Imagine an allegedly cursed film that drives its viewers to madness, inciting them to violence and causing numerous deaths and injuries. Writer/director Fabien Delage takes a documentary approach in his film Fury of the Demon (originally titled La Rage du Demon in French) to examine the story behind just such a motion picture.
This film shares its titles with a silent horror short first released on an unsuspecting public in 1897 Paris. This premiere screening led to three deaths. The second known showing, in 1939 New York, led to a riot. The third screening took place in Paris in 2012, when an American film collector named Edgar Wallace invited the city’s top figures in cinematic circles to a mysterious, surprise screening of what he said was a film thought lost. He gave little further information and did not state the title. Once again, mayhem ensued.
Fury of the Demon features interviews with filmmakers such as Christophe Gans (director of Brotherhood of the Wolf and Silent Hill) and Alexandre Aja (director of High Tension and the remake of The Hills Have Eyes), cinema historians, writers and critics, and other important industry figures, along with experts on the occult, to shed light on the mysterious circumstances behind the short film that drove people to madness and death. Some interviewees were eyewitnesses to the 1939 and 2012 screenings, and others were fortunate enough to have missed them.
Rage of the Demon examines different theories, including the belief that the cursed film may have been made by silent film pioneer Georges Melies, who is famous for his magical special effects in the early days of cinema. Melies is said by some cinema scholars to have made the first horror films, and fright fare fans can get a look at clips from some of his short films here. Other historians believe that La Rage du Demon was actually the work of Victor Sacarius, a protege of Melies’ whose own cinematic efforts were so disturbing that Melies broke off relations with the man.
A great deal of intrigue is to be had in this tale that involves conjecture, conspiracy theories, and the supernatural. For example, the only known copy of La Rage du Demon seems to mysteriously disappear for many decades between each screening. Who, if anyone, is responsible for spiriting away the movie after it shows? What are the possible reasons for how the film affects its audiences in such a ghastly manner? Both educated guesses and conspiracy theories are entertained.
Fabien Delage weaves delightful histories of silent cinema, turn of the century occult studies, and the life and work of Georges Melies with his pursuit of what might be behind the supposed curse of the original La Rage du Demon. No matter what viewers think of the horrific stories behind that silent short and the different theories discussed, they will come away with a brief but engaging education on Melies, whose impact on cinematic special effects through the decades cannot be denied.
Much of Fury of the Demon is told in talking heads style, with almost all of the dialogue in French with English subtitles. Scenes from some of Georges Melies’ movies are shown throughout, along with stills of seances and other historical photos.
For the most fun experience watching Fury of the Demon, I recommend that viewers go in doing as little research as possible on both this film and the mysterious silent film after which it is named, and to avoid reading further about the alleged players and circumstances the film depicts. Fury of the Demon is currently on the film festival circuit and I highly recommend that you fit it into your festival-going schedule if you have the chance.
Fury of the Demon: (4 / 5)