My Demon Lover (1987)
Director: Charlie Loventhal
Cast: Scott Valentine, Michelle Little, Robert Trebor
Back when I was around twelve years old, seeing a film like My Demon Lover was prohibitive for me because the household I grew up in was fanatically Christian and therefore any film with demons or sex was extremely off limits as far as my parents were concerned and My Demon Lover had both! But back then, I was just starting to fall in love with special effects, so I found a way to see it; I waited for just the right moment in which my parents were gone and then, alone and in the dark, I feasted my eyes on the demonic imagery. I have to admit watching My Demon Lover was all about the thrill of doing something I wasn’t supposed to be doing. What attracted me to the film wasn’t the sex or possible nudity because truth be told, there’s very little of both on this movie, no, what I wanted to see were those crafty makeup effects! You see, back in the 80’s, horror movies where pushing the boundaries of what could be done through make up effects. Back then, every horror movie was about gooey, slimy monsters. The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise spear headed this gruesome movement in cinema, but many smaller budget movies emulated this idea of turning a film into a special make up effects showcase, My Demon Lover was one of them.
I’d been meaning to re-watch this movie for the longest time, to re-live this forbidden fruit of my youth one more time, but for some strange reason, this movie disappeared from the planet. This is something that happens to a lot of low budget horror films. Suddenly, poof! They vanish from the face of the earth! But I never forgot about My Demon Lover, it was this little horror movie that thrilled me when I was a kid and had fond memories of enjoying it, I needed to give it the old re-watch! For nostalgia's sake! So anyways, one day I go into Amazon and there it is. Warner Bros. had released it under their ‘Warner Bros. Archive Collection’ banner. Under this banner, Warner Bros. has re-released a lot of these “forgotten” sci-fi/horror/action movies like Freejack (1992), If Looks Could Kill (1991) and The Green Slime (1968). So anyways, I quickly snatched a copy and re-watched My Demon Lover, a film I had not seen since I was twelve! And of course, it’s silly as hell. As silly as any other 80’s movie you’ve seen and of course, that’s exactly what I loved about it. It took me back to simpler days in cinema, when a film could be about two silly kids falling in love in New York City; where a movie could be about a couple of crazy kids with no bigger priorities in their lives save for falling in love and having fun. The film runs on that idealistic idea that the world might be messed up, but we can survive it with a little love in our lives. Weird that the filmmakers decided to mix demons with love, but such is the nature of the cinema of the 80’s.
In retrospect, My Demon Lover is less a sex comedy and more a date movie. It’s about accepting each other with our flaws, finding ways to “make it work” and finding someone you want to care for. On this film everybody is trying to date somebody, it takes place within the bachelor world, where girls and boys are constantly worried about finding “the one”. In this way it reminded me of films like About Last Night (1986), where the two sexes are constantly analyzing each other. So you get the typical “men are like this, women are like that” conversations. ‘Denny’, the main character in the film is a working girl who falls for the worst guys; losers who dump her by stealing everything in her apartment. Then we have ‘Kaz’, a bum from the streets who plays the saxophone on the train and oogles and harasses the ladies he sees on the streets. Oh, he’s also cursed to turning into a demon whenever he tries to have sex! There’s an allegory there, about how guys can turn into wild animals whenever they want to get it on with the ladies, but you shouldn’t really read too much into that. This isn’t exactly what you’d call a ‘deep film’. Its themes are simple yet valid ones: if you truly care for someone then you have to do something truly noble for that person; you have to show some real love and go beyond just sexual attraction.
The entertaining part of the film comes of course whenever ‘Kaz’ gets horny and turns into a demon. What’s cool about the concept is that he turns into a different looking demon every time he turns, so we get a variety of monsters throughout the film. Kaz goes from turning into a werewolf demon, to turning into a fat bald guy who can’t stop laughing, to growing demon wings among many other amusing transformations. The makeup effects are not anything I’d call amazing or award worthy, but they sure are entertaining… and gooey. There’s a lot of slimy, squishy stuff going on. My Demon Lover was produced by New Line Cinema’s head honcho Robert Shaye, the guy responsible for producing so many of the Nightmare on Elm Street films before New Line Cinema became a major film studio. This explains the films emphasis on makeup effects work; it was just the thing to do during the 80’s when latex monsters ruled the screens. If you wanted a movie to make money, you put a lot of special make up effects in it. New Line Cinema was after all known as “The House that Freddy Built”. This make up effects frenzy ran its course and ended in the mid 90’s when horror switched back to ‘slasher mode’ with the success of films like Scream (1996) and I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997). It’s interesting to note how it was horror maestro Wes Craven’s creations that decided the direction horror films would take throughout the 80’s and 90’s, he certainly had a pulse on the genre.
So what we got here is a silly, simple yet entertaining little horror movie from the late 80’s. It reminded me of another film you might want to check out if you end up enjoying My Demon Lover, it’s a film called Date with an Angel (1987). It shares a similar premise (that of falling in love with a supernatural being) but instead of dating a demon, the main character falls for an angel. But if you ask me, all of these movies in which regular people fall in love with a monster, or a creature are influenced by Ron Howard's Splash (1984), that's the one where Tom Hanks falls for a mermaid played by Darryl Hannah. Seeing My Demon Lover made me think about how modern movies aren’t populated with regular people anymore. I miss that about movies, where the protagonists don’t have to be perfect, politically correct, unrealistic tight asses, in fact, a lot of films from the 80’s were about the working class, those of us surviving to make it in the world, this is something we don’t see that much anymore. In movies from the 80’s, characters weren’t afraid to be silly and ridiculous, they were imperfect, they were more like us, the regular everyday people. In this way, characters in films from the 80’s feel more real to me, even though they are extremely silly because let’s face it; all pretensions aside, most of us are still a bunch of grown up kids pretending to be adults. Deep down inside, we’re all little kids who want the thrill of watching horror movies in the dark, without our parents’ permission.
Rating: 3 out of 5