I knew I was in trouble when the first 12 minutes of “Demonium”, an Italian horror film, involved these scenes: a very unattractive woman having sex with her lover over the opening credits, then the lover exchanging silly greetings with people in business suits at his “office”, which is then intercut with the unattractive woman being stalked around the house by a deformed killer in a long black coat and a wide-brimmed hat. The woman is also supposed to be blind, because her eyeballs are permanently rolled upward (?) and she stumbles a lot. And apparently being blind also means the woman has lost all sense of touch (although this doesn’t explain the opening sex), since the killer dumps a rat into a bathtub she’s in and next we see her she’s nonchalantly climbing out of the tub sporting bleeding legs.
To understand the silliness that is “Dominium”, it probably helps to learn that the director, one Andreas Schnaas, is a German who is also responsible for a series of films titled — and I kid you not — “Violent Sh–” (minus the “–”). Apparently the, ahem, “sh–” was so popular that Schnaas was able to crank out four installments in 16 years. “Demonium” doesn’t seem to be part of the sh– franchise, and is, I believe, the only film in Schnaas’ oeuvre that was made in Italy (probably because it was funded by Italians) with English dialogue. The English dialogue is easy to figure out: English equals a wider international audience. Horror and gorefiends, the film’s main demographic, aren’t known for their “purist” attitudes about original language and whatnot.
If you want sex and blood, you’ll get sex and blood. Buckets and buckets of the stuff. “Demonium” is wall-to-wall gratuitous T&A and violence. At one point a man who has just had his legs and arms viciously torn off tosses his own arm out the window in order to attract help. The killer, realizing his victim isn’t dead, returns and jams the victim’s severed leg into his gut to finish him off for good. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, “Demonium” is definitely not for those with a weak stomach. It’s pure splatter at its finest — or I should say, at its low-budget best. That is, if this is your cup of tea.
After the opening killings, the film flashes back to “One Year Earlier”, where we witness a brutal murder. The murdered man is apparently a wealthy fellow, and soon his relatives are gathering at his “castle” for a will reading. Rasmus (aka Victim Number 2 aka Unattractive Woman’s Lover) is the dead man’s lawyer, and Maria (aka Victim Number 1 aka The Unattractive Woman) is his assistant (and not blind at this point in our story). Charlotte Grace Roche plays Diana, an annoyingly chatty Brit who is somehow related to the dead guy. I think. Before you can turn to your drunk friend on the couch and say, “Christ, the English dialogue is really bad, why didn’t they just subtitle this thing?”, the relatives start dropping like flies, starting with chatty Cathy Diana.
Now allow me to spoil the film’s surprise (which shows up at the 30-minute mark, so it’s not much of a surprise): Rasmus and Maria (aka Mister and Misses Unattractive Couple) are trying to knock off the relatives, having knocked off the “castle’s” owner earlier. So before the film has surpassed 30 minutes, we know Maria and Rasmus will die (they were knocked off in the opening sequence, remember?), and now we know they were also murderers. Do you get the feeling that whoever wrote this movie knows absolutely nothing about creating and maintaining suspense? Or maybe you’re getting the sneaking suspicion that whoever made this movie really has no concept of “adult-level thinking”?
If you don’t require your movie to display actual filmmaking skills in order to enjoy it, then “Demonium” isn’t really that bad. Sure, it’s pretty awful stuff if you take the whole thing as an attempt at competent filmmaking, and not pure schlock. Even for non-serious “moviemaking” it’s quite a terrible film, with a terrible screenplay and some terrible actors. The words awkward, stiff, and amateurish describe the level of acting, writing, and directing just about right. It also doesn’t help matters that director Schnaas keeps interjecting his 85-minute movie (plus credits) with “shock flashes”, all of it accompanied by an annoying screeching sound that, after the 200th time, really gets on the nerves something awful.
“Dominium” is strictly for gorefiends, since only they can look upon the face of bad acting, bad writing, and shoddy directing and editing and not be bothered a bit. If you don’t fit that mold, then stay clear, because to gaze upon “Dominium” will surely blind you, as it did the Unattractive Lady. No offense, but she really is quite unattractive. Worst, she’s naked a lot, too. Oy vey.
Andreas Schnaas (director) / Ted Geoghegan, Sonja Schnaas (screenplay)
CAST: Andrea Bruschi …. Rasmus Bentley
Claudia Abbate …. Maria
Giuliano Polgar …. Felix Baumann
Emilia Marra …. Sabine Noak
Maurizia Grossi …. Nina Moor