Scott Valentine’s Other Over-Sexed Demon Feature: To Sleep with a Vampire (1993)

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As Boomer mentioned in our Swampchat discussion of April’s Movie of the Month, the romantic horror comedy My Demon Lover, the film’s star Scott Valentine had struck it somewhat big as a bad boy heartthrob on the televised sitcom Family Ties, but mostly failed to convert that success into a long term film career. It wasn’t for lack of trying, though. Valentine had a long string of starring roles in minor titles throughout the 80s & 90s, but his turn as the titular monster in My Demon Lover would mark the high point of a career that never truly took off. Topping out with My Demon Lover might help explain why the actor later returned to the antiheroic position of romantic love interest/supernatural threat in the straight-to-VHS oddity To Sleep with a Vampire six (six six) years later. To Sleep with a Vampire & My Demon Lover are two vastly different films working in two entirely separate genres (the erotic thriller & the romantic comedy, respectively), but Scott Valentine’s starring roles as the dangerous, titular love interest in both works serve as a clear connecting piece between them.

Some of the genre markers of To Sleep with a Vampire are seemingly at war with themselves. The film opens with Scott Valentine stalking back alley as if he were the brooding antihero in a self-serious neo-noir, immediately announcing himself as a vampiric threat. Once the film shifts gears, Valentine does his brooding in a cheap strip club, revealing the film’s true nature as a sleazy erotic thriller. To Sleep with a Vampire commits a little too earnestly when it reaches the strip club, indulging in so many passionless strip teases that it started to feel like a strange, vampiric modernization of the Ed Wood-penned “classic” Orgy of the Dead. Thankfully,the film eventually moves on and blossoms as being . . . actually pretty great? Valentine’s vampiric sex demon materializes at a sleazy strip club not only to oggle, but to search for a potential victim, one he finds in a down-on-her-luck stripper who is hopelessly suicidal due to an estranged relationship with her young son. The stripper, who’s essentially hit rock bottom on this particular night (and, thus, more attractive to her vampire predator, since killing someone suicidal is justifiably more ethical), is convinced to follow the bloodthirsty beau back to his bachelor pad (lair?) to discuss the delicacies of mortality until he plans to feast on her blood just before sunrise. Eventually, they bone.

A straight-to-VHS triviality produced by Roger “The Best There Ever Was” Corman, To Sleep with a Vampire is far more entertaining than it has any right to be. At times threatening to devolve into a deeply misogynistic masturbation fantasy for immature man-children, the film gradually reveals itself to be something much more poignant. Its all-in-one-night plot structure eventually morphs the film into something of a glorified stage play (from way, way, way, way off Broadway) akin to Steve Guttenberg’s passion project PS Your Cat is Dead. It’s far from the vampiric romance of titles like The Hunger, Near Dark, Only Lovers Left Alive, Innocent Blood, or A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night in terms of quality, but there’s still an interesting back & forth in the film’s understanding of gender politics through a vampiric lens & Scott Valentine’s monstrous heartthrob really does have great chemistry with his sex worker victim (Charlie Spalding) despite the predatory aspect that relationship dynamic implies. This is an atmospheric work where the gloomy, horny atmosphere is often undercut by an overbearing sense of camp, but it’s a compromised formula that works surprisingly well. In particular, the objectively bad acting of the two leads makes their overwrought characters seem all the more “human”. In a more tongue-in-cheek work, the exchange “Tell me about the daylight. How does the sun feel on your skin?” “How the hell should I know? I work nights,” might’ve been worthy a hearty eye roll, but the deadpan performances sell it wholeheartedly here.

