Demon of Paradise (1987)

Demon of Paradise (1987)

It waits underwater…to skin you alive!

Illegal dynamite fishing off the coast of a Hawaiian holiday resort awakens an ancient underwater reptilian creature that then begins killing off the tourists.

 

Part Jaws, part The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Demon of Paradise desperately wishes it were a quarter as good as either of them. It is a rather obscure 80s film which has only recently seen the light of day on DVD, making an unfortunate double-header with fellow aquatic terror Up From the Depths. But after watching, you’ll realise why the film has remained obscure for so long.

That’s because, unsurprisingly, Demon of Paradise is a bit naff. There’s potential to be had in a jokey Mystery Science Theater 3000 kind of way but those looking for serious sea monster action best look elsewhere. The film runs more like Jaws than The Creature from the Black Lagoon. There’s the owner of the local holiday resort desperate to keep it open for business, the scientist who know one will believe and the sheriff tasked with destroying the creature. The presence of a Gill Man substituting for a shark is the only difference but this one seems less interested in carrying off nubile females than it does standing around in the sea growling at passers-by.

Though it’s supposed to be set on the sunny, tropical island of Hawaii, the muddy jungle rivers of the Philippines never allow for that illusion to take place and this ‘paradise’ turns out to be little more than a few shanty huts alongside some pretty sickly-looking water where there are more gangsters doing dodgy dealings in boats than there are water skiers or surfers. Ironically, the best scenes are the night time ones when the fog machine is worked into overdrive. Whilst they could have been filmed anywhere as location in the pitch black is irrelevant, they’re at least effective in trying to do something to generate a bit of atmosphere which is sorely lacking in the rest of the film.

Director Cirio H. Santiago handles proceedings with a general lack of interest in how the final product turns out. The pacing is dreadful, the dialogue is inept, the narrative wanders all over the place and the acting leaves a lot to be desired (they virtually shout at each other all of the time instead of showing any range). In between the infrequent and poorly-staged creature attacks, the film drifts all over the place with a variety of non-characters we have no interest in getting to know. You’ll be bored out of your skull and even the allure of some potential genre requisites (naked chicks and copious gore) will fail to stimulate the pulse.

The second half of the film is the best and I use that word generously. Once the film turns from the main characters trying to persuade the resort owner that there is a problem and shifts into man-against-beast mode as they hunt it down , the pace quickens a bit and there’s a few more action sequences. But these are amusingly silly in the trashy sense rather than memorable for the right reasons. A scene in which the creature leaps up out of the water and attacks a helicopter pretty much sums up the film – ropey and dopey.

The creature is some form of humanoid that looks every bit like the man-in-a-suit it is. It doesn’t do an awful lot either – the creature never seems to interact with its victims whenever it attacks, simply pawing at thin air on many occasions or popping its head in and out of the water, growling at its victim and then submerging itself. No doubt any physical contact with anything other than the water and the two-bit costume would have dropped to bits. The gorgon-like head of the creature gives it a unique appearance amongst it’s numerous mermen counterparts.

In fact the creature causes more explosions than anything else, as various characters suddenly make mistakes in the grip of fear from seeing it and accidentally blow up their boats or huts. When it leaves the water and stays on land for a prolonged period during the finale, the film seems to find its niche. Whilst the scenes of it trying to bash its way through a barricaded hut and chasing people through the jungle are goofy, they’re at least entertaining. Being inexplicably bullet proof adds further levels of absurdity to the film as a platoon of soldiers attempt to hold it at bay with round after round of machine gun fire.

 

Demon of Paradise is trashy 80s exploitation at its dullest and most lifeless. Santiago seems to be as bored making it as the audience will be watching it. Even die-hard lovers of low grade monster movies would be hard-pressed to find something worthwhile here, despite the odd promise of unintentional entertainment.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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