Wednesday, July 28, 2010

DEMONS OF THE MIND (Peter Sykes, 1972)

A father’s contaminated genes spawn an incestuous affair, his cursed family driven towards death by the very cure meant to save them. Count Zorn attempts to repress his malignant bloodline by marrying a simple peasant woman, but the madness not only passes to their two children, it overtakes her mind as well.

Director Peter Sykes crafts a fractured horror film that is more interesting in theory than elocution, a Victorian era parable that blurs class distinction as faith in religious superstition and savage science lead to self-destruction, where the meek shall inherit a scorched Earth. Sykes begins the film with a visually interesting match cut, as pale hands reach for the warmth of the sun, an ethereal connection between siblings. He utilizes a series of flashbacks that cross-cut with the action, creating a mentally imbalanced narrative disjunction like a mind tortured by mental illness, where time folds and overlaps into oblivion and eternity. Another interesting scene is Zorn’s recollection of his wife’s suicide shown with surreal dramaturgy, as his children witness the gruesome spectacle. But soon the story devolves into a slackly paced melodrama which becomes too talky delivering exposition without compassion.

The story doesn’t quite come together and remains incoherent, averring a genetic disorder but alluding to a supernatural mental projection, and the villagers with their burning torches and sharpened cross hunt down the real demon; this of flesh and blood, evil convolutions in a forbidden forest. The bleak ending is militantly nihilistic, a piercing dogma without redemption or charity and ultimately meaningless.

Final Grade: (D)

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