That’s not to say that To Sleep with a Vampire is anything more than a campy trifle. There’s plenty to scoff at here: the black & white vampire cam, the titular antihero’s oversensitive concern with vampire stereotypes, weird exchanges where the mismatched protagonists become physically a combatitve & then immediately make out, an inevitable love-making scene that nearly outdoes The Room in sheer audacious cheese, etc. However, the movie still has a surprising emotional weight to it, especially in its exploration of the vulnerability in following a complete stranger home for casual sex. Scott Valentine also shows a surprising amount of range here. His two portrayals of sex-obsessed demons could not be more different. In My Demon Lover he’s pure cartoonish id, not unlike a murderous version of Rik Mayall’s performance in Drop Dead Fred. In To Sleep with a Vampire he goes full Batman in his performance (this was the Tim Burton era of the character’s popularity spike, mind you): gruff, brooding, misunderstood, conflicted. Again, it’s difficult to discern which is the better film out of To Sleep with a Vampire & My Demon Lover because they are so artistically disparate (and so politically regressive in their own unique ways), but both are transgressively entertaining in an odd way & both do their best to showcase Scott Valentine’s talents as a dangerous bad boy sex symbol. My Demon Lover is more readily recommendable to potential Scott Valentine fetishists in its (minor) cultural significance & its commitment to let the actor run wild, but To Sleep with a Vampire features the 80s semi-icon wearing only a pair of leopard print bikini briefs on a moonlit beach, so who’s to say which is more essential in that regard? Either way they compliment each other nicely & they’re both worth a watch for the shlock-inclined.

For more on April’s Movie of the Month, the 1987 romantic horror comedy My Demon Lover, check out our Swampchat discussion of the film, this look on how it reflects the work of director Ate de Jong, and last week’s unlikely, uncomfortable look at how it compares with Harold Ramis’s 2000 remake of Bedazzled.

-Brandon Ledet

Bedazzled (2000) as the Gender-Swapped My Demon Lover (1987) of My Nightmares

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During our Swampchat discussion of April’s Movie of the Month, the romantic horror comedy My Demon Lover, I proposed than a potentially interesting way to remake the film for a modern audience would be to swap the genders of its protagonists. In the 80s version there’s something really off-putting about the idea of a crass man who turns into a literal, life-threatening demon every time he becomes horny. When the film tries to make you root for this demonic loverboy’s romantic connection with a schleppy, single woman trying to make it on her own in The Big City all you can do as an audience is scream for the love interest to run for her life. There’s a predatory aspect to this gender dynamic that I think could be entertaining in the context of a raunchy modern comedy if the two leads’ genders were swapped. I’m picturing an Aubrey Plaza or an Ellie Kemper transforming into a murderous demon every time they’re turned on and I’m chuckling instead of fighting back the urge to call the police.

The problem is that I have seen a similar concept play out on the screen before in the 2000 Harold Ramis comedy Bedazzled. A remake of a darkly funny Dudley Moore classic, Ramis’s Bedazzled changes up the formula of its predecessor by casting The Devil as (gasp!) a woman, supermodel Elizabeth Hurley to be exact. The plot lines of My Demon Lover & Bedazzled don’t exactly run parallel, but both films do tell the stories of lovelorn losers shaken out of their romantic ruts by the supernatural intervention of eternally-horny demons. Instead of seducing her schleppy victim over the course of several balloon-themed montage dates in Central Park, however, Elizabeth Hurley’s Devil is much more metaphysical in her intervention. She’s not a devil, but The Devil, after all. When recent MOTM vet Brendan Fraser’s geeky office drone wishes of a fellow coworker “Dear God, I would give anything to have that girl in my life,” Hurley’s Princess of Darkness takes him up on the offer. She pressures the foolish wimp into signing a contract that cedes his very soul in exchange for several wishes designed to win his crush’s hearth through magical coercion. Each wish, of course, blows up in the dolt’s face and The Devil takes full advantage of his hubris & naivete.

