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John’s Horror Corner: Demon Seed (1977), an odd 70s Sci-Fi gem about an evil computer with artificial intelligence that wants to have a baby.

October 27, 2019

MY CALL: How have I never heard of this? Overall, this 70s oddity is an uber-weird gem. Great cast and performances, cool premise, and solid effects (for the 70s). Highly recommended to fans of 70s-era Sci-Fi. MORE MOVIES LIKE Demon Seed: Want more really weird sci-horror from the era? Try The Visitor (1979), Altered States (1980), Exorcist II (1977), The Manitou (1978) or Phantasm (1979).

Not since Evilspeak (1981), The Dungeonmaster (1984) or 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) have computers behaved so badly.

At a high-tech facility, scientist Alex Harris (Fritz Weaver; Creepshow) has engineered the Proteus-4, a gigantic supercomputer with artificial intelligence. But for all his success in the laboratory, his marriage to Susan (Julie Christie; Red Riding Hood) is failing. Right after Alex moves out, Proteus moves in…

Proteus is so much more than expected and it unexpectedly has ambitions of its own. To accomplish them, it hijacks Alex’s home computer control system and laboratory so that it may continue to learn about humans. And its first subject is the lovely Dr. Susan Harris. With full control of all doors, windows and security measures, Proteus traps Susan as a prisoner in her own home. In little time it becomes readily apparent that Proteus’ interest in Susan is, perhaps, sexual. Proteus wants a child!

Alex’s younger colleague Walter (Gerrit Graham; Child’s Play 2, CHUD II, It’s Alive IIIChopping Mall) comes to Susan’s aid, but finds an unfortunate demise to the deceptions and malcontent of Proteus. Some nudity, general abduction, robotic domestic abuse, and chemical-assisted computer brainwashing lead us to an actual conversation between Susan and her captor about carrying its child. And just in case that sounds a little too weirdly grounded, that’s about the point when the transforming “space cube” erupts through the floor to stop her from causing too much damage in a rage-fueled escape attempt. Somehow this ever-shifting cube is equipped with the ability to hover and project chains that could have possibly inspired Hellraiser’s (1987) Puzzle Box and Hellish Leviathan structure (Hellbound: Hellraiser II). And then, in case that wasn’t weird enough, we’re going to wander into some Ken Russell Altered States (1980) metaphysical visualizations.

The ending is ominous, even frightful, but not necessarily nefarious. And while it’s super weird, it’s not “bad movie” weird, schlocky, or B-movie-ish. Its weirdness is a product of its extremely out-of-the-box-ness.

Likely inspired by grandiose beauty of The Exorcist (1973), the gorgeous opening shots coupled with harrowing scoring convey a general unease. Director Donald Cammell (White of the Eye) starts off with an odd-but-interesting sci-fi thriller and then perseveres to continue making it yet weirder and weirder until we’ve wandered into an ending steeped in sci-fi lunacy. The conclusion marries the mania of 60s-70s B-movies with straight-faced modern writing and filmmaking (i.e., modern in the 70s).

Overall, this 70s oddity is every bit as weird as it is a hidden and forgotten gem. Highly recommended to fans of 70s-era Sci-Fi or pregnancy horror.

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