Demons of the Mind (1972)
Opinion & writing by Tony Frame.
This is another of Hammer’s films I had never seen before, so I went into watching it knowing absolutely nothing about it, nor did I read the blurb prior to putting the DVD into the machine.
Set in the early twentieth century, the story surrounds a brother and sister (both young adults) who are imprisoned in their stately home by their domineering father.
A killer is also on the loose in the nearby woods and the restless villagers are keen to catch the culprit.
IMAGES COURTESY OF IMDB
What unfolds is a tale dealing with possession, incest and psychokinesis, all of which are laboriously drawn out over the course of the entire film.
And whilst these ideas and the story may look interesting on paper, the execution of them in the film itself stops well short of what we would come to expect from other horror movies in the seventies.
It is the sort of film that De Palma or Cronenberg would have had a field day with – the themes within the story certainly embodies some of their earliest and strongest work, like Carrie and The Fury, Scanners and The Brood.
Instead, Peter Sykes’ slightly lacklustre direction in the build-up of tension and action means the film never reaches the heights it should.
One could say that he is working from a pedestrian script, written by Christopher Wicking, which seems to be holding back on the violence and horror – possibly due to the censorship guidelines at the time or some other restrictions that were imposed.
The point being is that the film teeters around telling more than it is showing, and cinema is predominantly a visual medium, especially in the horror genre.
SCREENSHOTS GENERATED COURTESY OF TRAILER / HAMMER FILMS ON YOUTUBE
Despite these drawbacks, the performances are pretty good for the most part, although I couldn’t help but feel that it was missing Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee or someone of their stature to lead the way.
Certainly Michael Hordern brings some life to the film as a crazy priest who pops up intermittently ranting and raving and rousing the locals to take action, but even he can’t help fill the gaps enough to animate the rest of the story.
Ultimately it is not one of Hammer’s strongest of films and it’s certainly not one that horror fans nowadays will probably take any inspiration from.
The HD transfer on DVD is excellent and brings out the detail of the sets and actors costumes and I couldn’t see any pixelation in the close-ups – another testament to the care and attention that Hammer Films has put into the 21 DVD disc-set collection
FILM ⭐1/2 DVD TRANSFER ⭐⭐⭐
Director: Peter Sykes