Demons and Zombies and Gratuitous Titties, Oh My! If you’re looking for a buffet of blood, guts and gore galore then The Demon’s Rook (and marriage) may be right for you! By no means a flawless film, this gleeful, joyous jaunt through the Indie horror underworld sucks you in and keeps you entertained every flayed scrap of flesh along the way. Starting with a creepily idyllic beginning, the film calls to mind a Texas Chainsaw Massacre-like surreal and stylized saturation. James Sizemore is not only the Hipster Jesus lead, “Roscoe”, in The Demon’s Rook, he’s the writer/director/producer/special effects creator as well and deserves a severed head filled with thumbs all pointed up for his 70’s and 80’s-inspired throwback to fantasy/horror films of gore, I mean yore.
The Demon’s Rook follows Sizemore’s “Roscoe” as he’s visited by elder demon, John Chatham’s “Dimwos” and eventually taken to be educated as a monk-like guardian of the dark mother earth and to act as protector against her bastard children, demons who wanna party like it’s 1999 but, like, also kill people which is totes not cool, amirite guys? After discovering the darkest (and final) secret of his mentor, Roscoe inadvertently releases three demons in his rage that follow him back to the earth above and get to tearin’ shit up, Courtney Love-style. Only Roscoe and his reunited childhood BFF, Ashleigh Jo Sizemore’s “Eva”, stand in the way.
Filmed over two years, on weekends, and with a budget even a shoestring wouldn’t fit on, this cherry-poppin’ labor of love from first-time-feature director, Sizemore, is a testament to what DIY horror can be. It’s best not to focus on the Taylor-Swift-School-Of-Awkward-Acting and instead concentrate on the almost entirely, if not completely, practical effects; which isn’t too hard as you can’t swing a dead co-ed without hitting ropes of entrails and geysers of arterial spray in The Demon’s Rook.
Yeah, there’s an awkward segway with a “Years Later” title card, a distractingly awful and pointless character (Melanie Richardson’s “Barbara”) who serves as nothing more that a focus point for terrible acting, and inconsistent pacing (at times slower than Paris Hilton trying to learn basic math) but every time I think “I’m out”, The Demon’s Rook pulls me back in. You don’t need a big budget to make quality genre horror and this film illustrates perfectly that heart and dedication to the craft can overcome almost any obstacle.
The inconsistent plot (it took forty-seven minutes into the running time for anything to be explained and I was almost as confused as white girls when Pumpkin Spice Latte Season ends for most of those forty-seven minutes), stiff dialogue (stilted and less-than-fluid, it’s a chicken/egg debate on whether the acting was affected by the dialogue or the dialogue not delivered as well as it could’ve been by the slightly wooden finger puppets cast in The Demon’s Rook) and less-than-stellar acting (please see above Taylor Swift School Of Acting For People Who Wanna Learn How To Act Good And Do Other Stuff Good Too reference) are not where this film shines, though nods to the lead Sizemores, Roscoe and Eva, for having relatable chemistry.
All of that and more is forgotten when creepy zombies start to crawl, possessed twenty-somethings start hacking each other to bits and demons start getting their evil on. The Demon’s Rook is an Indie throwback to a bygone era of gore, though a resurgence can be seen in mainstream film, such as Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead, and as an homage to such (just check out the Funhouse-inspired beast) Charlie Sheen’s like none other (read: goes balls to the wall insane). This movie is absolutely a must-see, must-own for discerning genre aficionados looking for a hidden gem, though.
The Demon’s Rook shouldn’t work, but it does. It gives a giant middle-fucking-finger to anyone who says that Indie horror can’t be done and I respect Sizemore and Co. for laying their hearts, quite literally and extremely grossly (seriously just check out the end, like, ew), on the line for it. Pound for pound the best use of dry ice, blood, and guts I’ve seen since I watched that YouTube video on how McDonald’s chicken nuggets are made. I still have nightmares about that. Go on. Watch The Demon’s Rook. You know you want to.