1 hour, 20 minutes, 33 seconds
Veteran actor Cameron Mitchell sits lighting a cigarette behind a big a desk in a lab coat. He looks up and notices us, the audience, watching him smoke. He welcomes us to the Ravenwood Asylum For the Criminally Insane with his gritty, cancerous voice, and introduces himself as the doctor. Holding a stack of his patients’ files, he warns, “These are the kinds of tales that drove Edgar Allen Poe to the brink of madness.” He starts to recount one for us, then decides better of it, explaining he’d rather not scare us off. So instead, he just pitches to Demon Cop, which is presumably far less scary and traumatizing. Tell us the first story, Cameron!
Right now, you may be thinking This movie has decent-enough production values. Why haven’t I seen it mentioned more often? Well, as it turns out, this intro was filmed by distributor Fred Olen Ray (Scalps, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers). The vagueness of it all makes me think it wasn’t even conceived with this movie in mind. I’m guessing Ray had been sitting on it, waiting to splice it in somewhere. The next seventy-eight-or-so minutes are of substantially lower quality.
As the movie proper begins, a man is shown being chased by the rubbery-faced monster from the VHS cover (director Rocco Karega, listed as both himself and “R.M. Anthony”). Actually, the monster just stands there snarling. The man runs. The camera pans over a corpse that’s turned blue. Someone peels a cobweb off its face and sniffs it. For fuck’s sake… Why? Whoever this guy is, he’s visibly pained by the smell. It’s dark and I can’t see him well, so I’m not sure if he’s on a walk, or investigating the crime scene, or what. Freeze frame. Fire effects crackle over the image. The greatest flute theme you’ll hear all day kicks in as shots of the opening credits handwritten in chalk on a brick wall are also engulfed by the flames.
I’m so fucking ready for Demon Cop.
The running man, or maybe a different running man, hastens down a sidewalk. The beast trails behind, panting loudly. The man collides with a moving car, flipping over its hood. He gets up and keeps on running. The car gives pursuit.
A radio broadcast provides us with backstory. You’ll never guess where we are. The Aurora Hills neighborhood of Aurora, Colorado. There have been ten murders of (homeless) gang members over the last six months.
A shirtless man (Duncan Larson) grabs a phone from a hotel bed nightstand. His head is conveniently just out of frame. He calls in to the station, pretending to be the host’s husband to get through to her. He’s German and sounds a bit agitated — as in more agitated than German people normally sound. “This is Bloodhound,” he starts, like he’s some kind of secret informant along the same lines as Deep Throat. “What happened to [my] announcement?”
The host says she thought it was a hoax.
This angers Bloodhound. He asks how she knew he wouldn’t set a bomb off in Denver for refusing to read it. He ends by stating the murders aren’t gang-related and hangs up.
A man drives down a residential street. Gunshots ring out. The beast jumps on his hood, smearing bloody hand prints all over his windshield. Fade to the man standing outside his car, now recounting what happened to passersby. Cut to two more men behind a house. The beast bares its teeth. Cut to four men behind the same house. Why the fuck is it jumping around so much? The homeowner explains that it killed his dog. He says he shot at it, but may have missed. Another remarks, “Maaaaan, it took off like a pole vaulter.”
Somewhere close by, a blonde named Kelly (Julia M. Westland) drinks bourbon. She picks up a gun. A hand grabs her hand from behind. She turns around to see a shot of the beast standing outside in front of a tree. Seamless editing here. The woman pleads, “You don’t understand, Edward!” It grabs her head and she screams. Her gun hits the floor.
In response to the mounting attacks, the local police chief assigns two of his men named Spence and Logan to the case, explaining that a link has been made between their murders and Denver’s. Bloodhound was apparently the first person to make this connection and broke the news to the radio host, who read it over the air.
Bloodhound then drives around while audio plays of him accusing his wife of cheating (?) and vowing not to return home until he exposes the truth.
Meanwhile, Spence and Logan waste little time getting down to business. They put the screws to the running man who flipped over the car, which was actually an unmarked police car. The guy says he ran because the beast was mauling his pal Spongy. Except he doesn’t describe it as a beast. Poor Spongy.
The partners somehow learn and relay to their chief that the latest victim was a “gangland godfather” featured on a nationwide crime show for laundering millions of dollars and because of this the FBI is getting involved. However, the movie ends before they show up.
Bloodhound calls the radio host again to apologize for threatening to blow up Denver. They agree to hash it out in person.
