Studio: Hippocampe Productions
Director: Fabien Delage
Writer: Fabien Delage
Producer: Christophe Battarel, Jordane Oudin
Stars: Alexandre Aja, Christophe Gans, Jean-Jacques Bernard, Dave Alexander, Pauline Melies
Filmmakers and journalists discuss the lost silent film “Fury of the Demon,” whose curse is reportedly capable of driving an audience mad.
“Silent Hill” director Christophe Gans and “Haute Tension” helmer Alexandre Aja were just two of the industry invitees on hand when a “real life” cinematic terror tore through Paris’ Grevin wax museum on July 9th, 2012. That’s when the long-thought lost “Fury of the Demon,” a fabled French film from the 1800s, resurfaced for a surprise screening courtesy of noted film collector Edgar Aaron Wallace.
Believed by some to be a myth, believed by more to be a curse, “Fury of the Demon” saw the light of a projector for only the second time in a century. Yet what should have been cause for celebration instead became an unexpected horror show.
Panicking patrons reportedly bubbled up with inexplicable aggression while a horned devil danced onscreen. Violence erupted everywhere as hands clasped throats, gouged eyes, and furiously clawed at anyone nearby.
This unusual outbreak of sudden pandemonium might have been passed off as mass hysteria, food poisoning, or some other somewhat sensible excuse to explain outrageous en masse behavior. Except the incident hauntingly mirrored a similar event from an ill-fated 1939 screening, where six people died and many more were trampled when fire put a premature end to the evening and the film reel disappeared without a trace.
This may be the first you’re hearing of “Fury of the Demon,” as well as the events above. That’s because the movie doesn’t exist and none of this ever happened. You’d never know it though, thanks to filmmaker Fabien Delage’s devilishly designed documentary with the same title. This “Fury of the Demon” may be as fictional as its namesake, but it is completely convincing and creatively compelling from its first minute to its last.
Part of the hook behind the film within the film is that “La Rage du Demon,” I’ll use the French title to distinguish the faux silent film, is popularly believed to possibly be a work of famed French filmmaker Georges Melies (“A Trip to the Moon”). Beyond giving “Fury of the Demon” more ground in reality, this lets the movie double as a cheekily disguised mini-biography of Melies himself. The wink works so well that even Melies might consider this a fitting tribute to his own expert craftsmanship as an accomplished illusionist.
Just ask his great-granddaughter Pauline Melies, one of many participants selling the story with sometimes surprising sincerity. To tell the truth, I have no idea which of the talking heads interviewed in “Fury of the Demon” are authentic and which are actors playing a part. They may all in fact be real people, with some portraying alter egos of themselves. A few minutes on Google could decipher who is who, except I don’t really want to know, because it doesn’t matter.
(I did look up Pauline Melies, simply to satisfy curiosity on whether she was imaginary too or a gleefully game descendant willingly in on the ruse. It’s the latter, by the way.)
Incredibly realistic acting or real people taking convincing turns at fabricating a fabulous conspiracy, the line blurring fact and faction evaporates fully. Suspension of disbelief is easy and I cannot imagine digging into details that might shatter such a masterfully realized mirage. It’s like watching Copperfield vanish a landmark. The feat is knowingly impossible, yet no less engaging as a spectacle of entertainment.
The only true obstacles to mockumentary perfection are some sketchy Photoshop touchups, such as pictures of film collector E.A. Wallace on the red carpet with Quentin Tarantino or sharing a stage with Steven Spielberg. They look like those Hollywood Boulevard Polaroids of a tourist with an arm around a celebrity cutout, with Wallace being the cutout. Mocked up newspaper headlines fare a bit better, as the production otherwise looks like any average hour pulled from PBS.
Speaking of an hour, “Fury of the Demon” runs just 60 minutes. This fact compelled me to look up the required length of a standard feature film to verify if it even qualifies. According to AMPAS, AFI, and the British Film Institute, it does, although SAG doubles the other institutions’ 40-minute minimum to 80. It’s odd that “Fury of the Demon” runs short, although I respect that director Fabien Delage ensures a quality usage of that hour without buckling under any imposition to dilute it with padding.
Be it detailing a film collection captured by Nazis, a grisly murder in a Paris basement, or stage magicians dabbling in dark arts of occultism, furthering the mystique behind “La Rage du Demon” is always at the fore, and it is always fascinating to watch the fiction unfold. Highly unique in conception, “Fury of the Demon” emerges as both an intelligently executed faux documentary and a fun footstep into the imagination and innovation of original cinematic grandmaster Georges Melies.
NOTE: The film’s French title is “La Rage du Demon.”
Review Score: 90