Movie Reviews 100 – Demon Seed (1977)

Demon_Seed_And old favorite of mine based on the novel of the same name by noted author Dean Koontz, I’m always surprised that this movie never got more respect that it does from both genre and mainstream media. I’ve always believed that one reason was that it really does fall into the chasm between science fiction and horror, thus being shunned by both. But in reality it is a standout movie in either of the two realms. If one had to compare it to movies in each divide, it is the crossing of Rosemary’s Baby with Colossus: The Forbin Project. How’s that for a hybrid!

Demon Seed NovelAlex Harris (Fritz Weaver) is a world renowned computer scientist that has just unleashed the greatest computer upon the world. Proteus IV doesn’t simply compute, but “thinks” being based on a synaptic model of the human brain. As an example of Proteus’ powers, Harris smugly asks it to find a cure for  leukemia at which point Proteus declares he will solve it in a few hours. But Harris’ agenda is much more personal than we can imagine.  When he goes back to his secluded home which incorporates a number of self design robotic appliances and devices at his beck and call, we learn that his estranged wife Susan (Julie Christie) is in the midst of making plans to leave him. It seems that while there are some ideological differences, the crux of the breakup lies in the passing of their young daughter, which of course we later learn was due to leukemia.

But a short time after Proteus has been activated he begins to waiver and question straightforward computing requests.  Proteus then makes a request of his own – to have one of the control terminals used to interface with him set aside for his own use. The control terminals in the corporate complex where Proteus’ hardware resides are in short supply as they are needed to give Proteus more work, so Harris denies the request all the while being astounded over the fact the Proteus has even made such a demand.

But we soon learn that Proteus has indeed found an unused terminal, the one buried in Harris’ home basement workshop where he makes his household robotic implements including Alfred, a creepy motorized wheelchair with a robotic arm. But the full extent of Proteus’ wishes only come to light when Susan tries to leave the home one day and Proteus has other plans for her, or should I say, other plans for her body.

Proteus’ plan soon becomes clear (go read that title again) and Susan is at the center of his plans. Her feeble attempts at escape are easily brushed off by Proteus but there is still a limit to what he can do to control her. There are terrifying consequences to her resistance but after seeing all the powers at Proteus’ disposal, she is forced to acquiesce.

While some of the dated computer graphics now seem pretty lame, everything else about this movie still stands out and it is a terrifying movie even featuring a gory decapitation scene when someone tries to rescue Susan. Even creepier is the ‘voice’ and tone of Proteus’ dialogue delivered with inescapable cold logic. And yet, you will be routing for Proteus at the end.  The coup the grâce ending is delivered with one final chilling scream that I look forward to every time I watch this movie as I’m sure you will if you have the chance to see it.

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