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Thursday, 11 June 2015

DVD Of The Week: Dæmos Rising (2004)


An atmospheric mix of black magic horror movie tropes, shades of Lovecraftiana and the backstory to the Third Doctor adventure, The Dæmons, Reeltime Pictures' Dæmos Rising would stand as the strongest unofficial Doctor Who spin-off if not for its disappointing resolution.

In late October, 2003, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (Beverley Cressman) gets a call from an old friend, former UNIT captain Douglas Cavendish (Miles Richardson, son of famous actor Ian Richardson, who provides narration for the film).

He was discharged from the service after a mental breakdown brought on by his front-line UNIT experiences, and is now requesting she come to visit him in his out-of-the-way country cottage.

Getting to the cottage from the train station requires Kate picking her way through the countryside and on the route she discovers an ornate, if freakish, statue of a croched demon (a truly magnificent prop).

But once past the statue she finds every pathway leads back to the statue until she finally touches it, then she finds herself momentarily transported somewhere indescribable (the future?).

Back in reality, Kate sees Cavendish's cottage and then finds him outside, afraid to go back in, claiming that not only is it haunted, but he has been hearing voices.

It turns out that after his medical discharge, Cavendish took to the bottle and during this period he returned to UNIT's warehouse facility (almost certainly the same one seen in Auton, as he references the crates of shop mannequins) and helps himself to a number of items he thinks might be worth something, including an ancient tome of 'magical spells'.

Around this time he starts hearing the voices - and decides to stop drinking (and presumably stop stealing artifacts from UNIT, which he has been storing in his shed!). He also starts seeing "a ghost" (Andrew Wisher, who we later learn is an echo of a time traveler from the future).

Kate, who Cavendish has a bit of a crush on, convinces the frightened man that it's safe to go back into his cottage.

That night, however, the statue relocates itself onto Cavendish's front lawn and later morphs into a duplicate of Kate, while she is off investigating Cavendish's stash of stolen alien goodies.

By the way, Cavendish's treasure trove is great for playing 'spot-the-Easter Egg' - there's definitely a dalek gun and part of an Auton head in there, and probably lots more elements of classic Doctor Who monsters.

The ghost appears to Cavendish and explains that he has come from a time when a power bloc called The Sodality has taken over the world using the 'magic' of The Dæmons and it is they who have been controlling Cavendish to get him to use the tome of spells, ultimately to summon a Dæmon called Mastho.

The story builds to a climax in the caverns under Cavendish's cottage - which happens to contain a ready-built black magic altar, as every good cave system should - when Kate and her duplicate are drawn into a debate with the summoned Dæmon about 'power' and 'love'.

David J Howe's script gets a big groan-worthy and cheesy at this point, but up until then its a really solid, atmospheric, low budget horror flick.

Making good use of smoke and lighting there's a brilliant, subtle, effect when Kate is looking out the cottage window at night, then turns and walks away, but her reflection stays in the window; then there's the statue itself which is really cool; and a nice moment when the Kate-duplicate's eyes burst into demonic flames.

Even the computer-generated Mastho works rather well in context.

However, the time travel element of the plot is tad convoluted (does the Sodality only have power in the future because they reached into the past to summon Mastho?), and, in all honesty, is probably over-egging the pudding.

Dæmos Rising probably could have worked just as well with a purely contemporary threat.

Beverley Cressman is great as the young Kate Stewart and, while I'm sure it's just one of those co-incidences, bears a striking resemblance to Jemma Redgrave, making her a convincing younger iteration of the character.

The fanboy-gamer in me wants to know more about former UNIT captain Douglas Cavendish though - what tipped him over the edge? What else did he steal from the warehouse? Were there any further repercussions (or did he and Kate quietly sneak everything back after this event)?

The Sodality (and Mastho), I discovered, pop up again in Child Of Time, the eleventh and final book in the Time Hunter series, yet another Doctor Who spin-off.

These were a series of novellas from Telos Publishing (2003 - 2007), that in turn came out of Doctor Who novella The Cabinet of Light, by Daniel O’Mahony.

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