Directed by Curtis Harrington
Written by Steven Karpf, Elinor Karpf
Run Time: 95 minutes
25 Words or Less:
Cute demon-puppy grows up to be a real pain in the ass.
I love 70s TV movies. I’m a child of the 70s so it just makes sense. Sunday afternoons were spent watching in front of the television watching old sci-fi flicks and Saturday nights were usually filled with cheesy “scary” movies like this one. Devil Dog: The Hound from Hell (DDHH)
is a great example of that Saturday evening fare that I remember so well. Decent, earnest acting, a mundane plot, a slow trudge through the middle of the movie, and hilarious special effects in the grand finale.
Richard Crenna, probably best remembered as Rambo’s ex-CO, Col. Trautman, plays Mike Barry, father of Charlie and Bonny, and husband to Betty played by the very pretty Yvette Mimieux. The only other character of note is the Demon Dog itself, “Lucky” (oh, the irony!) portrayed by an adorable German Sheperd puppy, which makes it really hard to be frightened…it’s so damned cute!
Mr. Crenna does a respectable job playing the father of a possessed family who struggles to figure out just what in the hell is going on, all the while questioning his own sanity. The story arch is your typical “slow burn”: a series of strange events that he suspects are related but nobody else will believe him. He finally gets help from an old Ecuadorian shaman (yes, Ecuador!) who explains how to banish the beast back to hell.
Before I start the review, I want to admit that when I first saw this movie as a kid it scared the living crap out of me!
Basically, a weird devil-worshipping cult adopts a dog that is impregnated by the Devil (off screen, thank goodness). You know these guys are EVIL because of their dark sunglasses.
This selfsame cult quickly picks out the unfortunate Barry family as the surrogate host with which to raise the offspring of this demonic union, and sure enough, the next day Mike Barry, father, husband and all around great guy, discovers the family mutt was mysteriously hit by a car. Cue evil laughter? Sure, why not.
It doesn’t take too long before one of the devil worshipers disguises himself as a local farmer and convinces the youngest kid, Bonnie, to adopt the pup. NOW you can cue the evil laughter for sure.
The kids name the dog “Lucky” (!) and everything is going just swimmingly. Little Lucky is so damned cute that absolutely everybody falls in love with it…expect for the Barry’s Latina maid, Maria. Since she comes from Central America (I’m guessing here) she is automatically in-tune with the spiritual realm and tries to warn Mike of a “feeling of evil”. Mike rolls his eyes and takes the family out to dinner leaving Maria alone with DDHH. Uh-oh. Despite her numerous crucifixes, Maria is quickly set ablaze by the pup and, presumably, burns to death in her locked room.
NOTE: Nobody in the Barry family seems to react to this gruesome murder that took place right in their own home. It’s kind of strange, and I get that the plot must keep moving on, but, man…easy come easy go, I suppose.
Cut to the Future and Lucky is now a big grown up dog who doesn’t seem to like Dad too much. In fact, when Mike is working on the lawnmower, the machine starts up “on its own” as Lucky psychically compels Mike to stick his hand in the whirring blades. This scene was intended to be suspenseful with several jump cuts between Lucky and Mike’s hand coming closer and closer to digit removal, but we all know it ain’t gonna happen. See, Mike manages to fight off this unnatural compulsion via an act of extraordinary will power…although he sits with a “what the hell was that?!” look on his face for several moments as Lucky snootily turns tail and walks back inside.
Safety Tip: If you value having 10 fingers, always disconnect the spark plug before working on the underside of a lawnmower! Especially if have evil pets, or even pets you suspect are evil (I’ve had a few cats like that…)
After a relatively normal week, i.e., nobody has been murdered or been forced to insert their extremities in mechanical devices, Dad has to go into work for some overtime. Betty, aka Mom, decides to spend the day with the kids, “There’s a lovely new exhibit at the museum of Haitian art…the kids are going to love it” she says with a totally straight face. (!)
