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Sunday, October 16, 2011

31 DAYS OF HORROR-DAY 16: DEMON SEED (1977)

There are some films that skirt the line between science-fiction and outright horror, and this is one of the more notable examples that group. If you ask me, sci-fi-trappings aside, this flick is straight-up horror to the core.

When it came out I was just shy of turning twelve and I distinctly remember DEMON SEED's rape-and-impregnation-by-computer concept being chilling yet fascinating to a number of my female classmates. But then again, virtually anything that involved unwholesome fictional exploration of the physical possibilities between human females and male entities drew many of those girls like moths to a flame and that is what is at the core of this film's rather twisted appeal, namely the audience finding out exactly how it could be plausible that a super-intelligent A.I. could not only rape a human female but also successfully impregnate her. It's genuinely fucked-up, but I defy you to tell me that you aren't at least a little curious as to the answer to that query...

The plot, in a nutshell, involves the ruthlessly logical, emotion-void efforts of the Proteus IV computer (voiced by Robert Vaughn) in its desire to "study man" and impregnate the estranged wife of its creator (Fritz Weaver). The woman in question is named Susan (Julie Christie), and she's a child psychologist whose daughter who has recently died from leukemia, a disease that Proteus has made great leaps in coming up with a cure for. When the computer's seemingly-emotionless decides t separate from his wife and move out of their house, Proteus takes control over every one of the home's automated functions to disturbing, full-control effect, essentially trapping Susan within, and with practically zero chance of anyone getting in to rescue her. Once the house's staff has vacated, Proteus physically restrains Susan with the help of a robot wheelchair equipped with a mechanical, strips her naked and puts her through a thorough and intimate physical examination, during which she faints. When Susan awakens the next day, Proteus declares its intent of reproduction and coerces her into complying, first by surgically manipulating her brain (which she resists and eventually overcomes) and later by proving that it could and would lure one of her child patients to the house to kill if Susan does not fully comply. With extreme and understandable reluctance, Susan has no choice but to become the world's first cyber-broodmare. Being an ultra-advanced A.I. with synthetic-yet-somehow-organic components, Proteus is able to create sperm that will be viable for use within Susan and in short order it has done its vile deed with her via a rather uncomfortable-looking telescoping metal phallus. The interesting thing here — other than the obvious — is that Proteus attempts to soften the blow by connecting Susan to its vast consciousness and sharing a perception that encompasses distant and beautiful parts of the cosmos in a scene that may have influenced what Alan Moore wrote for Abby Arcane during her psychedelic tuber-influenced "coupling" with Swamp Thing some years later during his landmark run on that comics series. Anyway, once knocked-up, Susan is told that the foetus' gestation will occur over a total of a mere twenty-eight days, during which time the government and Susan's estranged husband have become aware that something is wrong in regard to the computer, thus creating a gestational race against time before Proteus is shut off for good. What results is a curious blending of the horrific and truly wonderful, and I'm honestly not sure where I stand when it comes to considering the final outcome...

Looking at it now, DEMON SEED has lost a considerable amount of its shock value, especially in the wake of far less intelligent "inhuman rape" fare like HUMANOIDS FROM THE THE DEEP (1980), INSEMINOID (1981) and GALAXY OF TERROR (1985), but its tale of cyber-violation remains very intriguing and handled with a great amount of good taste and I would be curious to see a contemporary remake that took narrative advantage of the scientific/medical/technological advances as witnessed and experienced over the thirty-four years since its release. Just don't let Michael Bay or some other such brain-dead Hollywood asshat anywhere near it, that's all I ask.

Poster for the original theatrical release

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