Demon Lover Diary is sort of like American Movie and Blair Witch Project rolled into one, amazing cinematic experience. In 1975, filmmaker Joel DeMott went with her boyfriend Jeff Kreines to Michigan, to help a young Donald G. Jackson (of Rollerblade notoriety) film his first feature, Demon Lover. The results are insane.
DeMott shot the whole thing using a handheld camera, often deliberately out of focus, and full of dimly-lit figures. We watch the action unfold in fragments and awkward bits as she and Kreines arrive and immediately have to deal with Jackson's bizarre requests. He's put them up at his mother's house, and forbidden them to tell her anything about the movie because she's religious (DeMott later notes in voiceover that Jackson's mother is "the only nice person" involved in the film).
For the next several days, they film a bunch of blood-soaked scenes, and DeMott captures the odd and often disturbing things that the (unpaid) actors and techs say as the shoot gets more grueling and nobody has any sleep. One young actress tries to wow everyone with her racist jokes. Then we learn, elliptically, that Jackson's co-director got several of his fingers "accidentally" cut off at the factory where he and Jackson work, so that the insurance money could fund their movie.
Eventually, the whole thing culminates with a trip to Ted Nugent's house, where Jackson wants to get a bunch of guns and explosives for a final scene. Why do these guys know Nugent? And why do DeMott and her friends eventually run screaming and trembling from the set, (only half-jokingly) afraid for their lives?
Before you start wondering — this is a real documentary. It was released in 1980, three years after Demon Lover was a flop in theaters. And what makes it amazing is partly DeMott's whispered narration, which grows increasingly snarky as everyone mistreats them more and more. It's almost like we're watching from inside her head as she films everyone in the cast and crew flailing, boasting, and melting down.
The other amazing thing about this movie is that it chronicles the rise of two film industry oddballs: DeMott continues to make indie documentaries (one, called Seventeen, won a Sundance grand jury prize for documentary in 1985); and Jackson became a cult movie visionary who directed movies like Hell Comes to Frogtown and the mind-boggling Rollerblade series.
As you watch Demon Lover Diary, it's fun to think about how you're watching two outsider careers take off, as the weird indie documentary filmmaker meets the weird cult genre filmmaker during two freaky weeks in suburban Michigan back in 1975.