There’s a little more to the difference between these two films’ central premises than gender-swapped leads & a third party romantic interest. There’s also a major shift here in terms of character likeability. In My Demon Lover the lovelorn schlub Denny is instantly endearing in her down-on-her-luck romantic struggles & the demonic Kaz is revolting in his attempts to woo her. Bedazzled works sort of in the opposite way. Brendan Fraser’s self-absorbed, Nice Guys Finish Last nerd is unlikely to inspire anyone to wish for his happiness and Elizabeth Hurley’s large than life antagonist is, well, devilishly fun to watch. If the two characters had also swapped their allotted screen time, Bedazzled might’ve actually been a campily fun romp with an occasional mean streak. Hurley has a blast here, going through more costume changes than a millionaire drag queen (nurse, meter maid, fashion bitch, etc.) & cheekily intoning lines like, “Most men think they’re a god. This one just happens to be right,” and [in response to the indignation of “You can’t have my soul!”] “What are you, James Brown?” The problem is that nearly every minute without Hurley is an eternity of agony. Only the most devoted of Brendan Fraser fanatics could possibly stomach all seven or so versions of him on display here. As he cycles through personalities like dimwitted basketball player, oversensitive poet, and Colombian drug lord, each more broad than the last, it’s easy to see why in his heyday his comedic stylings were mostly relegated to children’s media where he could find reasons to wind up shirtless.

There’s a lot more going against Bedazzled than just the imbalance of Hurley & Fraser screen time. As soon as several racist, offensively lazy gags play over the opening credits, its easy to tell that this isn’t the young, inspired Ramis of Ghostbusters & Groundhog’s Day yesteryear. The film only gets lazier & more insensitive from there and when Fraser appears in brownface as a Colombian drug lord in the first wish segment, I was in shock that I actually saw this piece of shit movie in the theater with my parents as a kid. I don’t think Bedazzled exactly stands as a warning against my desire for a gender-swapped My Demon Lover, though. If anything, Elizabeth Hurley’s horny demon antagonist was the sole bright spot in a film that could’ve used a whole lot more of her sinful charm. Bedazzled is more of a warning that gender-swapping My Demon Lover‘s central characters isn’t enough of an instant fix to patch all of the film’s moral pitfalls. There’s plenty of room for the premise to stumble without the right creative minds to steer the ship. In other words, be careful what you wish for or the results could be a nightmare. Bedazzled taught me that, but perhaps not in the way it intended to.

For more on April’s Movie of the Month, the 1987 romantic horror comedy My Demon Lover, check out our Swampchat discussion of the film, and last week’s look on how it reflects the work of director Ate de Jong.

-Brandon Ledet

Why Wasn’t My Demon Lover (1987) Directed by Ate de Jong?

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There’s something a little off about My Demon Lover director Charlie Loventhal’s filmography as listed on IMDb. Loventhal seems to have a small string of slightly-edgy rom-coms that fit in with half of My Demon Lover‘s basic appeal but what about the magical, demonic half that makes My Demon Lover unique within that genre? There’s no element of fantasy or mysticism immediately detectable in the rest of Loventhal’s work, which makes My Demon Lover feel like something of an outlier in his catalog. I feel like I have encountered a director before who was working well withing My Demon Lover’s wheelhouse, though, and oddly enough it was someone we’ve covered here for a previous Movie of the Month.

Last summer Britnee presented the straight-to-VHS action fantasy Highway to Hell as a Movie of the Month selection. Everything about Highway to Hell, from the creature design to the sex obsession to the cartoon humor to the general sense of where it belongs in the VHS era, fits right in line with My Demon Lover‘s lighthearted approach to demonic black magic. The only thing missing from the film’s formula is Bugs Bunny charm of My Demon Lover‘s titular heartthrob Beelzebub, Kaz (played by Family Ties‘s Scott Valentine). However, the same year he released Highway to Hell, director Ate de Jong also unleashed his most noteworthy contribution to cult cinema: Drop Dead Fred. In Drop Dead Fred deceased funnyman Rik Mayall plays a child’s obnoxious imaginary friend that’s downright demonic in his pure id sense of humor & anarchy, a perfect mirror to My Demon Lover‘s Kaz, right down to the oversized blazer. There’s even a rom-com structure to Drop Dead Fred not too dissimilar to the schleppy lady protagonist Denny’s in My Demon Lover. In Loventhal’s catalog My Demon Lover feels almost entirely out of place. Among Ate de Jong’s releases in just the year of 1991, it fits just like a glove.

