conclusion that involves him indignantly demanding the General release the truth about aliens makes for a weak ending, though. It's clearly the moment when the movie goes from being a nice, compact story to being a polemic about UFOs.

To the film's credit, it's short, it's entertaining most of the time, and moves pretty well. It's public domain and there are a couple copies on the Internet Archive already. I've added an MPEG version here so it's there for people to do whatever they like. Definitely riffable, but also not a terrible watch on its own. Just turn it off once they leave the interrogation. That's where the movie should have ended.

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