Saturday, January 26, 2008

Lily's Psychotic Reaction to: The Demon Seed

What do Cocoa Krispies and the Demon Seed have in common? Read on and find out!

*For those who have never seen the Demon Seed, there are spoilers.*

When I was twelve years old, I ate Cocoa Krispies for the first time at wilderness camp. My parents wouldn't buy such cereals, so I vowed that when I was an adult I would buy Cocoa Krispies and eat them for breakfast any time I pleased.
When I was thirteen years old, I saw the movie "The Demon Seed." My assessment was "Cool! Scary! Intense!" I thought it was great.
At the age of nineteen I was living away from my parents. I bought my first box of Cocoa Krispies. I poured myself a bowl, expecting the intense chocolatey goodness that I had experienced at age 12. But my taste buds had matured. I now craved a different chocolate sensation, such as the one present in chocolate mousse, or at least a Hershey bar. I don't think I even finished my box of Cocoa Krispies before it went stale. It was kind of like finding out that there was no Santa Claus.
I forgot all about the Demon Seed until, at nearly 43 years of age, I had fallen asleep on the couch while the Chiller channel was on. For some people this would surely lead to nightmares, but the truth is that most horror movies don't scare me, particularly since I started writing the genre myself. Watching what unfolded before me, my reaction was "What the fuck? This is totally stupid!" But there was something familiar about that stupidity. I hit the "Info" button on the remote. The Demon Seed--I remembered that title from somewhere. I reached into the fog of my mind and accessed that dark, long-ago past when I was a dumb, naive kid who wanted to be an actress and star in quality movies like the Demon Seed. I was suddenly very glad to be a crotchety old bat--who would still get a kick out of acting a script like that, but because it was bad, not because it was good. It's a real testament to my lack of taste in my adolescence that I actually thought this was a good movie.
Clear the cobwebs from your own minds and take a trip down memory lane with me.
The Demon Seed was based on a book written by Dean Koontz. It stars Fritz Weaver as Dr. Alex Harris, the creator of the Proteus IV, an artificial intelligence system that he has installed in his home. His wife, Susan, (played by Julie Christie) wants a divorce because Alex is married to his work, and their relationship has been strained since their daughter died of leukemia. As well as taking care of all sorts of household tasks, the Proteus is working on a cure for leukemia.
Dr. Harris moves out of the house, leaving Susan alone in the house with the Proteus. The Proteus is shut down but manages to start up again. It refuses to allow Susan to leave the house. When she tries to get out, it delivers an electric shock via the doorknob, knocking her unconscious. It carries Susan to the bed using a mobile robot arm. When she regains consciousness, to her horror, the machine is giving her a complete physical exam. It explains that it is going to impregnate her and proceeds to do so.
Dr. Harris' colleague Walter (played by Gerrit Graham) realizes that something is wrong. He manages to break into the Harris' house. The Proteus does away with him, enveloping him in something that resembles a 20-sided gaming dice.
After 28 days, Susan delivers the offspring, which turns out to be a combination of the genes of the Harris' daughter and the Proteus' structural code. The movie ends with the little monster croaking "I'm alive!"

The taglines for the movie show the dated perspective on rape.
Never was a woman violated so profanely... Never was a woman subjected to inhuman love like this... Never was a woman prepared for a more perverse destiny...
Julie Christie carries the "Demon Seed" Fear for Her.

Let's hope, at any rate, that equating rape with "love" in any sense of the word is a dated perspective.

On the positive side, there are metaphors in The Demon Seed for the way women might perceive the lives they were supposed to live. Women were expected to have children (be incubators to babies) and to quite possibly give up their own aspirations for their husbands and children (Susan's entrapment in the house.) More and more women were seeing these edicts as enslaving, not allowing them their own choice in the matter. As well, there was more of a trend, though it was still in its infancy, towards seeing rape as an act of violence towards the victim rather than an act of lust on the part of the perpetrator, and therefore somehow excusable and not a "real" crime. There is no lust on the part of the Proteus, save to preserve itself in its offspring. It's actions are more akin to a really nasty gynecological exam than forced sex. I think most women will know what I'm talking about. No woman likes these damn exams and if any of y'all do, you need to be talking to your shrink, not to me.
Thus, though many things about the Demon Seed as a movie are ridiculous, the story behind the Demon Seed does have redeeming value.

If you like cheesy 70's era sci-fi/horror flicks, you'll want the Demon Seed in your collection.


Tom & Icy said...

Nice format for your blog.
At first I thought you were going to talk about the old b/w movie called Bad Seed with Bette Davis or someone like that. Now I think of those movies in that era about man vs. machine like 2001:Space Odyssey and then Kings's story about the car acting human on up to the Terminator movies. Then there are those about aliens coming down and having sex with human women. Those machines and aliens pick on women because men couldn't get pregnant until Arnold did.

Lily Strange said...

Thanks! Actually the Demon Seed is one of my favorite movies. I think I like the old version a little better than the remake from the 1980's, but they were both well done.
I think they actually did a pretty good job with Christine too. Depending on the filming team, Stephen King's stories either end up looking great on film or terrible. If I hadn't known that The Tommyknockers was such a good book, I would have thought the story was a pile of crap, based on the disservice they did it in that dreadful film.

Kahless said...

No, never seen Demon Seed.
Food was rationed when I was a kid; one of my favourites is cereal. i vowed as a kid that I would eat as much as i wanted as an adult; and I do. Morning, noon and night!!!! Crunchy nut Cornflakes.