Thoughts (Possible Spoilers)
More voiceover, a memory: “It’s not clear how your wife drowned in the shallow part of the pool, Mr. Thurman. The autopsy may show she suffered a seizure.”
“But it’s not known yet if pregnancy was a contributing factor. We’ll know more after the lab results.”
A baby cries.
A sweaty, shell-shocked looking man — could this be “Mr. Thurman”? — stares vacantly over his shoulder. The sounds of machine guns and screeching tires echo through his head. He remembers a time when he counseled black youth. His concern for them quickly turns to hate.
“Generations of black people’s blood was spilled for a fair shake in this country,” he tells one, “and not so you can go out and spill blood of the same for no apparent reason or purpose… Suppose you and other jive-asses got people pissed off enough to become vigilantes, storm the streets and wipe out all you motherfuckers.”
This is followed by a scene of him being reprimanded or fired from his job for expressing these homicidal urges.
“Look, they’ve got to understand what they’re doing is wrong.” he protests. “How long will we as citizens wait around until someone does something about it? The clock is not moving fast enough, so it’s up to us now.”
An Officer Drayton, a good friend of the counselor-cum-psychopath, sits down with Aurora PD. “His name is Edward Thurman,” he clarifies. “He’s a former probation officer who was wounded in a drive-by about a year ago.” Eddie’s the same name Kelly said earlier, so it looks like we’ve found our killer.
Drayton recalls a time Eddie stopped by his house asking for water and held a gun to his own mouth. They went to a bar to calm down where Eddie explained that a voice compels him to kill people. He claims to have started feeling sick after undergoing a blood transfusion. He further claims to have had his blood tested by an AIDS research clinic. But so far, no one’s been able to pinpoint what’s wrong. He theorizes that his pain is brought on by temperature change or the cycle of the moon and says “The sicker I feel, the more I feel like killing.” His friend ends his story by stating he strongly suspects Eddie of being involved in the murders.
Yep, he’s our guy.
After this, Eddie leaves a message on Kelly’s answering machine, begging for forgiveness while she weeps on her mattress. Despite what it looked like, he didn’t kill her, just knocked her unconscious.
An anonymous woman then calls the police with more information on Thurman. She claims to be a former gang member who reconnected with him through a church. She informs them that one of the doctors who tested Thurman’s blood matched it to a sample of the killer’s blood sent to him by a coroner. How she knows this and not the police, I have no idea.
Bloodhound sits waiting in the lobby of the hotel he’s staying at. He thinks to himself to pass time. Hilariously, the voice in his head isn’t German. The radio host comes to get him. They ascend a flight of stairs to a restaurant. Bloodhound gives her a speech about crack cocaine. He flubs his lines at least four times in this scene alone. They sit down to a meal. He admits to shooting a man but doesn’t really say why, just warns that “contaminated blood” is out on the streets and that hospitals should be monitoring their patients to make sure they’re not acting “wild” or “strange”.
Their conversation is interrupted by breaking news coverage of police attempting to apprehend beastmode Thurman inside of an old, abandoned warehouse. Two cops cautiously make their way up a staircase to a fog-shrouded hallway. One of them shoots. The footage cuts out and gets staticky. The beast throws a head toward the cameraman’s feet. A body comes sailing down next. The cameraman bravely stays with it. “Oh god, it appears the suspect just decapitated the officer!” he elucidates. Sirens wail as a half-dozen people retreat backward down pitch-black hallways. The whole scene is… off, almost nightmarish.
All of a sudden, Spence and Logan are interviewing a paraplegic woman named Maria (Theresa Fenneaux, whose only other credit is Lone Wolf (1988), another werewolf movie) in some sort of medical setting. Maria fills them in on the fact that one of their John Does at the morgue is Bloodhound’s handiwork and suggests they look for Kelly. She claims to have special insight into the the cause of the situation because she was raised Christian, but doesn’t expand beyond that.
“[Is it] something of unknown origin?” Logan asks.
“Something of pre-known origin.” Maria replies, whatever the fuck that means. She gives the cops a cassette. They listen to exactly twenty-six seconds of it in their car before deciding to circle back and bring her downtown for additional questioning. Shouldn’t they have just done that from the get-go?
The three talk some more. Maria walks them through the contents of a duffel bag she says Bloodhound left behind as he fled, which is news to me. She identifies him as Horst Steinfeldt, a senior member of INTERPOL, then somehow gets on the topic of break-ins and animal killings, stating they’re tied to what’s happening too, because — ready? — a few of them occurred near the police station. I fail to see the logic here.