Later that evening, presumably after the visit to the art show (THANK YOU, Mr. Director, for not making me watch that) Bonnie and Charlie are generally acting weird. Make that Really Weird. Make that Probably Possessed by A Demon Weird. At this point, the attentive viewer realizes that Lucky is controlling the kids.
With Mike still at work, Lucky terrorizes poor Betty by telekinetically slamming doors and other Spooky Things, until the, er, terror, climaxes as some pots and pans burst into flame in the kitchen. Betty merely grabs them and tosses them into the sink. Will the suspense ever let up?!
Upon returning home Mike discovers Betty scantily clad in a negligee and smoking a cigarette by the neighbor’s swimming pool, and faster than you can say “Holy Devil Dog Droppings!” she drops her nightgown and hops into the water for a midnight skinny dip. Mike shrugs, strips down to his underwear jumps in as well…(in his underwear…yech!!!). Is Betty possessed as well? You’ll just have to wait and see. (But, duh, yes she is.)
OK, with mom and the kids possessed and under Lucky’s beck and call, the movie devolves into a long sequence of perfunctory “strange events” until the film’s hilarious finale. It turns out Lucky is quite the blood thirsty bastard: he kills the neighbor’s dog, then he kills the neighbor, and after a home visit from the school guidance counselor (now that is scary!), he runs over to the guy’s house and kills him too! Sadly, nothing of interest is ever shown. It’s always “Hey, did you here so-and-so is dead?”…”Oh really?”…”Yeah, look there!”…it’s always just people’s reactions after the event…EXCEPT the devil dog does throw us a bone (ouch, sorry for that one) by revealing itself before whacking the guidance counselor.
No, you’re not seeing things: This is a dog wearing Halloween devil horns and a feather boa.
Anyway, Mike finally admits to himself that Lucky is somehow behind the recent spate of murders and pays a visit to the kindly local demonologist who, after a suitable amount of browsing through musty tomes, explains that the dog might be possessed by a particularly heinous beast called a “barghast”, a “goblin dog” that only appears at night. Yeah, “Barghast” sounds a lot scarier than “goblin dog”, doesn’t it? Let’s stick to that.
You want me to go to Ecuador?!
Cut to Ecuador (!) where Mike takes a cab way, way out into the middle of nowhere and meets with an ersatz shaman who happens to be an expert in Barghast Science. The shaman applies a tattoo to Mike’s palm and describes a ritual he must perform in order to send the demon back to Hell for 1000 years, but maybe at the cost of his own soul. Yeah, that’s a helluva catch, isn’t Mike?
Cut back home…and don’tcha just love jump cuts?…where Mike faces off with the monster in some sort of industrial area…you know the kind…dark, devoid of people…the kind of place that would be perfect for a solo showdown with a Barghast Demon from Hell.
Let’s cut right to it then: Mike holds up his palm which is now glowing, because, yeah.
HOUND FROM HELL!!!
Lightning cracks, thunder rolls, and the demon bursts into flames and goes back to Hell.
That about wraps it up…
Exhausted, Mike heads home and finds his family more or less normal and happy again. Naturally, the deaths of the maid, their neighbor, and the kid’s guidance counselor are never mentioned, nor does it seem to have affected them in anyway. Smiles all around as they pack into the car…
“But what about the other puppies?” asks Charlie
“Let’s just go on vacation,” says Dad with a grin.
Yeah Mike, screw the 5 other families that may have adapted demon dogs as well. It’s not like you could have helped them or anything since you already know how to get rid of the Barghast. Jerk.
Dennis Grisbeck (April 2017)
Like I said, this movie actually scared me as a kid..
Despite my snarky comments (What can I say? Snarky is why you’re here, right?), this silly movie wasn’t that bad. The cast gave their best, and to be honest, the possessed family was kinda creepy from time to time…but still, it was just too little action until the final scene. Make that, no action. The slow burn just didn’t work.
You will never see a dog wearing plastic devil horns and feather boa again, and that makes up for everything else!
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