I’m not sure exactly how to think about this connection. It’s tempting to assume that because My Demon Lover was released a few years ahead of its Ate de Jong counterparts that the film served as some sort of inspiration for what was to follow. That feels unlikely, though. My Demon Lover, Highway to Hell, and Drop Dead Fred all feel like the kinds of films made purely for their supposed marketability, not necessarily with any specific artistic merit in mind. These are not the works of highfalutin auteurs. What I can say for sure, though, is if you enjoyed My Demon Lover & are searching for similar works centered on the same kind of VHS-specific, goofy demonic aesthetic, looking to director Loventhal’s other titles is a step in the wrong direction. I’d suggest instead that you start with de Jong’s 1991 output in Drop Dead Fred & Highway to Hell. If you had told me de Jong directed My Demon Lover I would’ve shrugged  & said “Duh.” based on those two films alone. Together as a trio, they seem to complete a picture crafted by a single artistic mind (in the trashiest sense of that phrase), even though they truthfully have very little to do with one another.

For more on April’s Movie of the Month, the 1987 romantic horror comedy My Demon Lover, check out our Swampchat discussion of the film.

-Brandon Ledet

Movie of the Month: My Demon Lover (1987)

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Every month one of us makes the rest of the crew watch a movie they’ve never seen before & we discuss it afterwards. This month Boomer made ErinBrandon, and Britnee watch My Demon Lover (1987).

Boomer: I think that this was bound to happen sometime, and I’m pretty sorry that it happened with regards to a Movie of the Month that was my suggestion: My Demon Lover is not as much fun as a rewatch as it was in my memory. The male love interest comes across much more low-key predatory than I remembered, and the love story overall suffers as a result. Still, the two lady leads are just as likable as I remembered, which helped make this a more tolerable experience than it otherwise could have been.

My Demon Lover tells the story of Denny (Michele Little), a perpetual loser who falls for crappy guys like her latest man, who leaves her on her birthday for having the audacity to want to throw a party for herself. How dare she?! Her best friend Sonia (Gina Gallego) is a modern woman with lots of lovers and no boyfriends, an occasional psychic who runs a new age store. After an encounter with lovelorn loser Charles (Xena alum Robert Trebor, virtually unrecognizable without his trademark beard), Denny is ready to give up on men, until she has a charisma-free meet cute with horndog Kaz (Scott Valentine), a homeless man that she immediately takes into her home. Although there are a lot of problems with this scenario, the narrative focuses on one in particular: Kaz was cursed by the mother of a girl with whom he was sexually experimenting in middle school. As a result, when he becomes aroused, he turns into a monster called a pazatzki, complete with scaly prosthetics and monstrous claws. As a series of murders of young women rack up and are attributed to a serial killer dubbed “The Mangler,” Kaz starts to wonder if he is the one at fault. Sonia has a vision that implies he is, and everything comes to a head in a random castle that appears to be smack in the middle of Central Park.

Debuting at number ten on the week of its release and then quickly falling off of the box office charts, My Demon Lover netted nearly two million dollars in its first week despite not being a particularly good movie. Part of the reason for this was that Valentine was a bit of a hot item at the time, having garnered attention for his portrayal of Nick Moore, the boyfriend of Justine Bateman’s character on eighties sitcom standard Family Ties, appearing in 44 episodes. The character was so well-received, in fact, that there were three separate attempts to spin him off into his own show, titled The Art of Being Nick. One script idea made it all the way to the pilot stage, where Nick’s new love interest was played by Seinfeld star Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and his sister was played by future Buffy mom Kristine Sutherland. Nick’s grandfather in the pilot was portrayed by Herschel Bernardi; Bernardi’s sudden death, combined with NBC’s hesitation to let Valentine leave Family Ties, led to the series not being picked up.

