Wicked Wednesday: The Demon Murder Case (1983)

Talk about going out with a fart. After a month of (relatively) fun TV movies, we reach the finish line at a crawl with The Demon Murder Case.

On the surface. This movie has all the right ingredients: true crime, supposed demon possessions, and Kevin Bacon. But what’s delivered in a confused and poorly-paced film that I wish I would have napped through.

Slight based on a true story, the movie opens with a young man, Kenny (Bacon), in a courtroom. What has he done? Well, whatever it is the Devil made him do it.

We then jump back to the time before Kenny’s crime. Young Brian is a nice kid, but has become possessed by a demon. His family try to help him by asking btoh the curch and a couple of demonologists (a fictionalised version of the Warrens) to intervene.

Though neither helps. Brian stays possessed. His family become increasingly frustrated, especially Kenny, who can’t seem to hold his temper. Kenny threatens the demon possessing Brian, ignoring the fact that the experts’ explicitly said not to do so.

Kenny is then possessed by the demon himself. While possessed, he becomes jealous of his girlfriend’s new boss – a man who needs help…grooming his dogs? During a party, the boss becomes drunk and harrassess Kenny’s girlfriend. Then “the demon” takes control and stabs the drunk man.

The police later arrest Kenny. The last act of the movie is Kenny’s trial. Honestly, it’s very boring.

The biggest issue I had with this movie was the pacing. For the first half of the film, we’re watching an Exorcist rip-off. Brian’s demon speaks through him using a gravely voice. He injures himself. He said TV-appropriately unappropriate things to his family.

We’re 30 minutes in when Brian’s exorcism begins. The build up is pretty quick. Then we have to forget about Brian (who, by the way, we have no idea if he’s still possessed) and begin focusing on this Kenny character. Kenny, bless Kevin Bacon, is an incredibly boring and unlikable character. The fact that he’s just suddenly possessed is weird.

The trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson (the real murderer) is the subject of the third Conjuring film, which is (hopefully) being released this summer. It will be interesting to see how the story is tackled. Hopefully there is more focus. The issue with the story in The Demon Murder Case is that it is essentially two in one: Brian’s possession and Kenny’s trial (David Glatzel and Arne Cheyenne Johnson in the true tale). By including both, the typical climax, the exorcism, is too near the beginning. All the suspense is spent before the movie is even halfway over.

That being said, the first half of this movie can be visually interesting. At times it’s almost more ambitious than the usual TV move fare at the time. For some reason, these directoral decisions are discarded once Kenny becomes the main focus.

And I do think a story just about Kenny/Arne could be interesting. This is the first case in the US where demonic possession was part of the defence. As I mentioned before, I’m interested to see what happens with the story when it’s in more modern hands.

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