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Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Dis List: Demon of Paradise (1987) review


William Steis (Keefer), Kathryn Witt (Annie)

Directed by Cirio H. Santiago

The Short Version: Totally bland late 80s creature feature does little but make one appreciate vintage monster opuses like CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD even more. The Gill Man and Godzilla cross bred design is suitably menacing but the title demon is little threat to anybody till the last 15 minutes. Ironically enough, this movie is something of a refurbished version of Castellari's THE LAST SHARK (1980) which makes this a rip off of a rip off. Unless you're a completist, skip it and watch one of the oldie 'Beast From the Deep' flicks instead. Or better yet, watch JAWS and JAWS 2 again, two films Santiago has obvious affection, but not the budget to successfully emulate.

Drug dealing dynamite fishermen awaken Akua, an ancient reptilian god who terrorizes Hawaiian vacationers having a ball in somebody's backyard masquerading as a resort.

Cirio Santiago fashioned a career out of making braindead action filler that was the life's blood of the drive in circuit and later on, the video boom. Sadly, DEMON OF PARADISE isn't one of them, nor is it a very good movie. It's actually irrepressibly awful. This anemic, bloodless, gutless, lifeless CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) clone by way of JAWS (1975) and JAWS 2 (1978) by comparison, has far more in common with the savagely lousy UP FROM THE DEPTHS (1979), but at least that movie had a modestly charming, inept style that reveled in cinematic retardation.

I remember when this premiered on Cinemax back in '87 or '88. If there was ever a theatrical release for this pap, it had to be brief. Anyway, we didn't have Cinemax, so my uncle recorded it for me. It was mildly amusing to my 12-13 year old eyes at the time, but seeing it now, it merely gives my eyes exercise by looking at the clock in anticipation for this vapid, mess o' molasses to end. Remembering little about it aside from a helicopter being pulled into the water (where have we seen that before?) and the slightly original ending, there was nothing here to wax nostalgic about at all.

For a good 65 minutes, our scaly, rubber suited Akua does virtually nothing other than pop up out of the water, look around, or swat at people from a good distance away. Akua gets caught in a net and drags a boat below the lagoon and there's one blandly shot death scene till the 65 minute mark when the creature action finally decides to kick in. The military gets called in and it's this kind of nonsense where Santiago excels. The main characters get attacked inside the resorts managerial office with a suddenly dwindled military presence of a few grunts. A couple people die off camera and then we're whisked away to the creatures lair, a cave situated near a beautiful waterfall. More military guys show up and everybody gangs up on Akua lobbing tranquilizers, machine gun fire and grenades at him that all leads to a final shot that alludes to a sequel that thankfully never materialized.

The creature design is actually pretty decent. A shame it wasn't used in a better movie. Akua looks like a cross between the Gill Man and Godzilla. It isn't utilized well at all. As mentioned above, he does next to nothing till the end of the movie. Sadly, the body count is extremely low for a movie of this type. All the necessary ingredients are on hand, but DEMON OF PARADISE (1987) is like trying to make meatloaf without the meat. Santiago at least manages to toss in some gratuitous nudity at one point, but then the potential for a 'Monster and the Girl' sequence is squandered. We're teased with the appearance of Akua getting his hands on a naked swimmer's firm frame, but the filmmakers fail to follow through on even that.

Aside from a good monster suit and one or two passable, fleeting moments, there's virtually nothing here to see. The score is languid and the TV Movie of the Week level of gore does nothing to endear the film to trash buffs aside from the 4 or 5 fans who honestly have affection for this sleep inducing affair. The Hawaiian locations offer some nice scenery, but you don't watch a monster movie for scenery. Sadly, DEMON OF PARADISE fails miserably in delivering much of the demon in the title, and there's very little paradise, too.

This review is representative of the Shout! Factory DVD double feature paired with UP FROM THE DEPTHS (1979).


Aaron said...

Yeah, this one's pretty awful, which is a shame because the poster art is pretty great! I still like it slightly better than UP FROM THE DEPTHS, though.

venoms5 said...

I like UP FROM THE DEPTHS better mainly because it's such a sincerely stupid movie. I hadn't seen it since catching it on the immortal WGGT 48 way back when so it was nice to see some stuff I didn't remember from the first time around. Both movies are undeniable crap, though. It's easily the most unlikable of all the Corman double feature DVDs that have come out so far.

Wostry Ferenc said...

just taking the opportunity to repeat myself: I sincerely believe that this is the best genre film blog on the net, with the best quality reviews.

venoms5 said...

Your kind remarks, Wostry, and those of others is what makes doing this something more than a personal endeavor. It's greatly appreciated and I hope you continue to enjoy things here! Thanks so much!

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