French arthouse horror king Jean Rollin really went off the rails with this 1974 head-scratcher. Not only does the director ignore his standard story, (childlike pair of girls finds enclave of vampires) but he also makes a movie to which you need to pay attention if you want to understand it. (All of his other films are impossible to understand whether you pay attention or not.) Rollin's palette full of style is still in effect, however, and most of his favorite tropes are along for the ride. The Demoniacs, over time, has become rather comic, so if you're in the mood for some campy, sexy, macabre fun - or you're a Rollin fanatic - his creepy girls will give you a run for your money.
Hailed by Video Watchdog honcho Tim Lucas as "a Poe-like study of guilt and revenge" The Demoniacs can undeniably fit into that comparison. A small band of lazy, landlubber pirates lure ships onto the rocky shore, after which they plunder the wreckage. These 'wreckers' - in an avaricious frenzy - rape and murder the two cutie-patooties who survived the crash. Their innocence destroyed, (a no-no for Rollin) the girls rise from the dead to torment the pirates with the aid of a priest, the Devil, an off-market Ronald McDonald, and very little clothing.
Rollin manages to subvert any real throughput in what is for him a startlingly linear plot, by wantonly throwing symbolic imagery at the screen, and otherwise adapting a torpid pace that makes 100 minutes seem overlong. He's so in love with his compositions this time around, that the mere act of leaving the camera running becomes a thematic element. To wit, if it's worth showing to you, Rollin's gonna take about a half-hour to do it: and that includes watching the two chicks walk slowly across a courtyard. (At least the girls are semi-nude.) Dark, portentous shots of the abandoned cathedral linger too long, as a mysterious clown leads the revenants to the only one who can help them exact revenge on the pirates. That would be the Devil himself, who's gonna give the girls sex-power or something. Evil sex-power.
Throughout the picture, but especially as the girls begin to haunt the leader of the wreckers, half-baked performances, hysteria, and all other types of camp lunacy will at least provide you with the amusement needed to keep you awake through the less successful scenes. The pirate captain sweats and screams in the local pub. His raping crewmembers look like extras from an Old Navy commercial, Portlandia edition, lolling about the pub with insouciance. The captain's main squeeze (played by hottie Joelle Coeur) constantly strips naked, rubbing on herself at the most inappropriate times, and generally delivers a performance of clumsy mania. This parade of flesh is, of course, pleasing to the eye, yet the sex scenes are in large part mechanical and awkward.
Rollin's The Demoniacs is a mash-up at war with itself. Subversion of both fear and arousal is the norm this time out, while your need to simply drop off to sleepy land is hampered by things that shouldn't make you laugh. Rollin's visual mastery seems also to have been given too long a leash, though there is still plenty of striking imagery and there are numerous lovely, lusty ladies to ogle. Rollin's a hard nut to crack, and sometimes you just have to go along with the ride. The Demoniacs is just one of those rides, mad and nonsensical, but consistently entertaining.