Demons of the Mind, as both a horror movie and a Hammer film, is a strange beast. It is unlike almost anything the studio had released up until this point nor would anything after be quite like this movie. Other films in their canon would feature psychological tormenting’s, but nothing as messed-up as this family turns out to be, specifically the way they treat each other. Madness is not a new concept to explore in film, Hammer having done so a few times already, and while this movie looks to be like something we have seen before, writer Christopher Wicking throws a little twist in there to keep things interesting.
This film will never be everyone’s cup of tea, nor will they wait around long enough for the payoff at the end of the picture. The movie is paced quite slowly, glacially almost, and it really takes a while for things to get moving. The fact that you know it is a Hammer production and that it is a horror movie is the main reason most will stick around because they know that there has to be a payoff at the end, it is simply the act of getting there. The pace aside, this tale of murder and madness has a lot going on despite how fast it moves along. One of those things is Gillian Hills, the female lead and damsel in distress. She is a beautiful woman and utterly enchanting and for the first part of the film, you wonder what exactly it is that is going on with her. At one moment it looks as if she is in trouble and then living an idyllic life the next, only to find herself seemingly a prisoner not soon after, which is then that we start to learn what is really going on.
There are not a lot of Hammer films that you can say are truly disturbing and yet this one manages to be as such when you discover the truth of things. It is not completely shocking as you will most likely guess before the reveal, but it still has the desired effect for the most part. While Hills who plays Elizabeth and Shane Briant who stars as Emil are locked in their father’s house with only their thoughts to keep them company, there are murders being committed about the countryside that the townspeople think are being perpetrated by a demon of some sort. For nearly the entire length of the movie, it looks to be unrelated until that too ends up providing the viewer with a bit of a surprise.
The one thing you can say about Hammer and the movies they make is that sometimes they will utterly surprise you. Demons of the Mind is a film you would not expect them to release and yet, having done so, it has become one of their most intriguing films. It is not one you are likely to sit through on a regular basis, but after viewing it once, you want to do so again just to see if there was anything you might have missed and in addition to that, because the performances are so captivating. The cinematography by Arthur Grant is spot on and the direction by Peter Sykes strong and in the end, you will either love this film or you will not. It is not an easy watch, but ultimately, you might find it a rewarding one.