Sometimes, when you watch a film its influences become glaringly obvious. Such is the case with James Sizemore’s The Demon’s Rook. Functioning as a modern Italian gore flick, the film’s graphic violence, decadent nudity and leisurely pace mix to produce an interesting and fun experience.
The marketing makes The Demon’s Rook appear as if the film will be wall to wall insanity. This is not the case, in fact it’s very nearly the opposite. Large swaths of the film are quiet and serene. Abducted as a boy by the strange demon Dimwos and living his childhood in a strange nether-realm of solitude, our main character Roscoe functions as a socially damaged mute attempting to readjust to the world. There can be long stretches of the film without any dialogue. Several scenes rest on James Sizemore’s shoulders who performs double duty as actor and director. The good news is that the story is interesting enough and Sizemore is good enough that most everything holds your attention.
This almost doesn’t work. The first half of the film (which is mostly set-up) almost stretches out too long. We are introduced to young Roscoe and his parents. Then we start to see flashes of Dimwos until suddenly the young boy is hypnotized and disappears into another dimension. The film lurches years forward as we see a grown Roscoe emerge for reasons unknown. He is disoriented and naked. He wanders around and becomes reacquainted with the world. This may sound boring and in a way some of it is, but I enjoyed a lot of it. The main reason for this is that the film is absolutely gorgeous.
The film takes place in a rural setting which means that farming communities and lush woods are the backdrop. Director Sizemore takes full advantage of this and lets the camera roam the forest as we follow Roscoe. We see glistening dew dripping from trees and wildlife peering from every crevice. The cinematography is the real star here and it entertains while we learn about the world of Demon’s Rook. Fortunately, most will agree that the film picks up just in time. We are introduced to three demons who have been let loose on this unsuspecting rural town and the latter half of the film focuses on their rampage.
This is where we get what the trailer promises and it is glorious. The demons are lovingly designed with detailed costumes and grotesque make-up. The havoc they wreak is messy. Be prepared to witness stabbings, decapitations, disembowelments, zombie carnage and strange transformations. As the film kicks into overdrive, there are scenes that become orgies of gore replete with red light and mist. It is here that the film’s inspiration becomes apparent. The zombies look as if they have been transported from an old Lucio Fulci b-movie. The gore looks almost fake in the best possible way, but fortunately there isn’t a digital effect to be found. Everything is executed entirely on-screen.
While The Demon’s Rook is a lot of fun, it isn’t without flaws. The biggest one would be the pace. I will admit to almost zoning out a couple times but every time the action kicked in at just the right moment. This won’t be the case for everybody. The film is long, or it feels long. At times I wondered where it was heading. If you are a fan of Italian cinema, this shouldn’t be anything new though.
Another quibble I had with the film was the acting. Let’s just call it corny. You could look at this as intentionally hammy performing that is designed to give the film it’s grindhouse, b-movie je ne sais quoi. I was annoyed. I have never loved Italian cinema and the performances here are WAY over the top. They are just shy of distracting. They don’t ruin the film at all but they are worth noting.
I can’t say I was surprised to find that this was Sizemore’s first film. The film feels raw. There are storytelling techniques and sequences that you just don’t see in most films. You can attribute this to inexperience or to the boldness that can only be found in independent cinema. Either way, Demon’s Rook is an impressive film. The effects, make-up and cinematography are all stunning. I wish the acting and pace had been more effective but I can live with those. If this sounds remotely interesting I would rush out to see The Demon’s Rook as soon as possible. It’s a lot of fun.
The Demon’s Rook [Review]
While not perfect, The Demon’s Rook is different, crazy and FUN. If you are looking for something that is unlike the current crop of safe found footage, rebooted crap out there; look no further!