In a darkened room, Bloodhound spells everything out to his tape recorder. The cause of Thurman’s affliction, he contends, is a 500-year-old demon of retribution transmissible by blood, but apparently not spit or semen (otherwise, Kelly would have it too). The bloodborne demon physically manifests in its host every full moon, like a werewolf, to seek vengeance on those that its host perceives to be responsible for injustice.
The last person indwelled with the demon was Jewish, so he targeted Nazi fugitives. As you may or may not have heard, Nazis were rude to the Jews during World War II. This vi-Jew-lante tracked one of his victims to Denver, where he donated blood to pay for his travels. That blood was then used for Thurman’s transfusion, and — voila — that’s how he got infected. Since gang members wronged him, now he does likewise.
Taking Maria’s advice, Spence and Logan head to a random broken-in garage and coincidentally find Thurman living there. He attacks them. The way the screen fades to black as they scream in terror makes it seem as though they’re ripped to shreds… but they aren’t. So, uh, that’s good.
A phone call wakes Kelly. It’s Logan. He sounds perfectly fine. He tells her the clinic found a cure for Thurman’s demon blood and asks her to come down to discuss how to safely apprehend him. She agrees. At that moment, Thurman walks in, demanding to know who she’s talking to. Kelly only mentions the cure, leaving out Logan, who she then goes to meet.
Thurman zonks out on Kelly’s bed. He wakes up later that evening, buck naked (?) and groaning. He struggles to put on his pants. His equilibrium is shot. He’s in rough shape, certainly no condition to drive, so of course he gets behind the wheel of a car. Cut to B-roll of a laboratory I’m not fully convinced was shot for this film. Thurman crashes into a shrub. He gets out and falls into another. When he finally emerges, he’s fully transformed. He staggers into the research facility, looking for proof of the cure for himself. No one’s there, so he rifles through filing cabinets, grumbling unintelligibly, while a funky rock instrumental bangs on. His hands are clearly rubber gloves. He eventually comes to a file with his name on it. The contents enrage him. “No cure!” he roars. “No cure!” Now he knows someone’s lying. He walks back outside to see three of the least menacing gang members ever — credited as Bangher, Whammer, and Link — shaking down a civilian.
“You! You motherfuckers are the cause of my suffering!”
Unphased by the sight of a real-life werewolf, the trio attacks him with a chain and what looks like a wooden dowel.
Thurman shoves the first thug away. He stumbles into a brick wall at 4 mph, causing half his blood to spurt out of his mouth. The second thug runs up from behind and wraps the chain around Thurman’s neck. He must be Link, because chains have links. The last thug is a woman. She must be Bangher, cos that’s a pun too. Out of nowhere, she lights them both up with a fucking machine gun! Thurman shrugs off the volley of gunfire. In classic cartoon fashion, he walks up and bends the end of her gun to face backward. Then, he slaps her, which I can only assume caves her skull in. The special effects in this scene are insultingly cheap for having been done by “the creators of Terminator 2 and Leviathan.”
Check it out:
I’m not sure what he means by “I could name that tune in one note!!!”
Kelly comes home to find Thurman typing a note of his own on her typewriter. Even though she reads it, it’s epically narrated in Thurman’s goofy monster voice. “It was all confirmed tonight. When they found me, I knew one of you told.” it starts. What the fuck is he talking about? Nobody found him. He committed those murders completely undetected. Kelly reads on. Her abusive lover confesses to cheating with two different women. I don’t see how that’s relevant, but ok. He also expresses fear that he’s losing his ability to reason and will soon be unable to formulate thoughts. A single tear rolls down his face.
The note destroys Kelly. She skips town. With nothing left to lose, Thurman agrees to turn himself in to Maria, then changes his mind and runs off. Spence and Logan corner him in the backyard of whoever’s house they’re at. Thurman eats twenty-seven rounds to the chest and keeps coming. Maria zaps him with a taser, complete with blue lightning effects, but even that’s not enough to subdue him. He finally goes down to a tranquilizer dart fired at the eleventh hour by an animal control expert.
In one final act of defiance, Thurman screams “WHY?!” For some bizarre reason, the image of his face enters hyperspace. The ancient looking visual is accompanied by a series of beeps and boops. What the fuck is going on?
Ok, cool, he’s chained up on the lawn. With Thurman safely restrained, Maria admits to placing the anonymous call about knowing him from church. Logan rips into her for lying about being a psychic. Wait, am I missing something here? When did she claim to be psychic? Is that what the term “keen perception” meant? Shart once and you’ll miss that detail.
