They will make cemeteries their cathedrals and the cities your tombs!
"Italian horror mastermind!" reads the back of the DVD case for Demons (their words, not mine). This, of course, describing Mr. Ragu-terror himself, Dario Argento. He's the guy behind all kinds of strange and gross horror films, including Phenomina, Deep Red and Inferno. I can attest to none of them since I've never seen any of them. Many people swear that Argento is a genius when it comes to spilling guts and mutilating monsters. I'm just a tad skeptical. In 1985 producer Argento teamed with director Lamberto Bava for the horror tale Demons, featuring exploding zits, blind men getting their eyes poked out, and a rock soundtrack featuring Rick Springfield, Billy Idol and Motley Crüe. Anchor Bay barfs up this little treat on DVD.
Facts of the Case
Demons has a very simplistic story line to it. The whole things takes place in an overseas theater called "Metropol," a huge movie palace that is seemingly isolated from the rest of humanity. A guy wearing a strange tin mask distributes free passes to the screening of a new horror film to some young, perky college girls (i.e. big, bouncing boobies). They attend the screening with a bunch of other patrons (including a vast array of life's genetic weirdoes), and settle in for a night of free entertainment. During the movie something strange starts to happen, such as people turning into large, drooling demons who have a taste for human flesh.
Yes, that's right…LAWYERS are loose in the building! Ha! No, I'm kidding! Please, no hate letters from any lawyers! I love you guys!
The said demons start to take over the building, possessing one by one each happy moviegoer until only a handful of people are left. Trapped in the theater with nothing but malevolent evil and stale "goobers," everyone must fight for their souls while we, the viewers, fight for our sanity.
Zzzzzzzzzz…who? Huh…oh, sorry, I must have dozed off there for a moment. Watching Demons will do that to you. It's not a bad flick, just a somewhat boring one. I realize this was made back in 1985 when these movies were fairly new, but even in 1985 the whole concept of being trapped in a building with killer monsters had worn thin. However, before I start complaining like a two year old who lost his binky, let me start off by saying that Demons is not half as bad as many other horror films I've had to sit through (and before you say it, the answer is yes; I have seen Frankenhooker). At least Demons had some fairly well done special effects. I liked the fact that I got to see a demon crawl out of a woman's decimate backside. Demons also includes one of the spookiest shots I've seen in a while, featuring a dozen demons climbing the stairs with their eyes all aglow. Cinematography at its finest. There is lots of spurting blood and green ooze for your gore fans, and for the T&A crowd, there's a shot of a nipple thrown in, and from what I saw, it was there just for good measure.
I would like to note that Demons includes one of my favorite new lines. While hearing girls giggling in the back of a movie theater, one patron, whom I will refer to as Mr. Omnipotent, squawks, "Whores. You can tell 'em a mile away."
Demons is presented in 1.66:1 non-anamorphic widescreen. Colors were generally bright and flesh tones natural. Blacks were mostly solid with only a slight bit of gray to them. Grain was present, though only a small amount was spotted. Since this is an older Anchor Bay title, we unfortunately don't get an anamorphic transfer. Other than that, the picture quality is well above average.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, as well as Dolby Surround 2.0 (both in English only). The 5.1 track is a new remix made for the film, and sounds very good. Rear speakers were utilized well though not overly aggressive. The dialogue, effects and rock score were all mixed evenly. The Dolby 2.0 track is passable, if much weaker than the new Dolby 5.1 track. No subtitles are included.
Demons features a bevy of supplemental features, starting with a commentary by director Lamberto Bava, make-up artist Sergio Stivaletti and journalist Loris Curci. Journalist Loris Curci's first statement is that "Demons is one of the most important Italian horror films of the decade." I haven't seen a ton of Italian horror movies, but if this is one of the most important of the decade, well…the Italians might be overshooting a bit. As for the commentary, it's fairly interesting if you're a fan of the film, though since everyone has a thick Italian accent it can be somewhat hard to understand. All the men seem to enjoy the movie and are very proud of their work. Many behind the scenes stories are shared, and much of the track is translated (as they also comment in Italian).
Next up is a "Behind-The-Scenes" segment featuring subtitles. This very short feature includes a look at a few of the special effects, and a very brief look at some old footage from when Demons was shot. It was nice for Anchor Bay to have included it, though it's ultimately pointless.
Finally, there is a non-anamorphic widescreen theatrical trailer, which seemingly goes on for decades, as well as some talent bios on much of the principal crew.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I've said it many times before: this movie is nothing we haven't seen before. Demons is repetitive banter in the world of '80s horror movies. How many times do we have to sit and watch a character turned away from the camera while creepy music almost screams "Hey! How much you wanna bet this character is going to be a snarling beast when she turns around?!?" Obviousness at its finest. Like many horror films, evil characters just pop for no rhyme or reason, and victims always wander off by themselves into dark, musty corners. "Oh," I'll bet they're thinking, "there's no demonic evil in this web infested basement!" The characters are about as smart as a truckload of cement.
Demons also veers into the realm of being way too unrealistic. Now, before you cry foul, I am able to suspend my disbelief for 88 minutes and buy that slimy demons have invaded a movie theater. What I can't buy, however, is some of the characters actions. First off, who the hell brings a blind man to see a movie, then sits in the back of the theater and LOUDLY explains the whole thing to him as the feature runs? Also, where did all these characters learn to interact? When two girls meet two guys, they talk as if they're all reciting "Dating 101." One problem Demons runs into is that the entire movie sounds as if it were dubbed (and you can tell a good portion of it was). Everyone talks like they're rushing their lines out which makes for horrible characterization. Or, maybe like the viewer, they just want it all to be over with as quickly as possible.
Director Lamberto Bava's indulgence with shots and takes is what slows Demons down the most. During the last half of the film, there is a sequence where one protagonist is cutting up demons while riding around on a motorbike. I think I accurately clocked this sequence as lasting roughly seven years. Mr. Bava was in desperate need of his editor, and seems completely lost without him.
I can recommend Demons as a rental, but no further than that. It's just not that original, and tends to be very, slow. The effects are decent, though the acting (mostly voiceover) leaves much, and I mean MUCH, to be desired. Of course, Anchor Bay does it again, making an iffy movie look like gold with the transfer, audio and extra features selections.
Demons is found guilty of being lazily unoriginal, though is only given a light sentence as it's no worse than many other horror movies out there. Anchor Bay is acquitted with their fine presentation of this disc.
Those wacky Italians! (I just wanted to have that phrase somewhere in this review).
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
• Theatrical Trailer
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