Thursday, January 25, 2024

Make Them Laugh Till They Cry.

At an antique doll shop called “The House of Dolls”, resides a woman named Julia (Erika Carlson) alongside her teenage son Lawrence (Benny Corral), whom is very creative in the arts. Lawrence does small theatrical shows at home with his sole friend Margaret, but sadly can never seem to get anyone to attend them. Lawrence looking for more inspiration & props for his show—finds a large trunk locked away in a storage room that contains a very old ventriloquist doll. Lawrence asks his mother if he can use it for his next show, but she forbids him from doing so. After some nagging & showing very erratic behavior—Julia allows Lawrence the use of the doll and it is here we learn of the doll’s origin. 

In a note pinned to the doll (whom was brought over by Lawrence’s late father), the doll hails from Europe and was once a court jester for a royal family from a long time ago—the jester was named Yermo. Yermo’s imagery (supposedly not his corpse) had been preserved in porcelain by a perverse queen. 

Lawrence’s bullying from his classmates worsens, he becomes sexually frustrated & his mental health seems to be deteriorating which then leads to him being institutionalized for a foreseeable time. Lawrence is allowed to bring items from home to the mental institution and the doll Yermo just happens to be one of these items which he then uses for a deranged stage show for the institution residents & staff. Later on, Yermo has come to life and attempts to rape a nurse & kills her with a ventriloquist dummy head and this of course leads to the escape of Lawrence from the institution. Yermo & Lawrence hide out near The House of Dolls where they both laugh in depravity & plot their next act of deviancy. It seems now that Lawrence has become like Yermo or thinking that he is just like him—a sexually-deprived & misunderstood joker. 

A film so peculiar that even its origins & various releases are just as peculiar.

 “Muerte Infernal” is the title that everyone knows this film by, but according to writer, producer & co-director Roberto Guinar—it is actually an unauthorized retitling & release. Back in 2021, I inquired to Mr. Guinar about the film and he told me that it was shot in English in Mexico City alongside New York-based screenwriter & co-director Ronald Werthein (who’s only known credited work is an episode of the Mexican horror anthology series "La Hora Marcada"). “Demond Doll” is the real title of the film and it was not just another videohome (Straight to video film) as most have claimed it to be. The film had been vaguely released theatrically in the US during the late 1980’s and ended up on Spanish home video in the early 1990’s. Mr. Guinar again claimed this wasn’t a legitimate home video release and when I asked about the 2010’s DVD-R release under the title “Hell Doll”, he too said it was an unauthorized release despite having his name credited on the release. The interesting part of this so-called unauthorized DVD-R release is that it contains several scenes not featured in the Muerte Infernal release & it also features the original English language sound. Surely material that only a producer/former rights holder would have.. 

Whatever you want to call the film, Demond Doll is an interestingly weird & deranged film like no other. Demond Doll is a film that wants to be the weirdest & most unsettling that it can be and it succeeds in doing so with its incestuous/hyper-sexual references & bizarre murders. The hyper-sexual references all consist from the ever so creepy doll Yermo and he is not only a hyper-sexual funny man-doll, but he’s also sick in the head by taking deep pleasure in killing after getting his jollies off—or trying to at least. Yermo was played by the little Mexican actor Aurelio Perez and what an amazing job Aurelio did here with his doll-like mannerisms & perverse demeanor. The make-up & attire Aurelio wore in the film is so unsettling which gives the film’s creep factor a much high rating. 

Another creep factor of the film is the portrayal of Lawrence by Mexican actor Benny Corral who does an amazing job playing the unsettling teenager Lawrence whose sexual frustrations take ahold of him mentally. Benny Corral also provides the eerie & weird music in the film. The film’s theme/closing credits song “The Joker” is a catchy & weird track with clever lyrics: “Make them laugh till they cry, Joker..” 

And of course I can’t leave out the wonderful acting from Erika Carlson who plays Lawrence’s mother Julia who’s very lonely & misses her husband so much that she begins to attach herself too closely to her own son. Surely a huge factor in Lawrence’s mental breakdown. 

Demond Doll has always been difficult film to acquire aside from its sole VHS release, very poor pirated copies that are no longer around & that DVD-R release from Amazon is no longer around as well. If lucky, it’s best to view the DVD-R release since it’s the true copy of the film with its original English language track & features unrestored scenes of a “human” Yermo killing a woman in the past.