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Curse of the Demon

Posted on December 24, 2016

Jacques Tourneur’s Curse of the Demon: Horror and the Persistence of Evil

Dawn Keetley

Partaking in the long tradition of reading ghost stories at Christmas, I’ve recently been immersed in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century supernatural tales of M. R. James. One of my favorites is “Casting the Runes,” published in 1911, about a strangely cursed parchment of runic characters that occultist Karswell passes to his enemies and rivals, ensuring their death in three months unless they are able to pass the paper on. (The central plot device really reminded me of Gore Verbinski’s The Ring—but that’s another post!)

James’s “Casting the Runes” has been adapted for television on several occasions, but it was, most famously, made into a 1957 film directed by Jacques Tourneur, called The Night of the Demon (in the UK) and The Curse of the Demon (in the US, where a shortened version was released). The film is flawed, to be sure, but it has some wonderful moments, including two scenes (one of which opens the film) shot at Stonehenge—a Stonehenge before all the barricades, parking lots, gift shops, and tourists. Read more

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