As soon as Demons III: The Ogre cranked up and got past the standard “nightmare” prologue involving a little girl mucking around in a spooky basement and running into something sinister and I saw Tom and Cheryl and their little boy in a car in the Italian countryside, I began flashbacking to any number of other Italian horror flicks. If it’s one thing I’ve learned about Italy from all these movies, it’s that they don’t have Holiday Inns or Mariotts. They have haunted castles. And lots of them.
Cheryl is a famous horror novelist from America and she and her family have come to Italy where she’ll spend her time working on her latest book while Tom and their son will wander around on hiking trips near the castle for the first half of the movie. Then Tom will wander around the second half of the movie pooh-poohing his wife’s complaints about being stalked by an ogre.
Predictably, any reason for the ogre to exist and what it’s doing bothering Cheryl isn’t the only thing that is missing. There’s also the lack of suspense, action, attractive cast, good fashion sense, and a single original thought. Director Lamberto Bava does try to goose us in one scene when he has Cheryl menaced by a cow in the woods. I just pretended that it was the ogre in disguise.
The little girl from the beginning of the movie is of course Cheryl. She has been having this nightmare for about twenty-five years where this ogre in a basement gets her. So what happens when they sack out at the haunted Italian castle? It has the exact same basement as her dream!
Against all common sense, Tom and Cheryl stay at the castle after this revelation. But that wasn’t the worst aspect of the story. As things go further along, it becomes clear that the things that Cheryl is writing in her novel are becoming true. She and Tom realize this and for some reason this causes them a great deal of stress.
If this was happening to any of us though, it would be the best development we could have hoped for. Just whip out the yellow legal pad, the Dixon Ticonderoga, and start writing: “then the ogre decided that his life of bothering the vacationing American family was an empty existence so he signed up for night classes at the community college, got his degree in electronics and began making good money.” Problem solved, movie over.
At the very end of the movie, Tom does ask how Cheryl’s book ended and she said something about how the hero saved the heroine after she killed the ogre, but if that was the case, then what was everyone doing running around hollering like they were all worried? And couldn’t she have written her book so that she wasn’t such a whiner and her husband wasn’t such an insensitive clod?
What I admired about this movie is that somehow it managed to have so little going on, but also managed to explain virtually nothing about what was going on. Why is she having these nightmares? Why is all of this happening to her while she’s at the castle? Why does the ogre have any interest in her in the first place? What was the point of the friendly local woman who may have been some sort of witch? And what about the crazy old guy named Dario who was painting the exact same cocoon with the hand coming out that Cheryl had seen in her dreams?
While most of the movie was spent watching filler like Tom and his kid getting lost while hiking, having a bug get caught in Cheryl’s typewriter, and Tom and Cheryl having a slap fight in the kitchen, the best moments are reserved for when the ogre finally goes into action.
Once the ogre is on the loose (due to some idiotic connection to orchids) Tom rapidly becomes a believer and whacks at the ogre with an axe. That doesn’t do a whole lot, so he turns it up a notch and rolls a barrel full of wine at the ogre. It busts all over him and we gasp as we see the ogre covered in red wine! We all know that ogres go best with white wine!
The ogre is Cheryl’s demon though, so it must be her that ultimately dispatches it. She revs up the Jeep Cherokee Chief and proceeds to run this ogre’s butt over. Then she backs up and runs over it again. Then she drives over it again. By the time you’re running over a stuffed ogre dummy for the third time, it really has lost its effectiveness. You also may question how fearsome an ogre is if it gets defeated by getting involved in a car accident.
This is like an Italian buffet of horror movie ingredients with the haunted house, nightmares, person writing stuff that comes true, and stuffed animal that ends up with icky worms on it. And director Lamberto Bava (A Blade in the Dark) isn’t shy about filling up his plate with everything he can carry!
Bava loads up on the dull stuff though as Cheryl spends the entire movie moaning about her nightmares, Tom doesn’t do anything other than get exasperated with her (obviously he’s only staying with her because of the sweet vacations her book contracts get her) and someone needed to tell the ogre to look both ways before crossing the courtyard.
Plodding doesn’t begin to describe this one and it has to mark not only a low point in the Demons series (though it isn’t actually connected to any of those films), but also in Lamberto Bava movies. It makes you wonder whether the ogre didn’t throw himself in front of the Jeep on purpose.
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