Because I’ve always enjoyed a good horror story, I have accumulated an extensive collection of classic representatives of this literary genre. I tend to read mostly older works, since I cannot seem to find many contemporary authors that are able to construct a proper atmosphere for my liking. For example, you will not find any Stephen King in my library, but plenty of classics like Edgar Allan Poe (my favorite author of all times) or Bram Stoker, and lesser known masters of horror like M.R.James. The latter is the reason I am writing this post.
I discovered M.R.James by pure accident, browsing through some ghost story anthologies. The blurbs on the back covers seemed interesting, so I picked up two of his short story collections published by Penguin: Count Magnus and Other Ghost Stories and The Haunted Doll’s House and Other Ghost Stories. At the moment I am reading the first volume and I cannot get enough. I am going to post a review of the book soon, but today I would like to talk about the only cinematic adaptation of James’ work – short story “Casting the Runes” unfolded on the silver screen as “Night of the Demon”, and starring Dana Andrews and Peggy Cummins.
I have to mention beforehand that the movie first came out in Britain under the title “Night of the Demon”, and had been then released in US in an edited form as “Curse of the Demon”. I had a chance to enjoy the original uncut British version, and I absolutely loved it. It is charmingly black and white; acting is just superb, even when it does get a little corny; music is deliciously dramatic. The demon is hilariously fake, but that never made his scenes any less intense. The story stays rather true to the original; however, I enjoy the small changes made here and there, and find them rather appropriate. For example, I find the ending much more dramatic in the movie, when the demon makes final appearance, rather than just utilizing a bland mention of an accident. I have to say I loved the movie even after reading the book first, and this doesn’t happen very often.
The story follows Dr. Holden, who arrives in London to investigate and to expose Julian Karswell, who claims to possess the knowledge of witchcraft and black magic. Professor Harrington, who has investigated the case before Holden, is found dead under mysterious circumstances, and many suspect Karswell to be behind it. One of the supporters of the theory is professor’s niece Joanna, who is desperately trying to prove to skeptical Holden that in fact he too might be in grave danger. When Holden finally realizes that magic and superstitions might be more real than he suspected, the two race against time to find the way to reverse the curse and stop evil Karswell from causing any more deaths.