The Master Demon (1991) Review by RevTerry

Demons are tricky mother fuckers. It would seem everyone's demon has a particular set of rules or requirements to be dealt with. It could be a special necklace, some bloodletting or a fucking priest spouting gibberish. You never know, so you have to have to ride it out till it makes a little sense and you can try out some cures. That’s if it ever reveals a weakness. It's always possible the demon cannot be defeated at all or will keep coming back for sequel after sequel until your character dies off and beyond. Worse still, each of the beasts comes packing a unique technique or instrument of torment, with varying degrees of discomfort. Your demon could be the kind that runs around wearing your persona to mess with your folks, a surprise scary face in the mirror at night or the simple version that sticks to pointy metal and violent disfigurement. There are no real rules to how and why you end up with one, but It's not entirely random, because the negative power is personalized by case. It's always perfectly crafted to prove a point. While at the same time, there isn't a predictable merit system or anything to look for. Of course, some people go searching for cursed objects or will invoke an evil presence willingly. But you don't have to do something stupid to summon one or two into your life. If there is some science to it, I can't figure it out. While one person can get a demon that looks like Scott Valentine with a mullet and a tail (possibly annoying but not fatal), others get completely screwed. You could just as easily end up on the wrong side of an evil Kung Fu entity, who only possesses large bald men and calls himself The Master Demon.
Long ago, two mighty warriors were having a death battle for the fate of humanity in a lovely green field somewhere. After some dramatic sparring, the larger combatant, a bruiser with a red gi and some nasty blackheads, appears to best his opponent with a deep cut to the side of his torso. This seems to be the end of the ordeal, but surprisingly, the skinny hero dressed as every member of Van Halen at once jumps up slicing off an appendage with one swipe. The rest of the violent aggressor then disappears, leaving his bloody hand behind as a parting gift (because apparently, that guy was a demon in a colossal human suit that could use the leftover chunk to resurrect himself). Without a pause, the wounded hero hobbles his way towards the local temple. Once he has successfully found a trustworthy looking monk and handed off the gruesome baton for safekeeping, he then mumbles loudly and dies, having saved the world (for now). Centuries later, the modern ancestor of the guardian/hair metal warrior Tong Lee (Eric Lee) has had his sleep disturbed by recent dreams about his great (great, great, etc.) grampa's final exploit. Sometime during the night, it was explained to him that the entity known as Master Demon (Gerald Okamura), once again, will walk the earth. What's more, being the "white warriors" kin, it's Tong’s job to stop him this time using the family sword. Sure enough, across town, a convoluted, unlucky series of events involving burglary, an artifact dealer with lousy timing and Pugsley on steroids has awoken the demon and set things in motion. Incomplete, the diabolical being dispatches his best woman from the nether-realm--a muscle-bound blond, lightly wrapped in leather, named Medusa (Kay Baxter Young) to locate his missing limb now in a dusty box with a flesh-colored hockey puck. Sooner or later, this all lands at disheveled PI Cameron's (Steve Nave) doorstep, and in turn attracts the attention of his creepy cop homie Wayne (Sid Campbell). After meeting Tong, the two are skeptical of the whole immortal evil part but sign up for the chance to punch randos without so much as a handshake to signal the newly formed team. Various displays of martial arts, bromance, and sloppy dialogue follow as the heroes race to stop the demonic threat and ultimately save the world. Also, Wayne gets an extended sex scene that is about as sensual as his greasy lip hair.
An epic of no-budget trash hopped up on John Carpenter sized ambitions, The Master Demon is essentially an American made, 90s love letter to outlandish Kung Fu cinema and buddy-cop action flicks. Whenever possible, it recreates the feel of martial arts related b movies, cracks and all. Some of the more isolated scenes nail the motif to the point that it feels like they were lifted from older films, Godfrey Ho style. It's aware, filled with gags, and proud of its cornball nature but never in full parody. With drug trip insanity, it takes itself seriously enough to elicit unintentional laughs when characters aren't getting punched or acting crazy. At face value, it feels like an earnest attempt to tribute the greats by a fan who has only seen the films dubbed on VHS while high and then filled in the blanks from cartoons later. However, there is a huge inspiration from Big Trouble in Little China (1986) in both the content and the approach. This goes as far as some shameless use of copied moments that are only slightly altered to fit the scope. I think the private detective is supposed to be a neo-noir Jack Burton, but with the scale and internal dialogue, it comes out more along the lines of Cody Abilene (from Malibu Express, 1985) mixed with a confused John Ritter. In place of a setup, half explained tangents play out in sequence as if from two different films. The only relationship building within the trio comes when the martial artist progeny breaks through the slacker PI's window dressed like an Easter Sunday-Morrissey circa 1993, and the mustached guy shows up afterward to ask about the ruckus. That's it. Once they have briefly greeted or reintroduced themselves, it's time for adventure, and shit hits the fan. The magic and time-travel, concocting some good adventure tones from babble, remind me of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993) for some reason. I mean that it in the best way possible, like when I first watched it as a kid, not like those two times I have tried to watch it since. It's all pretty stupidly engaging and provides enough random weirdness to stand out as its own thing, despite being a heap of recycled schlock.
