This week’s film is from my good old friend Bill Rebane. I have watched nearly every film of Rebane’s, thanks to my Wicked Wisconsin Wednesday project. But 1983’s The Demons of Ludlow was not on that list. Mostly for the simple reason that it wasn’t set in Wisconsin, though it is filmed there but I only just realised this… SO.
This movie is very much a Rebane production: scantily clad women for no apparent reason other than boobs, a nice dance scene (this time WITH BANJOS!), and really dark lighting so you really can’t tell what’s going on most of the time. The Demons of Ludlow is instead more of a New England tale. Kind of like The Witch but not at all like The Witch.
Set in the town of Ludlow, the little community is celebrating its bicentennial with the arrival of a piano. The instrument came from England, arriving from the family of the man who had founded the town. Joining in the festivities is Debra – the only character in the film whose name I know. Debra is a journalist whose family had once lived in Ludlow before they quickly packed up and left when she was still a young child.
Debra’s fascination with the town comes from the stories that her grandfather has told her. She drags her photographer around telling him stories about the people who died and the awful things that have happened to them. She’s a bit morbid, really, and a bit too obsessed with the piano. This is a majority of the film but when you get to hear “There’s just something about the piano!” 80-odd times, what’s not to like?
During the piano-induction service (go with me here), a couple sneak out of the church to have a bit of a roll in the hay. While the man leaves his girl behind, she is killed by a glowing green hand coming up from the ground. This has no consequence, nor do I believe it’s mentioned again in the film, but it does begin a long series of various people getting killed by ghosts.
After the service, Debra wants some questions answered. She’s a journalist so usually answers to questions is something to strive for. Her main strife is that the piano had once been at Ludlow before, even though no one in the town seems to have mentioned this. Debra thinks this is highly suspicious. I mostly think no one cares.
Later that night, the church pianist is sitting at the table with her daughter, who seems to not be mentally well. The pianist scolds her daughter for her strange ways before taking off to the church for a bit of a solo jam session. Like the hay loft scene earlier, this is a major theme of the film: don’t leave someone alone who probably should be left alone – they die.
The daughter is a bit of a strange one. She cuts off all her doll’s hair, acts like her own mother by scolding the doll, and then tells the doll she’s not allowed to hang out at “the party.” The daughter heads downstairs and sees the table full of ghosts. They all fight over who gets her before deciding its best to share her and kill her all together.
Meanwhile, Debra is filling us in on some really uninteresting news, or lack thereof. Ludlow is one of the few old cities in the area that has very little information on it. But she does know that “Founding-Father Ludlow” (she says this like it’s his title, which okay) was exiled back to England after he had a run in with his townspeople. This left him feeling awfully betrayed. Which makes Debra even more confused why the town would receive a gift from the family of a man who was spurned by them.
But the reverend has a few secrets of his own. He begins talking about “the list” – a group of names of people who are likely to get killed of. While he goes digging for the list in a basement somewhere, his life is attacked while she is left home alone. This isn’t any more interesting than any of the killings in the film, but there is a man on a horse inside the house. Which that is pretty cool. Also noteworthy: a woman gets stoned to death.
Eventually Debra and the reverend team up together. He tells her that the list is filled with names of the people who had a hand in the Ludlow Curse. The curse was put on the families of the people who had chopped of Founding-Father Ludlow’s hands – the ones he used to play his beloved piano. Being descendants themselves, the reverend and Debra know they are in trouble and decide the only way to deal with the danger is to get Founding-Father Ludlow’s ghost out of his piano.
And yes, this is a very bad idea. Especially considering that they know they can just leave the town and be safe. But not much of The Demons of Ludlow makes sense. The mystery doesn’t seem very well thought out, but I can say that out of all of Rebane’s films, this one has less filler than usual. There’s not a whole lot of running around in the dark (though there still are a few minutes, just not a half-hour of it). I thought this might be similar to Blood Beat, which was released in the same year. It’s not as silly as that, but Blood Beat was probably more fun.
The Demons of Ludlow was filmed in the same area as Ulli Lommel’s The Devonsville Terror, which is also set in New England and reals with demons/curses and other mystical business. So that’s next week’s film sorted then.