The Hagstone Demon DVD Review
Directed by Jon Springer
Written by Jon Springer and Harrison Matthews
2009, Region 1 (NTSC), 96 minutes, Not Rated
DVD released on September 27th, 2011
Mark Borchardt as Douglas Elmore
Nadine Gross as Karna
Cyndi Kurtz as Barbara
Sasha Andreev as Father Carl
Gizelle Erickson as Julie
Jay Smiley as Bill
Michael Glen as Detective Willis
The Hagstone Apartments is home to a slew of wacky yet generally miserable characters. Douglas Elmore (Mark Borchardt) leads this pack of misfits through the final days before the building is scheduled for demolition. Douglas spends his time changing light bulbs, unclogging toilets and doing basic repairs for the few remaining tenants. He used to be a happily married journalist, but his wife’s suicide has tossed him into a downward spiral that has landed him the position of maintenance man at this dilapidated complex.
The residents complain about a mysterious woman who has been seen squatting in an abandoned apartment. Douglas promises to handle things, but he knows the woman, Karna (Nadine Gross), is harmless and that there is no need to force her out if the entire building is closing down in a manner of weeks. Karna offers herself in trade for his kindness but Douglas is more interested in Barbara (Cyndi Kurtz), the single mother upstairs.
Things turn ugly once people start being murdered and Douglas finds himself the chief suspect in the police investigation. Teaming up with Barbara and a priest who is his former brother-in-law (Sasha Andreev), Douglas attempts to clear his name, but stumbles upon a mystery that will challenge everything he understands to be real. Without giving too much away, it is safe to say there are elements of Satanism and witchcraft at play and things will never be the same for the residents of The Hagstone Apartments.
Director Jon Springer takes what could have been an ordinary run-of-the-mill haunted house story and delivers something much more entertaining with this low-budget film noir. Acting as his own cinematographer, Springer takes full advantage of the location and makes the building the central character with its run-down hallways and drab interiors. The black and white photography sets the tone quickly as a salute to both the cinematic pot boilers of the 1940s mixed with a generous debt to David Lynch’s Eraserhead. The sense of despair is nicely accentuated with the high contrast grit that haunts the decrepit building and Springer establishes a feeling of dread with a confidence lacking in many low-budget films.
Mark Borchardt (American Movie) carries the film on his lanky shoulders for better or worse, and succeeds more often than not in maintaining a likeable reluctant hero in Douglas. His voice-over work is a bit weak, but that is more a problem with the screenplay than the delivery. Many of the supporting cast members come off stiff and unnatural during the casual moments that set up the mystery of the Hagstone, but it is here that Borchardt is strongest. The ease with which he presents the Everyman character of Douglas deserves particular praise.
The Hagstone Demon suffers many of the trappings of low-budget productions, including some lousy acting and pacing problems with the edit, but there are more things working for the finished project than against. Instead of delivering vampires, zombies or the other usual suspects, Springer offers a quiet character study that takes the road less travelled in horror and audiences who stick with it until the end will be glad they did.
Video and Audio:
Pacific Entertainment steps up with a solid 1:85.1 anamorphic transfer that disguises the budget limitations and provides a sharp picture. Contrast levels are sharp and the occasional moments of color photography are rich and clean.
Audio is presented in a respectable 5.1 surround mix that delivers an occasional workout to the rear speakers during some of the more dramatic moments of the feature.
A feature length audio commentary with director Jon Springer and actor Mark Borchardt is entertaining, although not limited to discussion of the film itself.
Next up is Dollface, an entertaining short film from director Jon Springer that offers a further glimpse of his method.
A video interview with Mark Borchardt comes is rewarding to everyone that can’t get enough of his charismatic enthusiasm for the genre.
Deleted scenes and an alternate opening are pretty self explanatory, but the decisions made to the final edit of the film are understandable as these omissions offer little.
The disc offers up a series of behind the scenes photos and artwork illustrations in a standard gallery.
The original trailer rounds out the special features on this disc.