Judge Gordon Sullivan breakfasted with the demons the morning after.
Our review of Night Of The Demons, published October 19th, 2010, is also available.
You'll have a hell of a time.
Many people appreciate the great franchises that the 1980s birthed or nurtured. We all love the Halloween or A Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th films. However, the 1980s were even better for smaller franchises, whether it's Children of the Corn or Sleepaway Camp. These smaller franchises offer different pleasures than their larger brethren. The often-smaller budgets make for even more creativity and a willingness to take risks. Everybody probably doesn't have a favorite minor horror franchise, but I certainly do: Night of the Demons. In three films, this franchise spawned a fairly unique take on the slasher formula, offering plenty of gothic moments of teen misbehavior and wacky demonic-possession hijinks. As a cult classic, the first film in the franchise has received its share of decent home video releases. However, fans can throw those away, as Night of the Demons (Blu-ray) is pretty much the definitive edition.
Facts of the Case
Angela (Mimi Kinkade, My Best Friend is a Vampire) is the gothic weirdo in her school, but everyone expects her to throw a mean Halloween party, especially when they find out it's at Hull House, an abandoned mortuary. She gets a total of ten teens there for a night of ghostly shenanigans, but they get more than they bargained for when demons possess some of the teens, turning it into a fight for their lives.
I honestly hadn't seen Night of the Demons for about a decade when I sat down to watch this Blu-ray. Most of my memories of the film were from watching an old VHS copy, so this Collector's Edition Blu-ray from Shout! Factory was something of a revelation. The first thing I noticed was how much the film owes to classic horror tropes. When I first saw the film I didn't realize how much it was playing with expectations about teen movies. Of course the poster art explicitly calls out Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, but the film itself is going for more classic teen archetypes, from the guy wearing the pig nose and being a jerk to the virginal girl and her Alice costume.
More importantly, this time I noticed just how different Night of the Demons is from its eighties counterparts. The film isn't a killfest from start to finish. Instead, we get almost half the running time before things really start to happen in terms of gore and kills. Though I wouldn't argue that the kids involved in this Halloween massacre are Shakespearean creations, they are a bit more delineated than the average slasher bait. That first half is crucial for establishing atmosphere, from the creepy Hull House to the weird dancing of Angela. Then, once things kick off, Night of the Demons makes a crucial decision that sets it above many of its contemporaries: rather than giving us a single bad guy to stalk each of the characters, multiple teens are possessed. This gives the final act a lot more momentum and sets it apart from the many hack-and-slash horror films of the era.
Night of the Demons (Blu-ray) proves even the most cultish of cult films can benefit from an excellent hi-def release. Things start with a beautiful 1.85:1/1080p AVC-encoded transfer. It seems to have been struck from a re-mastered print of the film, and even manages to best the decent DVD from ten years ago. This transfer maintains a brilliantly film-like look, with appropriate grain throughout. The numerous scenes in the near-dark of Hull House showcase solid black levels and good range between the shadows and full darkness. Perhaps the biggest complaint is that the image is sometimes a bit soft, but that seems like a fact of shooting rather than a problem with this transfer. No excessive sharpening or DNR seems to have been applied to compensate.
Fans get their choice of three DTS-HD tracks. The first is the film's original 2.0 stereo track. It sounds a bit dated, with a more limited dynamic range and directionality, but it's clean and clear. Next up is a 5.1 mix that adds a bit more directionality and sounds just a bit fuller. There's also a re-mastered stereo track that sounds like it might be a downmix of the 5.1 track. All three suffer a bit for being almost thirty years old. Dialogue, though, is generally clean and clear, and the synth-driven score sounds better than I've heard it before.
Extras, though, are where this release really shines. Things kick off with a pair of commentaries. The first is a vintage track from 2004 featuring director Kevin Tenney, producer Jeff Goeffray, and exec producer Walter Josten that covers a lot of ground, including the difficulty casting the film and wrangling a low budget. Then, we get a new commentary again featuring Tenney, along with effects guru Steve Johnson and stars Cathy Podewell, Billy Gallo, and Hal Havins. This track is a bit more anecdotal, but both are fun. Then, we get a 72-minute documentary that's brand new and goes into pretty much everything you could want to know about the making of Night of the Demons. All the major players show up for interviews, and there's plenty of footage to spice up their talking-heads. Mimi Kincade gets an extended 23-minute interview, which is nice for the star of the franchise. We also get a host of promo material, including a pair of trailers, a TV spot, a radio spot, and an EPK. Finally, there's a set of still galleries. Also in the set is a DVD copy of the film, and the liner notes are reversible.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Night of the Demons is not classic cinema in the traditional sense. It's still a bit cheesy, a bit hampered by budget, and a bit too formulaic to belong in the pantheon of great horror classics. It's not for the faint of heart either, with plenty of decent gore effects.
Fans will want to rush out for Night of the Demons (Blu-ray). The audiovisual upgrade is simply fantastic, and the extras are pretty much definitive. I can't imagine a better edition of the film. If you're not a fan and haven't given the film a try, it's a wonderful slice of eighties horror that fans of the era should definitely check out.
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