Thurman stirs as onlookers gather. Doing his best Louie Armstrong impression, he sings — that’s right, sings — the 1973 Gino Vannelli song “Crazy Life”.
“It’s a crazy life, a hazy life
a mixed up, jumbled, phasy life.”
Yes it is, Edward. Yes it is. But you’ve killed people. Don’t forget. You’re going to prison now. The camera zooms out to reveal a family watching him sing on TV. All is well.
Or is it?! A crazed woman foams at the mouth while a radio host (male, this time) reports that a rape victim who also got a blood transfusion is undergoing the same transformation as Thurman. What a cliffhanger! Where is Part 2?
Before the end credits roll, Cameron Mitchell pops back in to say something sinister.
This movie happened.
It was filmed in five days under the title The Curse of Something Bestial. It took four months to edit, and six months to shop before schlockmeister Fred Olen Ray scooped it up, tacked on the wraparound segment with Cameron Mitchell and renamed it Demon Cop. It was only released once, in Europe, on VHS, by American Independent Pictures. It resurfaced in 2007, again overseas, but I’m pretty sure that was a bootleg. To this day, it’s never been released in the US. The good news is, it’s on YouTube for now.
Like a lot of VHS covers, Demon Cop‘s lies. Thurman never wears a police uniform, uses handcuffs, or reads anybody their rites, last or otherwise. There’s no “mad scientist” either. Those elements were added to help it blend in with the other gimmick “cop” movies being churned out in the late 1980s/early 1990s to cash in on Maniac Cop‘s popularity.
Off the top of my head, there was: Maniac Cop (1988), Psycho Cop (1989), Demon Cop (1990), Maniac Cop 2 (1990), Vampire Cop (1990), Samurai Cop (1991), Zombie Cop (1991), Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence (1992), and Psycho Cop Returns (1993).
Years later came PMS Cop (2014), WolfCop (2014), Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance (2015), Another WolfCop (2017), and Cannibal Cop (2017).
Then of course you’ve got RoboCop (1987), which may have kicked off the whole killer cop craze.
Structurally speaking, Demon Cop might be the worst. It’s a total car crash. I can’t begin to explain how exceedingly hard to follow it is. The main reason for this is that it’s been chopped up and fed to us bit by bit via flashback, flashforward, and voiceover. There are also jumps in the action where it casually tells us what happened after the fact or just leaves us to fill in the gaps.
Another reason it’s so hard to follow is that there are tons of extreme close-ups of mouths and shots of characters’ backs (on top of the poor quality of the version I watched), making it difficult to determine who’s who and who’s talking. Is that the same guy from earlier? Hell if I know!
In one particularly vexing scene, the audio contradicts the visual. Two unidentified characters have a conversation over a clip of Ms. Harper the radio host talking into a microphone. It hurts to watch.
The last major problem that stands out to me is the sheer number of mess-ups that made it into the final cut. Bloodhound takes the cake, botching his lines as many as eight times a scene. Eight! Though, my favorite instance might be Maria’s anonymous tip because it isn’t coherent in the slightest.
“I was very sorry to hear about the life of h- loss of his wife and unborn child, especially when he was wounded in a drive-by shooting while trying to help a gang member go straight, like he did with me. He found it ironic after becoming a probation officer, believing he could reach [painfully awkward pause] those in gangs to seek other choices, became a compulsion to be judge, jury, and executioner.” Read that last sentence again, it makes no sense whatsoever. “He found it ironic after becoming a probation officer, believing he could reach those in gangs to seek other choices, became a compulsion to be judge, jury, and executioner.”
Huh? There’s no excuse for not re-recording this dialogue except laziness. Unless, of course, Karega thought the mistakes made his conversations sound “real”.
By some miracle, I figured out what was happening halfway through. A second viewing allowed me to piece together more of the puzzle, but even after a third — ok, ok, you got me… fifth — I have questions. Like, how does Maria know so much more than the cops? It still makes no sense. Oh yeah, she’s a Christian psychic. I forgot. Silly me. And why does Bloodhound mention that most of the homeless victims should have German names? Is he saying the Jewish guy killed them? Because I thought Thurman did.
This is pure speculation on my part, but to me, both the fragmented nature of the narrative and extensive use of (bungled) voiceover reek of not having shot all the scenes. Obviously, the less footage there is to work with, the more creative the editing has to be to arrange said footage in a way that kind of makes sense. Key words being kind of.
