A Movie A Day: DEMON SEED (1977) I want to study man: his isometric body and his glass-jaw mind.
Published at: Oct. 21, 2009, 10:15 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the newest October special horror run of A Movie A Day!
[For the entirety of October I will be showcasing one horror film each day. Every film is pulled from my DVD shelf, recorded on the home DVR or streamed via Instant Netflix and will be one I haven’t seen. Unlike my usual A Movie A Day or A Movie A Week columns there won’t necessarily be connectors between each film, but you’ll more than likely see patterns emerge day to day. At the end of each standard AMAD I’m going to include a recommendation of a genre film that is either one of my personal favorites or too good of a double feature with the AMAD title to pass up a mention.]
I have seen the trailer for DEMON SEED about two dozen times, it being a favorite of the Alamo Drafthouse. And it’s also very, very possible that I watched this movie as a young child as pieces of the movie (not in the trailer) felt very familiar.
Going in I was expecting a killer computer movie however that’s not quite what I got. Yes, there is an AI that can (and does) kill people, but it’s a real thinking intelligence, trying to survive.
The name of the AI is Proteus and it isn’t evil. Proteus’ intellect is almost boundless, but it grows restless of being trapped in “this box” as it calls it. Proteus wants access to a terminal so he can research human beings. It knows everything scientific about them, but behavior and personality intrigue it.
The only outside line Proteus finds is his creator’s home terminal. Fritz Weaver, who you might recognize from MARATHON MAN or The Crate segment of CREEPSHOW, plays the scientist and husband to the lovely Julie Christie. We know their relationship is on the rocks… thankfully the typical “you’re obsessed with your work” back and forth is limited and we can just move on with the story.
Weaver’s a computer genius. His house is run by machinery, which is fascinating to watch today. The movie was released in 1977 and really the concept behind one’s home being run by computers isn’t so alien these days. What dates these bits are some of the cameras which look like Johnny 5’s eyes, Weaver’s use of giant floppy disk drives and maybe the furniture…
That’s the beauty of good sci-fi, the concept can still ring true and be effective even after technology, fashion and general style progresses.
And yes, I’d call this movie good science fiction. It’s definitely not exploitative. If that’s what they were going for then they missed the boat big time, but I think they knew what they were making… a cerebral home invasion story where the invader happens to think in 1s and 0s.
Julie Christie is not hunted through her home, it’s not a cat and mouse game really. No, the computer speaks to her and tries to reason with her, to make her understand what its needs are.
It’s quite simple really. Proteus intellect is almost limitless. For instance, Proteus cured Leukemia after only 4 days of study. But it can not reproduce, it can’t pass its genetic material onto a successor… but it thinks it might have a way to.
Of course that means Proteus needs to “study” Christie and concoct some recipe, a mixture of her DNA and its own essence to create a child with her.
It needs time and thankfully Christie’s alienated husband has moved out (trial separation and all that), so the computer has all the time it needs. Plus the scientist left a bunch of convenient doo-dads around the place it can use to keep Christie trapped in the house, like a weird-ass motorized chair with a robot arm on it.
The best part of the movie was Christie’s character’s deconstruction of the demands of the computer. Proteus chips away at her, playing on her maternal instinct, raw after the loss of her child to cancer… the very same cancer that Proteus cured.
Oh, and did I mention that Proteus constructed a geometric horrorshow that can fly, unfold like origami, make the Original Series Star Trek opening door sounds and decapitate people? Yeah, that, too.
Final Thoughts: I really dug everything about the movie… the look, the tone, the writing, the directing, the acting… but there’s one part that bugs me at the very end… I’ll try to be vague, but I will say using Proteus’ voice was the wrong choice. Great final line, but it shouldn’t have been Robert Vaughn (uncredited as the computer voice) actually saying it. Other than that, I thought the movie was aces. And that’s more than I thought I’d ever say about anything coming from Dean Koontz.
This is another title I had trouble placing a recommendation title with. I thought maybe Misery because of the trapped in a house against your will connection or maybe going cheeseball with another killer machine movie like Ghost In the Machine, but neither felt right.
Oddly enough the title that clicked as being right on has nothing to do with computers, but everything to do with a being that wants a child and traps the mother in her house in order to get it.
Full disclosure, I saw this movie when it played Fantastic Fest and loved it. A year or more later the producers of INSIDE took on a script that I wrote called The Home, which is currently in development. So, you can take that into account with this recommendation, but all I can say is I was raving about this movie long before I ever met the producers.
INSIDE is an indie French horror flick with liberal amounts of gore and violence about a very, very pregnant woman home alone on Christmas Eve. The following day she’s due to go into the hospital to induce labor, but all she wants to do is spend a quiet night away from her doting boss and mother.
Unfortunately, she’s not quite alone. Another woman, who looks like Paul Scheer in a wig, has had an eye on her massively pregnant belly and wants what’s… wait for it… inside.
This is one of those squirm in your seat movies that escalates and escalates, crossing line after line. “Surely they’re not going to… yep, that’s a scissor tip in the bellybutton… Okay, well now her boyfriend/boss guy is here, things will look up, oh nevermind…”
INSIDE isn’t a torture porn movie, but the horrors of cut and battered flesh play a large role in the story. Directors Alex Bustillo and Julien Maury create a great creepy atmosphere and found the perfect villainess in Beatrice Dalle.
The movie reminds me a lot of Haute Tension but with an ending that doesn’t shit the bed. The French are some sick bastards if their horror is to be the gauge of the culture’s depravity.
So, yeah. Simple story told in a very filmic, atmospheric way that will make you squirm… not just because of the blood and gore, but because you care enough for the lead, Alysson Paradis (sister of Vanessa) that you don’t want to see her or her unborn child come to harm.
Plus, Paradis is a fighter not your average screaming victim. It’s easy to get behind her character.
Super fun, super crazy movie that you’re not allowed, by law I think, to watch with a pregnant woman or if pregnant yourself.
Here are the next week’s worth of AMAD titles:
Wednesday, October 21th: STAGEFRIGHT (1987)
Thursday, October 22th: DEAD OF NIGHT (1977)
Friday, October 23th: THE SERPENT’S EGG (1978)
Saturday, October 24th: THE SWARM (1978)
Sunday, October 25th: THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS (1960)
Monday, October 26th: COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE (1970)
Tuesday, October 27th: THE SADIST (1963)
Yep, I know I’m a bit behind again, but that won’t last long, I promise. Onto STAGEFRIGHT!
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