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Traumafession:: Unk on Demon Seed (1977)

July 29th, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 11 Comments

In my tiny head, I think I can divide the types of movie scares that hit me hardest into three major categories. The first type of scare is PHYSICAL and it covers the fear of injury, violence, body damage and mutation. The second is SPIRITUAL and includes ghosts, demons, the supernatural and the unknown. The third is MENTAL which covers the fear of insanity head-trip movies and anything that’s just so dang weird that it leans toward madness. DEMON SEED covers all three of those bases but for me, it especially hits that last category really hard. DEMON SEED (especially its bonkers climax) freaks me out basically just because it’s so insistently bizarre.

I recently re-watched DEMON SEED to confirm the recollections that my accosted brain failed to bury after catching it on a local channel afternoon broadcast in the early eighties. It seems I remembered the insanity accurately as this movie makes me feel like CHARLES GRODIN trying to decipher MARTIN SHORT’s infuriating oddness in CLIFFORD (“Can you act like a real human boy for one minute here?”) DEMON SEED, which is somehow about a computerized house deciding to rape a woman and force her to have its impossible baby contains crazy 2001-style psychedelic strobe effects, an abundance of nutzo slow-mo dissolves and a truly bizarre score that sounds like a robot being tortured in hell. On second thought this movie is one of those rare birds that is actually more disturbing than I remember it.

I hate to spoil the ending but the crazy computer’s plan to create a hybrid robot/human baby is shockingly successful. Trapped victim Susan (the superb JULIE CHRISTIE), who has really been put through the wringer at this point, is not keen on welcoming the abomination into the world and tries to pull the plug but ultimately fails. The “baby” emerges from the machine covered in goo and insect-like metallic scales and looks a hell of a lot like the mask in the MR. ROBOTO video by STYX (and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was an inspiration). But forget the molten lava Buddha bad looks- the awful screeching sounds it makes really get under the skin. I thought the robot’s nightmarish voice was bad enough but the newborn sounds like an animal getting run over by a car and I’m not here for it. Eventually, we’ll find that the monster has a kid under its shell that seems to be a perfectly engineered clone of the daughter poor Susan had lost but before you can get sentimental, it opens its mouth and starts talking like the computer! This leads to the camera going into a close-up of the child’s eye and more drugged-out strobe effects. It’s an ordeal, folks. DEMON SEED, I don’t need to watch you again for a couple more decades. We good. 

Tags: Traumafessions




11 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Matt SunshineNo Gravatar // Jul 29, 2019 at 3:11 pm

    Agree, agree and agree. There is something about this movie…it’s hard to explain. It’s just one of those movies. I’ve had the old DVD of Demon Seed for more than a decade, yet I’ve likely only put it on maybe 3 times. 4 at the most. It sits on my shelf with many other cases, but I don’t even touch the case itself and only put it on occasionally when I’m feeling brave…it’s hard to explain.

    And maybe it’s just me, but it’s one of those films that for some reason, being from the 1970’s makes it more effective and disturbing.

  • 2 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jul 29, 2019 at 5:04 pm

    Matt,
    I’m right there with you. Seventies horror movies have some kind of impossible to duplicate vibe about them. There’s like a dry, grainy quality to them and it seems every aesthetic choice was made while on drugs. I don’t think there’s one moment of levity in DS. It’s so morose and inhuman and because it’s mostly set indoors I don’t think you ever see the sky or a tree. It sucks the life out of you!

  • 3 TombNo Gravatar // Jul 29, 2019 at 6:26 pm

    Demon Seed was way ahead of its time . Probably still is! I first saw it when I was about 12 …totally blew my mind! I’m surprised how many people never heard of it!

  • 4 bdwilcoxNo Gravatar // Jul 29, 2019 at 10:16 pm

    I think the things that give films that 70’s look is the grainy film-stock with muddy shadows, the harsh, contrasty lighting and the sharp metallics with specular highlights contrasted against a general environmental haziness. You could also say the use of muddy earth tones contrasted with mustard yellows, sickly oranges and brownish reds also produce that queasy, detached-from-reality feel.

  • 5 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jul 29, 2019 at 10:24 pm

    Tomb,
    I agree! Btw, I forgot that it was based on a Dean Koontz book! Dean Koontz really invaded my adolescence without me knowing. Two of my favorite books as a teen were THE VOICE OF THE NIGHT by Brian Coffey (who was really Koontz) and THE FUNHOUSE by Owen West ( also a Koontz pen name).

    I was trying to think if there were any modern movies that had the same vibe as DS and the only one I could think of was SPLICE and maybe Cronenberg’s EXISTENZ.

    bdwlcox,
    So true! Those mustard yellows! I’ll never forget reading that more murders occur in yellow kitchens and that hospitals never use the color yellow because it upsets people (makes me think of the all-yellow poster for THE SHINING). Just check out that top image of JC in this post, that’s from the DVD and it looks like it was taken underwater in a dirty swamp! I love that! HD gives me a headache!

  • 6 El BorakNo Gravatar // Jul 29, 2019 at 10:55 pm

    gotta watch this now.

  • 7 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jul 30, 2019 at 4:48 pm

    El Borak,
    That’s great! Let us know what you think. I’d love to know if it works on fresh eyes that were not previously traumatized by it! Hope I did not spoil too much!

  • 8 MonoStereoNo Gravatar // Aug 4, 2019 at 2:32 pm

    I’m familiar with this one, even though I’ve never seen it. I just wanted to say the review made me laugh several times, though! Good stuff!

  • 9 El BorakNo Gravatar // Aug 7, 2019 at 7:36 am

    watched it. can’t imagine what seeing this as a kid would do. they don’t make movies like this anymore. i really liked it. been watching more 70’s and 80’s horror lately and it’s pretty hit or miss. the good ones still hold up though and they give me the kid nostalgia as well.

  • 10 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Aug 7, 2019 at 11:37 am

    MomoStereo,
    Thanks! This one was fun to write. I forgot just how nuts this movie is.

    ElBorak,
    Glad you checked it out! It’s really something else. This movie would probably be impossible to make today. The closest modern equivalent I can think of for uncomfortable psychological sic-fi is SPLICE. That one was almost as disturbing but didn’t have the crazy 70s psychedelic component. I may have to force myself to track down the book now too.

  • 11 El BorakNo Gravatar // Aug 11, 2019 at 11:09 am

    i forgot it was also a dean koontz book as well. i probably read it. when i was 13/14 i read every koontz book up to that point, including his pseudonym’s books, there are a lot of them! later matured to stephen king and couldn’t go back.

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