Demonoid Review: Hands off!
Updated: Apr 17
Dir: Alfredo Zacarias
Release Date: 1981
“A mining expedition releases a cursed, severed, hand which possesses the minds and bodies of those it encounters with murderous results”
I found this little beauty on Shudder and the poster alone made it a required watch.
80s Horror movies really did have some great artwork on them as that was the only advertising most of them got. The eye-catching front covers, promising bloodshed and nudity were how to get noticed in the Video stores and this one certainly gets the thumbs up from my severed left hand.
We start around 300 years ago with people in yellow robes resembling the KKK style outfits. One of them steals a hand from a hand shaped metal case and makes a run for it. They are quickly caught, and the hood is ripped off to reveal it is a blonde woman, so they have a good old punch up.
This woman seems incredibly strong as she lifts a guy up by this throat and snaps his neck, but she quickly succumbs to the numbers game and is chained to the wall.
Thankfully, they take the time to tear her robe open to reveal some fantastic breasts.
Intercut with these scenes, we keep seeing flashes of a Demon in silhouette holding his sword aloft like on the front cover accompanied by lightning bolt noises. While chained to the wall, she has her hand cut off with an axe at which point it runs away like ‘Thing’ in The Addams Family. There will be a lot of that in this film. One of the robe guys stabs the hand and puts it back into the metal case and we get the opening credits. As is customary, we get a special credit and this one goes out to “Also starring Lew Saunders as Sgt Leo Matson”. I had to look Lew Saunders up, as I often have to do with these names, and his claim to fame at the time was playing Officer Gene Fritz in 28 episodes of CHiPs and then a variety of other small cop roles after Demonoid plus an appearance as ‘Job Interviewer’ in Cocktail. Lew Saunders there, folks.
We meet Jennifer Baines, played by Samantha Eggar (The Collector, The Brood, The Exterminator and Curtains to give her the genre respect she deserves) who is in Mexico to meet up with her mining expedition leader husband, Mark, played by Roy Jenson (Soylent Green, Chinatown and a host of Clint Eastwood films). As Mark is far too busy to meet her at the airport, Jennifer gets his assistant, Pepe to take her to him and proceeds to sneak down the mine to see him, knocking some polystyrene rocks to the floor and uncovering a skeleton wearing a stupid wig which makes her scream (the skeleton or wig I guess).
Mark uncovers several other skeletons down there so we go off to a museum full of mummified corpses and for Pepe to explain the history of the mine to the couple and to us. Apparently, there is a superstition about ‘The Devil’s Hand’ which led to many of the mummified bodies being bereft of their left hands.
All well and good so we go back to the mine to find nobody is down there as they are all afraid of this superstition. Jennifer decides that if she goes down there (a mere woman) with her husband, the men will be shamed into going back to work and it’ll all be back on track.
More polystyrene rocks fall down as they descend (Jennifer appears to be wearing her safety mining stilettos for the trip so the Health and Safety aspect is all above board).
“Pepe never brought me down here”, exclaims Mark when they find many corpses in an opening, also likening it to a torture chamber.
After a clearly plastic skull scares Jennifer, Mark somehow falls into some quicksand which, before she can be bothered to assist him, swallows him out of sight.
Fortunately, it spits him back out through some more fake rocks into a chamber and he has Jennifer join him to explore some more. It is surprisingly well lit down there and we see more skulls, corpses, and a kind of altar. They also, of course, find a hand shaped metal case which gives us another quick flash of the demon who is still standing in the same stance as he was 300 years ago, they take it and get out of there. Upon seeing this metal case, the miners leave anyway which seems to surprise the Baines couple who perhaps expected a round of applause and for the strike to all be over.
Mark Baines is feeling sorry for himself and says he’s a failure. Not quite reading the situation or his mood, Jennifer opens some champagne for them to enjoy and tries to get all sexy.
Next, she’s asleep in bed and Mark is sitting in a drunken stupor before deciding he will also go to bed but not before he opens this metal case to see what all the fuss is about.
The box is full of dust which Mark needlessly empties onto a tray for us to see and then he is off to bed to sleep off his ridiculous drinking. We get some decent effects here as some time-lapse footage of the hand regenerating is intercut with close-ups of the mummified corpses from both the museum and the mines until it is spoiled by the hand moving from the tray again and off to find Jennifer so it can creep up her leg while she sleeps.
Well, she doesn’t like this and even Mark is awoken by her screams.
He tries to remove the hand from her leg, but it grabs him and seemingly crushes his hand as he rolls off the bed. Flashes of a demon and then he seems okay yet refuses to allow his wife to see his hand and shouts, “Get that away from me”, when she brings the metal box towards him and then he just ups and leaves.
Jennifer heads to the mine (seemingly the next day) and finds Pepe who explains that Mark has forced the men back into the mine and gone crazy.
As if on cue, Mark then appears to blow up the mine with a classic plunger detonator and then he just runs off again.
