A murderous demon lurks inside an antique piano in a picturesque coastal town.
I had never heard of The Demons of Ludlow before writing this review and having seen it, I’m not surprised at all. This was one bad movie; if I did things on a five-star system, this would get one star and that’s only because one might wring joy from this thing provided they are well stocked with alcohol or other substances. I watched it twice and I’m still not sure what the hell happened, but we’ll do our best.
A vaguely New England town named Ludlow (I’m never convinced it’s a town, I feel like they just shot at a house in the woods and then borrowed some p*rn sets) is celebrating its bicentennial and part of the festivities involves the gifting of an old piano/organ/harmonium/harpsichord (they referred to it as all of these at different times, I don’t know what to tell you), sent all the way from England by a descendant of one of the town’s original settlers.
The gift is clearly cursed (we know this because it bleeds), but it doesn’t help that already Ludlow is a weird and scary place, seemingly cut off from the world, economically depressed, and full of creepy silent types who were probably relatives of the people making the film. In short order, people are saying things like “whatever happened was a long time ago” and “the evil stayed with the town and now it’s reaping its final harvest.” People go missing or mysteriously turn up dead and ghostly pilgrim children keep appearing.
Meanwhile, the town and the increasingly spooky events are being investigated by a local minister type and a writer who spent part of her childhood in town and wants to solve its mysteries before anyone else has to die, especially herself. She discovers that the piano was there in the town hundreds of years ago and has a nasty curse attached to it that might explain why the townspeople are dropping like flies after running afoul of assorted phantom Colonial types.
Anytime I see a low-budget (I mean really low budget) effort like this, I have to give the people involved some credit. Ludlow is indeed a strange place, that comes across, but take a look at some of its citizens and tell me that there wasn’t something in the water already. The cast is full of nondescript people who basically exist as pilgrim ghost fodder, the story feels grossly padded and is hard to follow, and the whole thing comes across as a cheap, cheap knock-off of The Fog (1980) and its vengeful pirate ghosts taking revenge on a town. John Carpenter did it, he did it better, and he did it so movies like this wouldn’t need to be made.
The whole movie has a dark, dingy look and you could easily forget that you are watching a horror movie and just think you are watching an early 80s p*rn. It’s that bad. Speaking of p*rn, the lighting suggests that the performers may have wanted to conceal their identities and who can blame them? The acting is off the charts bad, production values are nonexistent, and be prepared to have no idea what is going on.
Having said all of that, though, The Demons of Ludlow does have a genuinely unsettling scene. It’s one of those where it is just bizarre and “off” enough to be scary. The local organist (who bears a striking resemblance to “Woman Scorned” convicted murderess Betty Broderick) has a mentally ill grown daughter with an unhealthy attachment to her dolls. One evening, while her mother is out, this young woman comes across a group of 1700s-era ghosts (they look like refugees from Amadeus) in her dining room, eating ravenously at her dining room table. They notice her, coo over her, and then make their intentions clear: they are hungry for her and they advance like something out of a nightmare, tearing her limb from limb.
It doesn’t sound like much but it is on Youtube and the sequence is worth checking out to see how a largely bad/silly horror movie can still produce an effective scare scene in spite of itself. Otherwise, The Demons of Ludlow will please only viewers with highly developed camp sensibilities.
The Demons of Ludlow (1983)