Despite the fact that his character in the film commits lots of micro-and macro-aggressions (including grabbing women on the street like an eighties YouTube pickup artist), Valentine himself has a lot of charm. Little is also very likable as the put-upon Denny, even if the character reads as a parody of unlucky eighties leading ladies. Gallego’s Sonia stands out in her role as the unapologetically sexually liberated modern woman, bringing warmth and sincerity to a role that one would expect to see treated more critically in a film of this era. These are all characters that would have been more successful in a movie wherein the leading man didn’t start out as such an unrepentant creep, and it’s a testament to Valentine’s likability as an actor that Kaz seems at all redeemable, given the aggressions cited above. It’s too bad that what could have been his breakout performance ended up burying him and relegating him to guest appearances in things like Lois & Clark, JAG, and Walker, Texas Ranger.

What do you think, Brandon? Are the likable characters who populate this film charismatic enough to partially cover the more unlikable elements here, or are the performances just adhesive bandages on a fatal wound?

Brandon: I do think you’re being a little harsh on My Demon Lover as a whole, but I can also see how a rewatch could make you cringe pretty hard. The opening stretch of the film constantly, confrontationally raises the essential question “Aren’t you supposed to like the male lead in a romcom? Or at least be able to tolerate him?” The demon lover hobo at the film’s center is a walking, breathing personification of street harassment, the kind of scummy cretin who must’ve scattered & disappeared when Giuliani cleaned up Times Square in the 1990s. My Demon Lover presents the most salacious version of NYC we’ve covered since former Movie of the Month Crimes of Passion & its male romantic lead thrives in its grimy, sex-soaked environment, often as a deadly threat for women navigating the city alone at night. You’d think that a romcom that begins with a man who turns into literal demon when he gets aroused & puts the women around him at risk would have virtually no chance of bouncing back, but My Demon Lover somehow pulls it off. A lot of this has to do with, as Boomer points out, the lady schlub charms of Denny as the demon lover’s love interest, but I somehow was also won over by the demon lover himself before the end credits rolled, a completely unexpected turnaround.

I think I can pinpoint the exact moment my opinion changed on the demon lover Kaz. There’s a really sweet, impossibly vapid falling-in-love montage where the devilish sex fiend learns the meaning of intimacy over a series of Big City dates with Denny that include props like hotdogs, park benches, and balloons. At this point it becomes kind of tenderly sad that Kaz can never become aroused by a woman without becoming a physical threat. It’s an affliction that keeps him from knowing the simple pleasures of romance and helps to explain how his sexuality remains predatory & juvenile without any chance for positive growth. The movie later does a lot of damage control to further repair the demon lover’s character by making his demonic form sort of cartoonishly pathetic & also making it explicitly clear that (huge spoiler) the serial Mangler murders were not his doing. However, it’s silly moments in his getting-know-Denny stretches that first began to redeem the poor little devil in my eyes. In those moments Kaz’s behavior seemed less monstrously brutal & more in line with obnoxious, emotionally stunted, magical characters like Drop Dead Fred.

Erin, you & Britnee both called the narrative twist of the real Mangler’s identity long before the movie revealed the true killer. Do you think that the murder mystery aspect of this film was a mistake, delaying how long it would take to learn to love the demon beau as a cursed goofball? Or was the act of gradually changing your mind on Kaz’s merits as a love interest more entertaining than the film would’ve been as a straight romcom fantasy? What does the Mangler murder mystery add or take away from My Demon Lover’s campy charms?

Erin: You know, I think that the kitchen sink nature of My Demon Lover is part of its appeal.  The movie would function without the mystery of The Mangler, and it would be a perfectly sweet monster-flavored romcom.  I do think that including The Mangler allows for an edge – it gives Kaz’s initial characterization a tinge of danger.  Though he is completely disgusting in his own right, the implication that he is murdering women in the streets makes his meet-cute (meet-gross?) with Denny so much more troubling.  We as an audience already know that she has terrible luck with relationships, and even without being led to believe that he is a blood crazed slasher it seems like a terrible idea for her to keep speaking with him and letting him sleep on her sofa.  Adding The Mangler’s subplot gives the redemption story a stronger and sharper flavor, as we end up having to cover so much more ground to see Kaz as a protagonist.  Instead of zero to hero, it’s like he’s starting at -50.

