James Sizemore is a man of many traits and with a childhood consisting of several near-death experiences such as drowning, electrocutions, and almost hit by a freight train. And if that wasn’t traumatic enough, his childhood home in Georgia also seemed to be haunted by poltergeist activity. As he was influenced by these experiences he began to draw goblins, demons and whatnot which in later age evolved into producing some really cute Lovecraftian sculpt figures which he sells through his own company Wonder Goblin. He also makes music, has written one comic book, made two horror shorts (Goat Witch and Budfoot) and probably more I’ve forgot to mention. But the most important achievement in this case, is that he’s written, directed and produced one feature-length film, The Demons Rook. A passion project in which he gathered friends and family to a shooting schedule planned for three quick weeks in his local home community in Georgia with a tiny budget of five thousand dollars. In the purest indie-horror fashion they soon found themselves trapped in what is known as the indie horror-purgatory and continued the shooting for over two, grueling long years during the weekends, while questioning their own sanity, preventing the one mental breakdown after another, and promised themselves to never make a movie again. In other words, the normal cycle of independent movie making.
We meet the young boy Roscoe, not far from similar to the director himself, who during the day plays with his friend Eva, and sits up at night and makes drawings of demons. He is constantly visited by the demon Dimwos, a two-horned creature that looks more like something from Lovecraft’s universe. It is unclear why this demon shows up, but we can guess that he has been conjured by the drawings. Dimwos gets hold of the kid and one night lures him into the woods and down a hole that leads to Hell, where he trains him with black magic through manhood. Many, many years later, an grown-up Roscoe (now portrayed by James Sizemore) returns to the world with a long beard, confused and scared because, for some reason, he has accidentally managed to free three evil demons from Hell to Earth. And these demons are nothing to joke about, and makes matters worse by resurrecting the dead into Night of the Living Dead zombies and possesses people into Evil Dead monsters, to create hell on earth. Roscoe seeks out his childhood friend Eva (Ashleigh Jo Sizemore) and uses his trained Jedi powers to prevent a full demon apocalypse.
One quickly realize that director, producer and co-writer James Sizemore has a deep love for the good old video nasty-era horror cinema of the 70s and 80s, and has taken a laundry list of references that really shine through from old horror genre obelisks such as Dario Argento, George A. Romero, Stuart Gordon, Lucio Fulci, Lamberto/Mario Bava, Tom Savini, early Peter Jackson, H.P. Lovecraft and probably more. With impressive gory effects, juicy body-counts, and creative old-school prosthetic make-up, the use of light, colors, flexible camera work, and massive use of a smoke machine to set the thick, retro atmosphere, the film works perfectly as a visual throwback to the good old times. And a budget of approx 70.000 dollars well spent. That being said, The Demon’s Rook suffers from the same as most home-made horror movies, with underdeveloped scripts and pacing issues with scenes that drags on, and a mixed bag of acting from amateur to decent. The actor couple James and Ashleigh both make good efforts with some naive enthusiasm and energy, even though we do not care all that much about them in the end. They got married during the filming, by the way, and are still married today. How cute. A year later after The Demon’s Rook, she got the task to be breast-naked and sacrificed to Satan in her husband’s horror short Goat Witch.
The DVD-release from 2015 seems to be out-of-print, but can be found after a quick search on Amazon Prime (limited by region).
Director: James Sizemore
Writers: James Sizemore, Akom Tidwell
Country & year: USA, 2013
Actors: Ashleigh Jo Sizemore, James Sizemore, John Chatham, Melanie Richardson, Josh Gould, Sade Smith, Dustin Dorough, Lincoln Archibald, William Baker, James Becker, Michael Bremer, Laura Clark