"Almost like an Altman film," says Judge Joel Pearce. He was describing the crowd at a CFL game.
The infamous splatter sequel—now uncut, uncensored, and remastered.
Those critic quotations on movie covers are funny things. "Very creepy and effectively scary," proclaims the DVD Verdict pullquote on the new Demons 2 release. Perusing the actual review, though, I'm pretty sure they pulled that sentiment from the following segment: "The demons themselves are effectively scary; their colorfully drooling personalities are like that of the Tasmanian devil, only much wilder. Once again, Bava includes a few scenes where the demons are at full attack, their eyes glowing yellow with piercing screams. It's at this point that the movie transcends what it actually is (re: dung)." Perhaps a quotation from my review will show up on the next release.
To be fair, my review will have a slightly more positive tone than Patrick Naugle's original. It's certainly not going to end up on my list of horror classics, but it's more interesting and more complex than its predecessor, and benefits from the larger budget.
Facts of the Case
A fateful night plays out in an apartment complex, where the demons once again start raising hell. In an apartment complex, though, there are so many more people to die, turn, and run around with eyes glowing from the darkness. Will any of them survive?
If Demons was a cheap riff on Night of the Living Dead, the sequel relies heavily on the formula used for Dawn of the Dead. A group of humans from all walks of life are trapped together in a building that has everything—including a horrifying monster infestation. Each group needs to find a way to fight off demons, using the tools they have at their disposal. But Lamberto Bava tries to do too much here: the film isn't long enough (thankfully) for us to get to know the continual stream of new characters, so it never feels like the close-knit band of survivors that grace truly good horror flicks.
To make matters worse, Bava also crams in yet another film-within-a-film, which tells us little about the demon phenomenon. It even references the first film, as though there's any kind of continuity between the two films. Since there's no rhyme or reason to the demon assault, I have to wonder why he bothered to waste time on these explorations. Just like in the original, all the interesting ideas are shrugged off after 30 minutes, to make way for lots of gory mayhem.
There are a few other problems as well. Several of the same cast members are used, which is a little confusing in a Demons marathon. It also features a few other oddities, including the least pregnant-looking woman to ever give birth, the most eclectic collection of places ever in a single apartment building, and the whiniest birthday girl of all time. The first half-hour feels almost like an Altman film, with so many interconnected characters, though I don't think that's what Bava was going for. Even at the end of it all, we're still left with some nagging questions:
• Why do some—but not all—of the demons have acid
blood like aliens?
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Fortunately, things turn around once the transformations begin. Things are even more creative and gruesome this time around, with more jump scares and suspense. We never find out why the demons are attacking or why Sally has so many friends, but we get to relish in some fine cinematography, decent makeup effects, and slick eviscerations. This is, I suppose, what we all came for, and once things get rolling, that's exactly what we get. It never makes much sense, but it's at least exciting and surprising, which places it squarely above the original entry. Fans of pornoviolence will find plenty to enjoy here, as characters are destroyed with blood, guts, and some good old-fashioned irony. In the midst of all this carnage, the nagging questions no longer matter. This is about the art of gruesome terror, not the creation of great cinema.
The DVD also looks great. The original 1.66:1 framing is intact, and every strand of wild '80s hair can be seen clearly. Demons 2 is dark, and the black level is admirable for its age and budget. The sound is on par with the first movie, a clearly mono-sourced up-mix that does what it needs to do. There's a commentary track on this disc as well, much more sparse than the first, but of equal quality. That's really all we get this time around. Bava once again spends lots of time talking about the differences between demons and zombies, still trying to justify his blatant plagiarism.
Your response to Demons 2 will depend on how you feel about the genre. If you like your horror movies scary, suspenseful, and intelligent, this would not be your best choice for this Friday night. If you just want to see as much violence as can be crammed into an hour, however, Demons 2 delivers exactly what's been promised. It's a silly, gory, over-the-top collection of demon-munching vignettes. The disc looks good, too, worth an upgrade for serious fans of the series. Imagine the glowing tagline they'll be able to pull from this review.
Though I'd just as soon fight off zombies with my trusty shotgun, I get the appeal of this demonic sequel. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Starz Home Entertainment
• Director Commentary
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