On the other hand, starting the movie with the implication that Kaz is The Mangler makes the second act of My Demon Lover really jarring and awkward at times.  It’s hard to enjoy sappy love montages and gratuitous makeouts when you have the unsettling feeling that an ingenue is going to be slaughtered in her sleep.  The nightly murders and rising hysteria about The Mangler are also at odds with the main plot of two goofy kids falling in love.  I’m not sure if the incongruity is intentional, or if watching My Demon Lover in 2016 increases the gap in mood.  I think that audiences today might be more sensitive to the portrayal of violence towards women in cinema.

It’s hard to choose the strangest element of My Demon Lover, though.  The magical rules seem inconsistent, with Kaz’s pazzazion manifesting in a thousand different ways.  Denny’s friend Sonia is inexplicably the best character in the movie, and for some reason sleeping with the DA.  The NYPD are following a procedure unknown to any police force in the world.  The balloon budget is strangely high.

Britnee, what do you make of My Demon Lover? What aspect of the movie caught your attention, the romcom elements or the monster movie side?  Do the production values of the movie detract from its charm or add to it?

Britnee: I honestly didn’t expect My Demon Lover to be much different than the other hundreds of campy 80s comedies out there, but it actually does a great job standing out on its own. At first, the film didn’t seem like it was going to be anything but a cheeseball comedy about a fruit burger-eating airhead that falls for a perverted homeless guy who may or may not be a killer demon. Thankfully, things become much more interesting as the film goes on.

The monster movie and romcom elements of My Demon Lover come together to create a rare combination that makes for one hell of a memorable flick. I think that the romcom features of the film stood out more for me than the monster movie elements. If all of that demon jazz was taken out of the film, I think it would still be just as wacky and entertaining. It seems as though we all agree that Kaz is not your average romcom heartthrob, and I think that’s what made this such an amusing experience. I actually found Kaz and Denny to be very annoying lead characters, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Their ridiculously irritating traits make them a hilarious, dynamic duo. Denny’s lack of self-respect and poor life choices mixed with Kaz’s disturbing mannerisms and erratic personality work very well together. I remember thinking, “God, these people suck, but is that why I’m laughing so hard right now?” while watching the film. This is the stuff that romcoms are made of.

As for the film’s production values, I would have to say that the film benefits from its cheap qualities. The poorly made demon costumes, Kaz’s limited wardrobe, and, as Erin previously mentioned, the large amount of balloons adds to the movie’s comical value. My Demon Lover wouldn’t have been half as much fun if it was some fancy schmancy high-quality production.

Boomer, of all the strange happenings that occur in My Demon Lover, the portion of the film that takes place in the Belvedere Castle in Central Park caught me off guard more than anything else. It seemed very displaced. Did you feel as though this part of the film seemed like a completely different movie? Also, if you had to choose a different location for The Mangler’s lair, where would it be?

Boomer:  I have to admit that, up to this very moment when I looked up “Belvedere Castle,” I had no idea that there really was a castle in Central Park. I thought that the Central Park castle was a total fabrication! With that knowledge, I’m a little more forgiving of the film’s climax (sorry) for taking place there. It still doesn’t quite work for me, but I can see what the intent was. Just as the vaguely racist “Romanian curse” enacted on a modern man draws a line of connection between the sexpolitik of the Old World and the contemporary one of the film, so too does a climactic castle rooftop showdown with modern weapons (and a little shaggin’ to make the magic happen). Still, you’re absolutely correct, Britnee, in that it doesn’t feel quite right.