More spunk then actual resources, The Master Demon is at its technical best when people are getting beat up. For all its silliness (intentional or otherwise), it throws a pretty good fight scene in every once and a while and nails the vibe on some of the throwback material. It's not Sonny Chiba caliber shit, but somewhere between The Karate Kid (1984) and Walker Texas Ranger. The skilled showcases would feel out of place with the rest of the film's quality if it didn't awkwardly cut to zany antics at random. In the final quarter of the run time, practical gore starts showing up and gets gradually more extreme as the film concludes. All the bloodshed is relatively well done and brazenly announces itself for cheesy shock values. To illustrate the demon’s hold over a vessel, Gerald Okamura’s body is shown breaking down through facial prosthetics. In one instance this means Trypophobia inducing wounds and later an almost full transformation into Jay leno, both equally scary. The neon-colored, drawn-on lightning effect from The Golden Child (and Big Trouble, I just didn't want to mention it again) makes several haphazard appearances in a budgeted form that doesn't quite line up on the screen. It looks like shit, but drawing magic lines on each frame is hard, and I would have been bummed if it wasn't there. The film’s score plays as almost wholly independent of the movie, keeping most of the intentional humor at bay by staying dramatic at inappropriate times. As far as some of the lousy dubbing goes, I can't tell if some of that was on purpose or not. Sound problems would be typical for the actual era and budget, while at the same time it would be incredibly fitting coming from its apparent motivations. If it is on purpose, it is fucking perfect, if not, they have made a movie where things like that can be confused for technique. So good job either way.
 The 1991 straight to video release was Brooklyn born Samuel Oldham's 2nd directed full-length feature after low budget zombie film Tales of the Unliving and the Undead (1988) and his short entries into the collaborative anthology Dark Romance Volume 2 (1990, he worked as an editor on volume 1). Actively fulfilling a range of roles, Oldham has had a part in a variety of interesting (sometimes nutty) projects since the early 80s. As a director, he followed Master Demon with Close Encounters of the 4th Kind: Infestation from Mars, a science fiction film about space conspiracies in 2004 and Yuri Gagarin Conspiracy: Fallen Idol, a 2009 "documentary" which I haven't seen (but I think is about space conspiracies). Since then he has mostly kept to editing, possibly plotting which cult film type to tackle next. Steve Nave plays the cliche private dick Cameron. Not in on much action, the character is played mostly for laughs or possibly as a misguided avatar for the audience. I thought I recognized Nave from a few things, but it turns out he looks like fifty percent of all 90s TV actors. Despite the loud wardrobe choice, Tong Lee is unquestionably the more talented of the crew and isn't afraid to get on all fours pretending to be a dog in the middle of a fight. The goofy but almost superhuman hero is played by Eric Lee who appeared in Big Trouble as "Wing Kong Hatchet Man" and provided ass-kickings (one way or another) in over thirty titles since.  Lee is also credited as one of the stunt choreographers and producers on the film, possibly accounting for inconsistent high quality when it comes to certain beat downs. It's kind of a bummer we don't see him in more starring roles, as he is a blast to watch and evidently brings a lot to a production. Even though their crusty-cop homie gets the least backstory, Wayne takes up the most screen time overall, showing off his barrom style punching or his prowess with the ladies. Played by Sid Campbell, the character is the most perplexing thing about the whole insane mess for me, for whatever reason. He just tags along, seemingly coming out of nowhere, to fight goons and fuck secretaries. He is like a bargain Sgt.Taggart from Beverly Hills Cop (1984) who had been hypnotized into thinking he is Burt Reynolds. Reminiscent of a modern competitor trying to build a Marvel/Disney/StarWars-esque universe, the movie shoves in a hoard of fully formed side characters with little real connection. If a major studio made it today, I would assume it was wishfully laying the groundwork for a slew of tie-in material; sequels spin-offs the whole nine. Among them is an odd take on Moneypenny where Ava Cadell, for most of the film, plays only a bizarrely referenced sex object before unexplainably joining the final battle and taking on grabby henchmen all by herself. An array of action figure worthy cliches makes up the army of foils. This includes Medusa, a mix of Roxanne Kernohan in Critters 2 (1988) and a possessed American Gladiator whose superpower is putting people in headlocks. Played by Kay Baxter Young, she's probably my favorite bad guy--although "random executioner in a room, removing a man's face" was pretty cool too. The most familiar face, Gerald Okamura, plays the film’s main threat and most consistent element. Further linking the film with Big Trouble, the cult veteran's frequently utilized characters trope seems almost tame with all the lightning and professional wrestling going on.  I have to give many props to the whole cast, no matter how eccentric or left field the role, they seem to get it and go all in. Everyone plays their ridiculous part to a hundred and ten percent and makes the randomness of it all work in a fashion that's a hearty blend of a video game midboss and the GI Joe television series.
The Master Demon (1991) is a film equivalent of sneaking into three random action movies, getting hyped, then going home and playing out epic improvised showdowns with every one of your toys (as a kid obviously...I'm an adult. I don't bang mine together like that anymore--it fucks them up). A penniless bastard child of action cinema, it borrows heavily from a range of influences with unabashed love and scrappy spirit. I dig that. As far as I'm concerned, it's a success story of imitation, ingenuity, and imagination on a budget. It's cheap, dated and full of problems, but it is easy to find entertainment in the gumption, mania and blatant flaws. It honestly makes more sense than is necessary, as far as low budget, time jumping, American supernatural Kung fu movies go. Plus, I think on some level, I relate to being assaulted by an inherited demon.
1h 21min | 1991
Director: Samuel Oldham
Writer: Samuel Oldham

Links:


Review by
Share:

No comments:

VIDEORELIGON

All Time Favorites

tumblr

New Shit!

The Master Demon (1991) Review by RevTerry

Facebook

Instagram

advertisement