Casting the Runes

The other night, I couldn’t sleep, walked out to the living room couch, and switched on the television. Hoping to find something relaxing I cruised the digital cable channels (a bad habit of mine) until I stumbled across a movie about to begin, way up in the five hundreds, that looked interesting.

It was called Curse of the Demon (British title Night of the Demon [better, huh]) and was supposed to be a minor classic of British horror filmmaking. Though it is very British in style, it starred Dana Andrews. Whenever I hear that actor’s name I think of the line from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, “Dana Andrews said prunes gave him the runes, but passing them used lots of skill“. I didn’t make the connection at first.

The Monster from Curse of the Demon

The Monster from Curse of the Demon

Thankfully, the movie didn’t take long to get going; in the first few scenes a man walking down a road at night is pursued by a demon that knocks down some handy power lines and then tears the poor victim to pieces. The final few seconds of the rubber mask looking thing was silly in a late-night television sort of way, but the first appearance of the demon was really excellent and chilling, brilliant.

The movie continued and it was good. Very well done, very British, dated a little, but not too much… just right actually. Exactly what I wanted to see. I was relaxed, watching when something really caught my ears. It was during the mandatory seance/hypnosis scene (Mandatory in all quality black and white horror films) when the man under the trance suddenly shouted out, “It’s in the trees… It’s coming!” It’s always fun when you unknowingly stumble across the source of a sound sample from a familiar and beloved piece of music. That clip, “It’s in the trees… It’s coming!” is, of course, the opening sample from Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love. Greatness.

After the film ended (complete with Hitchcockian maneuvering over a slip of paper in a train compartment and a final appearance of the demon as comeuppance) I was interested enough to do some snooping of my own. I found that the film was loosely based on a short story, Casting the Runes by M. R. James. That, of course, helped me realize that Dr. Frankenfurter’s lyric, “Dana Andrews said prunes gave him the runes, but passing them used lots of skill” was taken from the film/story.

I checked the Richardson Library and found they had a book of James’ short stories with Casting the Runes, so I checked it out. The short story is creepier than the movie, by necessity more trim and compact, with a couple of efficient horrifying scenes (the kid’s party, the mouth with teeth under the pillow). I later found an online version of the story here.

It's in the trees! It's coming!

It’s in the trees! It’s coming!

Late night black and white British horror movie, sampled by Kate Bush for her classic album, referenced in Rocky Horror, inspired by slick little short story sitting on my library shelf – one of the thousands upon thousands of unknown books… in the SF section no less. Now it’s time to go to bed.

A really well done YouTube Video Combining scenes from Night of the Demon with Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love.

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