The Demoniacs (1974) by #JeanRollin
A group of sailors rape two shipwrecked sisters who make a pact with the devil to get their revenge.
— Angus Kohm (@AngusKohm) May 29, 2021
The consensus among my friends and acquaintances seems to be that The Demoniacs (1974), or Les Demoniaques (1974), is not Jean Rollin’s best film. I have to agree with that. I would much rather watch The Grapes of Death (1978), The Living Dead Girl (1982) or Requiem for a Vampire (1972), which I just saw for the first time a few months ago. Still, The Demoniacs is notable for a few things.
It was apparently Rollin’s first film with a larger budget. It was a France-Belgium co-production, and was shot on the Island of Chausey in Normandy. It has been called Rollin’s most “atypical film” and I can see why. Instead of the crumbling castles and graveyards of previous films like Requiem for a Vampire and The Iron Rose (1973), The Demoniacs spends a lot of time on the beach, and inside the remains of a wrecked ship. Rollin talked about his desire to make a movie that related to the swashbuckling adventure films of his youth, and with The Demoniacs he has created a story about pirates, or “wreckers”, who lure ships to their destruction on the rocks and then pillage them. The wreckers also gleefully murder any survivors, and in the case of the two sisters at the centre of The Demoniacs, they rape them and leave them for dead. Being a horror film, of sorts. the sisters survive and make a deal with the devil to get their revenge on the wreckers.
You could say that The Demoniacs is more of an unusual rape revenge film than a horror story. There are some weird, surrealistic and perhaps supernatural touches (it wouldn’t be a Jean Rollin film without them, would it?), but it isn’t about vampires or living dead girls – or is it? I must admit that I’m not 100% clear on all of the details. And as with a lot of Rollin films, it’s hard to decide exactly what kind of film it is. In a lot of ways, Jean Rollin is his own genre. Nobody makes movies quite like he does, and I believe that his films are not for everyone. I like to call his style art-house exploitation. Explicit and sleazy, but somehow classy and artistic at the same time. Rollin’s are not the only films to which I might apply this label, but I consider them to be perfect examples. They contain a lot of nudity and sex, and the word “porn” sometimes gets bandied about, but films like The Demoniacs are not porn. To be fair, Rollin did direct some actual hard core porn movies, but The Demoniacs is not one of them. A viewer who goes in expecting it to be porn will discover that it is decidedly soft core. There are a couple of deleted sex scenes on the Kino-Lorber Blu-ray, and if there had been any doubt, these scenes make it clear just how “soft” things really were…
I think most people would agree that the true highlight of The Demoniacs (1974) is the performance of Joëlle Coeur. She does not play one of two shipwrecked sisters, but rather one of the pirates, or wreckers, and she seems to take particular pleasure in molesting and murdering other characters. She also spends a lot of time naked. Coeur had an all too brief career as an actress, appearing in about twenty movies between 1972 and 1976, including I Am Frigid… Why? (1972), Schoolgirl Hitchhikers (1973) and Seven Women for Satan (1976). Exploitation film fans lost a potential superstar when Joëlle Coeur hung up her… um… hat.
Jean Rollin’s films are not for everyone, and The Demoniacs (1974) is a Jean Rollin film that isn’t for every Jean Rollin fan. I will probably never watch it as often as some of his other films, but I believe that it contains enough of his signature touch, as well as other #NotQuiteClassicCinema goodness, to make for a very pleasant #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.