A French Belgium co-production, DEMONIACS (Les Démoniaques) was primarily shot on the Island of Chausey in Manche, Normandy. Working with a slightly larger budget than he was used to, the location provided director Jean Rollin with several impressive coastlines to choose and take advantage from, the end result of which features some of his most impressive visuals. While the plot may be cloudy, Rollin's set pieces are strikingly clear, framing landscapes, both on the beach and within an impressive collection of overgrown ruins that are among his finest. With a wink and nod to the swashbuckling adventure yarns of the 1950s, DEMONIACS spins a tale of pirates, demons and random clowns that only Jean Rollin could somehow pull off.
Paul (Paul Bisciglia, THE GRAPES OF DEATH), Bosco (Willy Braque, LIPS OF BLOOD), Tina (Joëlle Coeur, SEVEN WOMEN FOR SATAN) and the Captain (John Rico) are a small band of pirates known as The Wreckers. A motley crew of pillagers, The Wreckers earn their keep by coaxing ships aground by misled guide lights, whereupon the band of pilfers gather up any and all items of wealth that find themselves washed ashore. One night, having tricked a ship to its watery grave, the crew of bandits stumbles upon more than a few simple trinkets and charms while rummaging through the fresh batch of wreckage. A pair of mute freighted young girls (Lieva Lone and Patricia Hermenier), apparent survivors of the Wreckers' most recent handiwork, stagger their way down the beach, unaware they are about to request refuge from the very scoundrels which tossed them overboard. Weak and naive, the pair barely has time to catch their breath before Paul, Bosco and the Captain accost and rape the two, riled on by the treacherous Tina. Leaving the pair for dead, The Captain and his crew retreat to the local watering hole for the night, but visions of the girls begin to haunt the Captain, driving him into a panic. Determined to dispose of the young victims, the gang returns to the beach where they trap the pair in a decaying hull of a grounded vessel. Setting the wreck ablaze, the pirates chase the wounded girls down the coast, straight into the ruins of a cursed temple.
Inside the ruins, the twosome are greeted by a clown (Mireille Dargent, CAGED VIRGINS) who helps guide the duo deeper into the decaying castle and closer to the one who can grant them the power in which to enact their revenge. Rollin must have found Dargent an outstanding clown, as she would find herself in similar make-up a few years later in THE IRON ROSE (La Rose de fer). Once inside, the pale pair is told of a powerful entity, trapped within the ruins that only they can set free. If freed, this demon would be able to grant them supernatural abilities that would ensure swift vengeance towards the marauders that wrecked their ship and ravaged their bodies. Giving themselves over to the suave demon, the young pair trades their virtue for just such power, hoping to seal the final fate of The Wreckers. Such power is however limited, fading at night's end and with dawn only a few hours away, the young girls will have to hurry if they are to track down the band of pirates and taste their bloody revenge.
Rollin's attempt at incorporating swashbuckling elements into his tried and true formula of trancelike erotic horror succeeds in as so much that the gang of "Wreckers" come across as particularly nasty cutthroats, worthy of any good pirate tale. Introduced via an opening role call that bares comparison to the opening credits of "Gilligan’s Island", the band of callus rogues is relentless in their pursuit of booty (pardon the pun) and, particularly in the case of the Captain, self-preservation. Fear of the twins' reprisal, be it earthly or from beyond the grave, becomes a driving force for the Captain, altering his mind in a way that leaves one to wonder if half of the film's action is not merely taking place solely within the confines of The Captain's psyche. Given the expressionistic style and minimalist dialogue, John Rico’s over the top performance as the Captain is quite apt and effective, his manic and contorting facial expressions saying more about his character and fanatical mindset than any lines spoken. However, if any actor stands out in DEMONIACS, it is without questions Joëlle Coeur as the devilishly seductive Tina.
A painter by trade, Joëlle first worked with Rollin on SCHOOLGIRL HITCHHIKERS (Jeunes filles impudiques) followed a year later by a leading role in BACCHANALES SEXUELLES. Joëlle is an arresting beauty, whose performance is bound to stir up more than one's emotions. Nude, if not at least topless for the majority of the film, Tina is one of Rollin’s most ruthless creations. Hostile and antagonistic, Tina guides the men in her crew like a demonic Jiminy Cricket, enticing them to rape and pillage, all the while fondling herself to the rhythm of the carnage. As striking as Joëlle is in her birthday suit, I would dare to say that her most erotic scenes are those where she is semi-clothed as compared to fully nude. I know, it doesn’t make any sense, but there’s something about the way her thin, white blouse hangs open over her bosom that shivers me timbers.
Last released on DVD Redemption USA a few short years ago, the company, through Kino/Lorber now does the upgraded Blu-Ray route (with a new DVD unleashed on the same street date) in its full "extended cut". Remastered in 1080p high definition from the original negative, it’s in an anamorphic widescreen presentation, with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The print is noticeably cleaner and crisper than previous DVD editions, with naturalistic fleshtones and deep black levels. Colors are accurate and well defined and detail is strong throughout. Audio is presented in a French language mono track with solid dialogue and only a minor distance hiss that is really only noticeable during several long stretches that are sans dialogue. The optional English subtitles are large enough so that they’re easy to decipher, as the previous DVD release was hampered by smaller subtitles.
Extras include two deleted sex scenes, in French with no subtitles. The first scene features a gangly pirate’s bedroom session with a young tavern waitress. The second and longest scene is an extended cut of Tina and The Captain attempting to forget their troubles with an impromptu lovemaking session. While Joëlle is a sight to behold, the scene is ruined by the brutish John Rico, smothering the luscious actress with his large, flaccid frame. A brief deleted scene takes place when a shipwrecked boat is set aflame, and doesn’t really add up to much. Frequent collaborator Natalie Perrey is on hand for a brief interview (1:29), as she wasn’t on the set of this film and merely gives her opinion of the here. Film critic Jean Bouyxou is on hand for a much longer featurette (14:42), discussing how he was asked to play an extra in one of the tavern scenes, and being the press agent in the movie. Rollin is also on hand for a short videotaped introduction shot before his death, and the extras are rounded out by the trailer for this film, as well as trailers for other Rollin titles in the Kino Lorber/Redemption series. The booklet entitled, “The Cinema of Jean Rollin”, with liner notes by Tim Lucas, is included here and apparently will be an insert accompanying all these Rollin releases. (Jason McElreath)
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