By Gravedigger Glen
Ah, Italy. It’s one of the greatest countries in the world for horror movies. And today, as I have the honor of being a guest reviewer here at Stigmatophilia, I decided to take the Italian route with Demons, which was produced/co-written by Dario Argento and directed by Lamberto Bava. It was released in 1985, which in my opinion is one of the greatest decades for horror. But great countries and great decades aside, does Demons have what it takes to also be great? Well, let me tell you all about it.
The movie begins with one of the main characters named Cheryl who, not long after getting off a train, has a run in with a strange man in a mask (this stranger just happens to be played by none other than Michele Soavi, who would go on to direct such movies as The Church and Dellamorte Dellamore). The stranger gives Cheryl a free pass to a screening of a movie at the Metropol Theater. Cheryl gets one for her friend Kathy and they make their way there.
There are a number of people there already who also got free passes, including a pimp and two of his prostitutes. One of those ladies (whose name is Rosemary) puts on a mask that’s on display and gets scratched by it. Interestingly, a mask that looks exactly the same as the one on display is seen in the movie, which through exposition is said to turn whoever wears it into a demon. It’s around this time that Rosemary goes to the restroom to clean up the cut, which has started bleeding again. Unfortunately bleeding is the least of her worries as, just like in the theater’s movie, she begins the transformation into a demon.
The moral of this movie: don’t be touching shit that isn’t yours.
The demon formerly known as Rosemary doesn’t waste any time causing chaos, attacking her prostitute friend and three other people before being barricaded in a room by her pimp and two others. Interestingly, there seems to be some sort of dark magic involved in the whole thing, as all potential exits from the theater are completely sealed off. From here on in, it’s a struggle to survive the onslaught from the demons while trying to find some way to escape.
There’s really only one thing to say about Demons: it is pure 80s Italian horror gold! It was one of my favorite horror movies growing up, and today that fact hasn’t really changed. Is it without flaws? Of course it’s not. But it’s got so much going for it that you can’t help but ignore the flaws and just flat out enjoy it.
First, the acting. The acting ranges from good, to bad, to plain over-the-top, depending on who’s on-screen at the time. My personal favorite is Tony the pimp (played by Bobby Rhodes). Very few people can combine a cool, take-charge attitude with his awesome fashion sense. SPOILER: somewhere along the way, he loses his pimp jacket.
If I’m in the same situation, I will immediately vote for the pimp to be our leader.
The real high points of Demons are split between two categories: the soundtrack and the special effects. Let’s talk about the soundtrack first. The songs chosen were mainly rock/metal oriented, and the music was spread out perfectly for every scene; slower music for slower scenes, and faster music for when the action picked up. I’ve lost count of movies that can’t seem to properly add songs with a certain tempo to a scene with an equivalent level of action or inaction. And some big 80s names were added to the soundtrack: Motley Crue, Billy Idol, and Rick Springfield just to name a few.
Awww, she’s finally losing her baby teeth.
Next, the special effects. Demons is a prime example of why I hate the excessive use of CGI that we see nowadays. 80s Italian horror (and most 80s horror in general for that matter) did more convincing work of things like demon transformation and body maiming with practical effects than many of today’s CGI filled messes I’m forced to endure. And Demons doesn’t hold back either. We get to see the following: people turn into demons, throats ripped out, fingers blown off, eyes gouged out, scalps torn off. And those are just off the top of my head. And the vast majority of what you see looks superbly convincing.
Of course, there are some moments that aren’t so amazing, or are just plain odd. First, there’s the whole thing about the audience being trapped in the theater. Obviously for the movie to work, they all have to be stuck in the building. But aside from people turning into demons, there’s no other indication that there is any black magic or real explanation as to how all the exits are closed off. Sure, later in the movie the blind guy claims that it’s the theater itself that’s doing it, but how would he even know what? I still fully went along with it, but it would have been nice if there was just a little bit of an explanation as to why they were stuck besides some guy making unfounded claims.
Insert own sexual joke here.
Also, I found the parts with the cokeheads to be kind of boring. I mean sure, later in the movie it turns out they do have a part to play in the events that happen around the end, but up until that point they contributed very little besides the fact that their scenes did nothing but make me dislike them. And around the end of the movie there seems to be a little issue with the timing of certain events. I don’t want to really spoil anything for those who haven’t seen Demons, but let’s just say that there seems to be some kind of time displacement or something. Just watch it and I’m pretty sure you can figure it out. Oh, and there’s a scene where a demon comes out of another demon, which I still don’t fully get.
Those issues I mentioned, however, did very little to affect my enjoyment of the movie. Despite its flaws, Demons is an excellent example of Italian horror. It was one of the very first Italian horror movies I’ve ever watched, and in my opinion it still holds up today. If any of you out there haven’t seen Demons, or haven’t really delved into Italian horror for that matter, I suggest you make this movie a priority. So until next time, rest in peace.
Macabre Rating: 4.5 out of 5 tombstones.
P.S. My thanks for being invited to guest review a movie here at Stigmatophilia. It was an honor.
Note from Stiggy: It was an honour to have Glen over here at our humble little Gore Splattered Corner of the Interweb, please check out his awesome blog at http://necropolismacabre.wordpress.com/