March 3, 2009
Demon Lover Diary, 1980
Inasmuch as Joel DeMott and Jeff Kreines collaborative documentary, Seventeen provides an intimate and compassionate portrait of teenaged life in middle America, DeMott's earlier film, Demon Lover Diary - a diary of Kreines's reluctant involvement with the shooting of a schlock horror film called Demon Lover in suburban Michigan - proves to be its antithesis in its grotesque and increasingly surreal first-hand account of a no-budget, DIY film production gone awry. Invited to work as a technical director and cameraman, Kreines' working relationship with the film's producers becomes strained from the onset when he unexpectedly arrives - complete with girlfriend DeMott and a production crew friend in tow - several days later than planned, and is berated by factory workers turned aspiring movie moguls, Don Jackson and his friend, Jerry on the added personal and professional toll that his late arrival has taken on their already tight shooting schedule (with Jerry alluding to having cut off his finger at work in order to collect insurance money to finance the film, and Don having apparently mortgaged his house and taken an indeterminate sick leave from his job in order to work on the film [and now risks being fired if he continues to extend his absence]). The logistics of the production also proves to be more complicated than Kreines had expected. Don's arranged accommodations for the shoot turns out to be a guest room in his parents' house, and because of Mrs. Johnson's religious convictions, DeMott and Kreines must not only pose as a married couple, but also refrain from discussing the actual content of the film in her presence. The working script is virtually non-existent, and consists solely of Don's personal journal outlining the story (with Kreines oddly left without access to the material). And despite dispensing with any trace of realism in their over-the-top gothic sets, piecemeal costumes, and amateurish performances, Don and Jerry insist on using real weapons borrowed from Ted Nugent's private collection in order to film a crucial scene (complete with product demonstrations from an eager Nugent himself) - a bizarre encounter that grows even more absurd when Kreines attempts to pin down his role in the production by approaching the producers with a contract. In its idiosyncratic combination of documentary and real-life human comedy, Demon Lover Diary may be seen as an integral link, not only in the development of the mockumentary genre, but also in the thematic development of films that transect the bounds between real-life and performance (particularly, in the construction of metafilms) - a convergence between truth and staging that is perhaps best illustrated in DeMott's attempts to goad her friend into arranging a romantic encounter with the film's lead actress during a production break.