The Hideous Sun Demon (1959)

Genres - Horror, Science Fiction  |   Sub-Genres - Creature Film, Sci-Fi Horror  |   Release Date - Aug 29, 1958 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 75 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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A staple of TV horror programming since the early 1960s, The Hideous Sun Demon always stood out from a lot of the competition, mostly by virtue of its independent production origins. Directed, co-written, produced by, and starring actor Robert Clarke, the movie's low-budget origins -- a total of around $58,000 went into making it -- work in its favor, in terms of a close-in, claustrophobic feel that only enhances the impact of the horror sequences; and that same lack of slickness, though it also means we get lots of stock characters and clunky dialogue, also gives the picture a vaguely cinema verite feel. Certainly, the action sequences have a palpable physicality to them that is unusual for movies like this. And Robert Clarke gives an affecting -- if sometimes over-the-top -- performance as a man caught up in a nightmare that he didn't ask to be in and can't escape, except through death; the movie gets some mileage out of his deteriorating mental state, as his Dr. Gil McKenna tries initially to deal in some responsible way with his condition -- at first, he's a man/monster in his transformations, but as the movie progresses he is much more monster -- but gradually abandons those concerns as his condition worsens. Additionally, while some of the action and all of the dialogue seems hokey a half-century later, the obvious effort that went into making this movie is now an attractive element to audiences. As an independent horror production, this may not be The Blair Witch Project, or even Equinox or The Blob (which, incidentally, was made for five times the money that went into Sun Demon), and some flaws are difficult to overcome, but this picture gets a B-plus for effort, and for a couple of shots, scenes, and edits that can still make viewers jump. And it didn't deserve the scatological 1983 re-edit/re-dubbing treatment of What's Up, Hideous Sun Demon.