Classic horror film, sometimes called "Curse of the Demon," directed by Jacques Tourneur and released in 1957. The screenplay was written by Charles Bennett and Hal E. Chester, based on the short story "Casting the Runes" by M. R. James. The film was produced by Hal E. Chester and photographed by Edward Scaife. The stars included Dana Andrews as skeptical professor John Holden, Peggy Cummins as the less-skeptical Joanna Harrington, and Niall MacGinnis as the evil cultist Julian Karswell.
The plot involves Holden's attempts to put down a devil-worshipping cult led by Karswell, who is able to use Celtic runes to cause a demon to attack his enemies. Of course, Karswell is able to slip some runes on Holden, who must try to avoid death at the demon's scaly hands.
At first glance, you'll think this is another cheesy horror flick -- particularly, the demon pictured in close-up on the video box looks silly, not scary, and the film's low budget is sometimes painfully apparent. Luckily, the movie is able to transcend its B-movie origins to deliver some really wonderful moments. The script is more intelligent than you'd expect from a B-movie shocker, effectively delivering low-key chills and a mounting level of suspense. Other than the close-ups of the demon, the special effects, though not extremely fancy, help build the sense of fear. The effects are, for the most part, used sparsely, making them far more effective.
Dana Andrews does an excellent job as the heroic skeptic, always finding a more logical explanation for everything until the proof becomes too strong to explain away. But best of all is Niall McGinnis, who portrays Karswell not as a cartoonish monster, but as an intelligent, charming, and very complicated man who just happens to be an extremely evil Satanist. He hosts free Halloween parties for children, he loves his mother, and if he lived next door to you, you'd invite him over every weekend for cookouts in your back yard... but he worships the devil, he puts death curses on casual acquaintances, and he wields tremendous and terrifying supernatural power. He's one of cinema's most charismatic villains, and he's worth the price of admission all by himself.