I think a more industrial or warehouse location showdown would have been better suited to the film’s aesthetic and its placement in then-modern New York. At the time of the film’s production, it would have been impossible to predict the rise of Giulianni and the Disneyfication of New York that would follow in his wake (Times Square Red, Times Square Blue by Samuel Delany is essential reading to understanding this dichotomy). My Demon Lover is like a time capsule from the real New York, and diverting the narrative to such an Old World location when the story could have had a meatpacking district fight sequence or a battle of wills at a dead subway stop (just think of the passing trains and the potential for interesting lighting schemes!) would have been more in line with the presentation of the city up to that point. There are arguments to be made for shooting in either atmosphere, but I really would have loved to see more of 1980s NYC and its eccentricities (Fruit burgers! Occult shops with weapons that can actually kill a demon!) rather than a locale that seems almost formulaic, even for such an oddball flick.

Brandon, raunchy comedies seem to be popular in brief cycles, with watershed sex flicks like Porky’s, American Pie, and Forty Year Old Virgin inspiring imitators and followers for a few years before the madness dies down and the fields of film are left fallow to allow the next hit to germinate. Do you think that, in the wake of the bro-aggrandizing movies of the past few years (like Neighbors), a modernized remake of My Demon Lover would have the chance to reach a wide audience in the way that the original did not? And, if you were drafting a script for it, would you keep Kaz’s street harassing ways intact (all the better to discuss the issue and create a stronger arc) or forego that character trait altogether (making him a more sympathetic lead from the outset)?

Brandon: It’d be interesting to see a script take a thoughtful, pointed jab at hyper-masculine sexuality through this film’s formula. It could maybe even update Kaz’s toxic sexual persona with recent targets of online feminist social commentary: “manspreading”, “negging”, commands like “You should smile more!”, etc. The truth is, though, that a satirical comedy with ambitions that high would have to toe a thin line to succeed.

A much easier way to update My Demon’s Lover‘s formula would be to swap the genders of its protagonists. My favorite raunchy sex comedies of the past few years have been the ones lead by women. Films like Appropriate Behavior, Wetlands, The Bronze, The To Do List, Bachelorette, and (to a lesser extent) Trainwreck have breathed fresh air into a stale format by making its overgrown, oversexed adult children women for a change, which has been an exciting development when it’s done right. I know it’s not a sex comedy, but consider, for instance, Paul Feig’s upcoming Ghostbusters reboot. In almost every scenario a new Ghostbusters film sounds entirely unnecessary & gratuitous, but with that cast of talented women on board, it actually sounds like it might be kind of worthwhile?

Erin, picture for a moment My Demon Lover with Denny & Kaz’s roles reversed. Kaz is a bumbling nerd who always seems to attract emotionally abusive women & Denny is an oddball love interest who turns into a literal monster every time she gets horny. Would this gender reversal change the film’s fabric in an essential way or would their dynamic remain just as off-putting?

Erin: Oh man.  A gender flipped My Demon Lover might be a lot to process even for modern audiences.  I have two thoughts on switching the genders of Kaz and Denny (could we keep the names? probably?).  I’m also going to assume that you mean a full gender-flip, and that The Mangler is also going to be a female character.

First, I think that a gender flipped My Demon Lover would be a hard sell for the same reasons that other raunchy, female-led comedies seem to struggle.  American audiences are still coming to terms with actresses having full comedy range – comediennes are criticized for being pretty, and therefore unable to be funny, or being funny because they are unattractive and have nothing else going for them, and who wants to watch or listen to an unattractive woman, or trying too hard to be “one of the boys” with gross-out humor, or being unrelatable because their humor is about female experiences, or just being unfunny because women obviously have no sense of humor.  As difficult as it is for an audience to get behind Kaz as a protagonist (and he starts pretty freakin’ low), I think that it would even more difficult to make the turn around for a female character who’s meet cute involves digging through trash and spewing half-chewed food at their romantic lead.  There’s also a lot more judgment leveled at women who are unabashed horn dogs.