We cut immediately to Sands Casino in Las Vegas and Mark is winning big on the Craps table which is drawing attention from a clearly shady guy and his voluptuous female companion. A cab pulls up outside and Jennifer gets out which I thought showed the tenacity of a woman who could just guess where your husband would go after causing the deaths of many Mexican labourers. It turns out that she actually saw it in the newspaper which seems an odd practice as the headline screams, “Mark Baines! Big Vegas Winner!”, and there’s a big photo of him as well.
Hardly helping him out with the security of his winnings there. Even the guy on the desk proves my point by saying,
“Another Mrs Baines?”, as if there has been a slew of them through there looking to cash in. That is least of his worries as it turns out as he is about to be abducted by this voluptuous woman and her shady companion and whisked away in a van to a small wooden shack where he’s been tied to a tiny school desk.
“You’re wasting your time, all of the money is in a safe”, he says which provokes the unusual insult from the lady,
“We don’t want your money, pig-head!”, and the guy confirms they want to know how he won all that money without it being spotted as cheating.
Claims of beginner’s luck doesn’t quite work so they threaten to cut off his hands which results in Baines freeing himself, knocking the guy out and strangling the female until he crushes her face in a lovely effect.
He looks at his hand, it flashes green and negative lighting, and he goes to chop it off before he has to fight it like they do much better in Evil Dead 2 because they at least acknowledge the ridiculous nature of the scene.
Not so this one whose serious attempts almost makes these scenes more enjoyable than Sir Bruce Campbell as Baines fights himself, pours gasoline all over himself and smashes an oil lantern which sets everything on fire.
Mark Baines is also fully alight and leaves the shack so he can die while his hand buries itself in the dirt in order to survive. As a cheeky bonus, we get to see a member of either the stunt crew or fire crew carefully leaving the burning building in the background as Baines dies on the sand.
Police officer to Jennifer Baines: “We have good news and bad news. We found the girl, she’s dead.”
No rest there between the 2 items of news.
He then explains more bad news as he points out that there were 2 male bodies also recovered with one being that of local crook but the other just probably a local and the owner of the shack as he was burned too much.
Jennifer immediately knows it was Mark but somehow the body had already been identified and shipped to L.A. for burial.
Jennifer immediately heads to Los Angeles where she meets Stuart Whitman as a Priest who gives the impression he wants nothing to do with this film at all.
“You buried my husband, did you see the autopsy report?”,
“There was no need, he was burned beyond recognition”.
Do Priests always get to see the autopsy report of everyone they bury? Let us know.
Regardless of any of this, Jennifer demands to see the grave for some reason, and we cut to it immediately at the exact moment Mark Baines’ stunt double corpse is hurtled out of it by some sort of hydraulic catapult and he escapes.
The Priest fairly assumes vandalism, but Jennifer defiantly insists it was her husband jumping from the grave.
We get a flash image of the burned corpse and a cop saying he will take a look. This cop, ladies and gentlemen, is none other than Lew Saunders as Sgt Leo Matson!
Jennifer is getting quite annoying now,
“Father, do you believe that God is the ultimate source of good?” she asks.
“Of course, I do, I’m a fucking Priest!”, he fails to reply.
Her angle is that if he does, he must also believe that the opposite is true.
"Not in the form of a 300-year-old hand that crawls", he actually replies, quite reasonably and we go to this hand to find the burned corpse slamming it in the door of Sgt Leo Matson’s squad car until it falls off and sounds the horn.
Matson finds the corpse, opens the door and a rubber hand hits him in the face (demon flash) causing him to fire his handgun, alerting the Priest and Jennifer.
“You stay here”, is the instruction Jennifer totally ignores as they arrive at the grave to see Matson drag the corpse out of the way and just drive off.
The corpse has no left hand!!!
Cut to Lew Saunders as Sgt Leo Matson in the boxing gym when the priest wanders in and starts asking questions about the night before. There is some shit dialogue, some shitter sparring between the two and, when the priest is knocked down to reveal his crucifix, Matson is outta there.
The next scene is when I first noticed that people are just standing around in the background of this film which I first thought might be some kind of plotline like maybe a secret cult following the hand but I realised I was giving it too much credit and it turns out to be people just watching the film being shot in their neighbourhood and they just kept them in the movie.
Not sure if I had missed some earlier but I sure couldn’t be bothered to start the film again to check.
Jennifer returns to her car and is arrested for nothing by Sgt Leo Matson who takes her away in his squad car. Takes her to a Plastic Surgery Centre where we find a doctor and a busty nurse on the couch like in a Carry-On film.
“What do you want?”, demands the superbly voiced doctor.
Sgt Leo Matson draws his gun on the guy and declares,
“Either you cut off my hand or I’ll kill you!”.
Brilliant line. He then cuffs Jennifer to a chair and when she asks what he’s going to do with the hand, he continues with this nonsensical dialogue,
“In a word? It’s a gift. You set it free, it’s yours”.
We do get a nice and lengthy close-up of the doctor lasering Sgt Leo Matson’s hand off and we then cut back to the priest who is inexplicably making his own stained glass for his windows with a blowtorch and everything. Does the Church not take care of that kind of thing? Back to Sgt Leo Matson who is now holding his severed hand on a metal tray. The busty nurse runs but gets shot and dies. Matson tries to hit his own hand with his baton but he is blocked and then the hand leaps into his face, crushes his face and breaks his neck. The doctor grabs the hand as Jennifer escapes her chair only to be chased down by the doctor who injects her in the tit, in the side and finally in the neck and she is out for the count.
