To end this series, we go back to the place where it all began; The Demon Lover.
The Demon Lover Diaries is NOT a Jackson film, but rather a fly-on-the-wall documentary, shot by the camera crew on the film. And when I say the camera crew, what I mean is the dude who actually owns the camera and was therefore the one shooting most of the film. This crew came in expecting a more polished and structured production. What they got was a first time filmmaker and his admittedly on-the-fly filmmaking style.
Because the movie was being shot in Michigan, this out-of-town crew ended up staying with Jackson’s mother. While not approving of his film aspirations, she was humoring him and supporting the shoot. However, being a traditional evangelical Christian, they were afraid of offending her, so the camera operator and his girlfriend presented themselves as man and wife as well as avoiding any mention of what the film was about other than “detective mystery”.
It’s so strange to see Jackson so young. I’m very used to seeing him middle aged and beyond. There’s an earnestness about him, but you can also see the fast talker that Scott Shaw would describe. He’d say anything to get the shot, promise anything to keep people working one more day, even if no one knew what that next day would entail. There’s a moment in the film where a couple of the girls start flinging whipped cream at each other. Jackson’s direction had been to improv the scene and it infuriated the camera operator. Some of the creme got on the camera and the absolute absurdity on top of the constant improved nature of the shoot was almost the last straw for him. Jackson talked the man down by offering the previously pro bono cameraman a thousand dollars to finish.
Yet the cameraman and his crew come in with their own problems and preconcieved notions as well. They trash the space they are staying in, much to the dismay of Jackson’s mother who complains about filth and cigarette butts everywhere. They throw a fit when they arrive at Ted Nugent’s house to film. They object not only to the use of real guns in the shot, but to the house and Nugent itself, acting appalled that he hunts. They talk about him as being crazy because he has game heads mounted on the wall, deer and rabbit and such (Not because he’s doing his crazy Ted Nugent thing – he’s actually quite subdued here. No, they think he’s crazy and bad because he hunts. Really interesting that those particular left wing talking points really haven’t changed that much in all this time).
It all ends badly. Someone gets mad and throws a rock at their car. Mistaking it for a gunshot, the camera crew flees, all the time looking over their shoulder in mortal terror to make sure Jackson isn’t coming after them to kill them. it’s a strange overreaction and I can’t help but wonder how much of it may be staged to give the documentary a more exciting ending. It certainly cements it as a bit of a hit piece to me. Not completely unjustified, but definitely overblown. If it existed in a vacuum, you might perhaps view Jackson and his team as dangerously unhinged maniacs that would never make another film. History has since proven them wrong.
I’m glad I found this at the end of this journey. I’m glad I watched it last, because I can see Jackson’s foibles on full display here. I can also see where the filmmakers opinion is overriding and perhaps unreasonable. But it’s a marvelous time capsule. All of those legends we hear about; Jackson taking sick leave to film the movie, His friend’s fingers getting cut off to fund it, the gurella film making aspects, it all comes to life and I get a very clear picture of the filmmaker Jackson would later become.