Secondly, I think that it might be more difficult to hold the tension that My Demon Lover has with its Mangler plotline.  We still have a hard time convincing the general public that men can be the victims of sexual or violent assault by women.  I’m not sure that audiences will see a female Kaz’s butt-grabbing crawl through Manhattan as the same kind of inappropriate as the male Kaz’s.  The only edge that My Demon Lover has is with the early implication that Kaz is The Mangler, and it could be very difficult to convince audiences that The Mangler’s brand of slash-and-dash is being performed on male victims by a woman, pazzazed or not.

That being said, I think that if the right director came along with the right vision, a gender flipped My Demon Lover would be interesting.  I can’t imagine that it would be worse than the original.  I’m actually pretty curious to see the redemption plot line work out with a gross-out, uber-horny lady lead and a thoughtful, cutie pie dude.  I think that the only way to fix some of the issues that I list above is to push them in public arenas, to familiarize audiences with new concepts and characterizations.  So throw in a few lessons with everything else in My Demon Lover, I’m not sure that you could possibly hurt it any more than it hurts itself.

I think my final assessment of My Demon Lover is that its goofiness makes it fun, but that some of the sexual politics are dated enough to make it uncomfortable to watch.  What do you think, Britnee?  Am I over analyzing a movie that’s intended to be funny and gross and inappropriate, or is there anything to be gained from talking about the parts that came across strangely when we watched the movie?

Britnee: I don’t think that you’re over analyzing this film at all. Yes, My Demon Lover is a total cheeseball of a movie, but the parts of the film that involve Kaz being a total perv are really obnoxious. Kaz’s inappropriate behavior towards women doesn’t add to the film’s comic value like I’m sure it was intended to, but being that this film was released in 1987, this wasn’t too much out of the norm. It’s interesting to think of what the response to the film would be like if it was a current release. I doubt that many viewers would walk out of theaters or pop the DVD out of their players, but I’m sure it would piss off a hell of a lot more people now that it did in ’87. It’s refreshing to know that we all felt discomfort in Kaz’s behavior in the film’s beginning. It’s a sign that the times are changing (though not quickly enough).

All that aside, My Demon Lover was a blast. Any time a film can make you laugh out loud as much as this flick made me, it must mean that something was done right.

EPSON MFP image

Lagniappe

Britnee: When I first heard the film’s title, I couldn’t help but think of how amazing Judas Priest’s “Turbo Lover” would be if “Turbo” was replaced with “Demon.” It would be a great song for the film’s credits.

Boomer: I’d like to voice my support for a gender flipped MDL, and nominate the following: Grant Gustin as Denny and Kat Dennings as Kaz. I’d like to vary up the whiteness of the original film, but putting a POC in either of these roles seems inappropriate (given the real historical and racist oversexualization of WOC in the West). I’ve voiced my general distaste for Emma Roberts in many of my writing projects, but I feel that she could pull off the role of The Mangler with more subtlety than Robert Trebor does here. I’d cast Michael B. Jordan as Sonia (Sonny?) and replace the irascible police chief with Michelle Rodriguez. Plus, because I seriously wish she was in everything I watched, Angela Bassett as Fixer. 

Erin: It must have been a lot of fun to do the monster effects in My Demon Lover.  It looks like the effects team had a pretty long leash and enjoyed every gross minute of it.

Brandon: I’m just going to piggyback on what Erin’s saying here. The visual effects in those demonic transformations are of the highest, almost Rick Baker-level quality. I was surprised to see Britnee call the demon designs “poorly made” since that’s just about the only thing on display not shoddily slapped together. I particularly like the detail of Kaz’s ears being sucked inside his skull in that first transformation. I might forget large chunks of My Demon Lover in the coming years, but those ears receding into his head will likely haunt me forever & they were the first thing that stuck out to us as a crew when we watched the film’s trailer (which is a work of art unto itself).

Upcoming Movies of the Month:
May: Brandon presents Girl Walk // All Day (2011)
June: Britnee presents Alligator (1980)
July: Erin presents [TBD]

-The Swampflix Crew