The priest finds Jennifer’s car and then somehow ends up at the same plastic surgery centre with another cop only to find the doctor is about to cut his own hand off but, upon being interrupted, punches the cop in the face and gets out of there which sets us up for a ridiculous car chase across town accompanied by an 80s funk track. The doctor is in a white convertible while Jennifer and the priest are in the back seat of the cop car (on more than one occasion, you can clearly see they are not in the back seat at all only for them to reappear in a later shot) and this chase causes numerous crashes with vehicles overturning and ramming into each other while yet more people are just standing still in the background watching the filming of this scene.
They pull alongside a slow moving cargo train and the mad doctor climbs aboard, then leaps off again so he can put his arm on the tracks to sever his hand.
The severed hand then jumps up and grips the undercarriage and escapes! Phew! What a mental few minutes they were.
“I set it free so it will come back”, explains Jennifer who is clearly just making the plot up as she goes along but it turns out she is right.
Apparently all this time, it just wanted to get to her which is why everyone keeps cutting it off again once it attaches to them or something.
The priest tells her to get some sleep and leaves. On his journey home, he randomly arrives at an accident scene where a cop asks him to read last rites to a victim.
THE VICTIM HAS NO LEFT HAND!!!
Back at Jennifer’s, she is about to get into bed when she pulls back the covers to reveal the hand is already in there! She tries to find the metal case but it is all mangled up and useless. The priest arrives back there and they make their escape even though the hand sneaks out of the window and leaps onto the roof of the car where it presumably holds on for the journey.
Back at the priest’s house, Jennifer gets dressed and gives us another splendid line of, “The hand will kill again!”, while it plots to do exactly that by sneaking in through the basement. The phone is cut, the power is cut so they head over to the Church which, even though the door is locked, all of the candles inside seem to be lit (H&S failure) and there seems to be a life size model of a monk or Jesus in robes just standing there which is not at all unusual.
A wind blows through, an outrageously creaky door opens, candles are extinguished (safety first) and the priest sees the hand on the floor. As he approaches and picks up the hand, he finds it is a fake…… It belongs to the model of the monk and the ‘real’ hand is for some reason in its place. It leaps into the priest’s face and it’s Padre down as he rolls about the place while Jennifer runs and shouts, “Noooooooooooooooooooooo!”, for ages and begs for the hand to take her and not him.
As she had already explained, the hand is all about that but the priest doesn’t let it go. Flash of demon still standing there with his sword aloft and the priest is possessed by the hand.
“I will kill you so it will be mine”, is the plan now and he destroys the altar trying to get to her until he chases her into the room in which he was making glass earlier on. He punches the hand through a pane of stained glass, and it appears to start hypnotising Jennifer somehow while protruding from the glass.
She even leans in and kisses the hand until the priest slams a dagger straight through his own wrist which renders it stuck.
“Bring me the blowtorch!”, he demands, and burns the hand whilst quoting Biblical scripture.
We cut to a small ship where Jennifer and the priest are now reading funeral rites to the hand and throw it into the ocean.
“Thank God it’s over”, Jennifer stupidly says because we all know we’ll get the inevitable epilogue.
We don’t even get a caption explaining how long has passed when this is happening so we just have to guess.
Jennifer is watering her plants when there’s a knock at the door. As she heads to answer it, she finds a puddle of water on the floor. She opens the hatch on the door and a hand pushes through which is a fake jump scare as it is just a delivery guy who is inexplicably thrusting his hand into the hatch whilst knocking at that exact spot.
He is delivering a gift box which looks like it either contains a bottle of champagne or a severed hand.
On her way back upstairs, she finds some seaweed on the floor which she rightfully thinks is a bit odd.
There is more water on her desk when she lays the package down and, when she opens it, there is another bit of seaweed inside along with a large black candle. The tap behind her starts to drip and she apprehensively approaches the basin. The hand is in there and leaps at her, grabbing her hair while she lets out an almighty scream. The candle ignites, there is a flash of a mummified corpse, a flash of the demon and a slow motion, full face smash through a glass table.
Freeze frame. THE END.
Wow. What a film this is.
To sum it all up, it really is all about a hand on the rampage. There’s awful acting, ridiculous dialogue, an insane car chase, pointless scenes, editing errors and some quite legitimately impressive attempts at gore effects for the budget they must have had.
It clocks in at only 78 minutes so it won’t take up too much of your time should you dare to face the Demonoid!
FAVOURITE CHARACTER: The Plastic Surgeon – the insane bastard
FAVOURITE MOMENT: The car chase.
FAVOURITE LINE: Tough one this but I’ll go with Lew Saunders as Sgt Leo Matson:
“Either you cut off my hand or I’ll kill you.”
FAVOURITE DEATH: Slow motion face through the glass table at the end of the film. Kind of reminded me of a Fulci effect.