Whatever the case, I can’t stop watching Demon Cop. Before you judge me, let me say that I haven’t completely lost touch with reality. I can see why it was only released overseas, why it’s rarely been spoken of for the last thirty years. It’s a confusing, poorly-made mess. That much is obvious. But I’m not normal, guys. I actively seek out movies like Demon Cop. And for people like me, there’s a lot to love here.
The main thing I love about it is how radically different it is than any movie I’ve seen before. That alone won me over. To the average moviegoer, the word “good” is synonymous with “professional” and/or “expensive”. For me, it’s “entertaining”. When a movie entertains me like this one does, I can’t in good conscience consider it anything less than a huge success. So, while Demon Cop might not be “good” or “okay” or even “bad” by most people’s standards, I can truthfully say it’s among this reviewer’s new favorites.
It’s a classic werewolf story at its heart, transposed to an urban environment, made with little to no money by a first-time filmmaker who didn’t exactly know what he was doing. It comments on crime, the crack epidemic, and AIDS, insofar as those issues pertain to the black community. It has a lot to say, but no one to listen. It aims for the stars and explodes on the launch pad.
It’s my favorite kind of “bad” movie — one that strives to be “good”, but ain’t. I’ve reached a point in my life where intentionally campy throwbacks don’t always do it for me; I need something real, something genuine. To paraphrase a colleague of mine, the best movie moments are born by weird people trying to be normal, not normal people trying to be weird.
I don’t believe for a second that Rocco Karega set out to make the next Citizen Kane, but I do believe that he made the best movie he could — his emotional overacting is enough to convince me of this. And I can respect that. In no way does the end result resemble a typical mainstream horror movie, nor should it. Part of the reason Demon Cop even exists in the first place is to stick it to Hollywood. Allow me to explain.
Rocco Karega, real name Radford A. Moore, Jr., was born to Radford Moore Sr. and Barbara J. Bryant-Moore on October 22nd, 1955, in Indianapolis, Indiana. The oldest of four children, he graduated high school from the first racially integrated class in city history in 1974.
He was gifted a Super-8 camera at a young age and was shooting amateur short films around Indianapolis by 1976. One of them, titled The Strangeling, involves a giant snake and a lot of plastic army men.
While meeting with the mayor’s assistant to obtain filming permits, he was introduced to William Girdler, director of such films as Grizzly, Day of the Animals, and The Manitou. As I’m sure you’re aware, Girdler perished in a helicopter crash two years later.
Karega left Indianapolis for Los Angeles in September, 1977. He managed to find work at both 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures, doing menial stuff. His first screen appearance came as “Champ’s Promoter” in the Rocky parody Ricky 1, which holds an abysmal 1.4/10 rating on IMDb. The film was directed by William T. Naud, who also wrote the supernatural horror flick Necromancer. Karega believes Naud stole the idea for Necromancer from a screenplay he showed him called “Succubus”.
In his own words, Karega became disillusioned with Hollywood after failing to find steady work as an actor and being told it might be because he’s not “black-looking enough”. So, in 1989, he packed his bags for Denver to create his own opportunities. That’s when special effects master Hal Miles (The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, Cellar Dweller, The Blob, 976-EVIL, etc., etc.) offered to produce his screenplay “The Curse of Something Bestial”. Miles was an old friend of Karega’s from Indianapolis who stayed with him when he first moved to Los Angeles. Having done quite well for himself, Miles was in a sense returning the favor.
Interestingly, Miles lists himself as co-writer and co-director of Demon Cop on his website, halmiles.com, so make of that what you will.
I gathered most of this info from Karega’s “expanded” autobiography Lo & Behold!: What It Was Like Pursuing the Entertainment Industry in and out of Hollywood on Stage, Film, and Television, which I bought from Amazon Kindle for $3.99. It’s only 122 pages long and could benefit from a proofreading. What I’m trying to say is, it’s not professionally written by any means. It’s interesting, though, and paints Karega as a humble down-to-earth dude who’s just grateful for his experiences rubbing elbows with the stars. He claims to be living with multiple sclerosis now and says his friends and family encouraged him to write the book as a way of dealing with depression, so I wish him nothing but love and positivity. I hope he’s doing well.
In closing, I hereby challenge Vinegar Syndrome or any other boutique label out there to fully restore this bad boy and release it in 4K on Blu-ray with tons of extras. Give it the treatment it so rightly deserves, you cowards!
4. Many more mentioned, not shown.
1 — Karega’s butt cheeks.
5 singing werewolf demons out of 5.
I Got My Copy From
Karega references the British werewolf movie The Beast Must Die (1974) in his book. So, even though I haven’t seen it, that’s my recommendation.