Surprisingly, I had a lot of hope for “Demons”, and was anticipating its first reveal of the demons that would terrorize our characters with bated breath. And then the demons were revealed, and all the hope and expectation I had for Lamberto Bava’s 1985 horror film, “Demons”, sank like the intelligence of teen characters in a “Friday the 13th” film.
Sporting the name Dario Argento prominently, “Demons” was co-written by Argento, who has made a name for himself as a master of horror and suspense here in the States. This 1985 effort is not Argento’s best work, if he indeed added some ideas to the screenplay as the movie boasts. (Frankly, I’m prone to believe that Argento’s involvement is akin to Wes Craven’s involvement in movies sporting titles like, “Wes Craven Presents…Another Crappy Horror Film”.)
Starring a bunch of unknowns and dubbed in English, this unrated version of “Demons” finds a large group of would-be victims being given free passes to the opening of a new theater. Our eclectic cast of victims include, but not limited to, two college friends, two horny buddies, a tough guy pimp and his two ho’s, a blind man and his daughter, and a couple of necking teenagers. Things start getting weird when events in the theater starts mirroring the horror movie playing onscreen, and soon one of the moviegoers has been turned into a demon. Unrelenting bloodletting and a lot of useless female characters screaming uselessly ensue.
“Demons” offers up a stylish opening that, leading up to the first demon appearance, is better than it has any right to be. But by the time the first demon rears her ugly and poorly acted head, director Lamberto Bava chucks everything in favor of random demon killings. Humorously, it’s at this point that the dubbing also seems to go downhill. Strange, because as the film opened, I was thinking to myself that for an Italian horror film made in the ’80s, the film’s English dubbing was actually very serviceable, even good.
Of the victims, George (Urbano Barberini) and Cheryl (Natasha Hovey) become our main leads, mostly because they’re the most attractive members of the cast. But like the rest of the female population of “Demons”, Cheryl is pretty much useless, given to bouts of unnecessary screaming and hysterics when she should be running or fighting. Actually, Cheryl only has one moment of heroism, but that isn’t much to hang your hat on especially given the fact that the person Cheryl saves wouldn’t have needed saving in the first place if he hadn’t been forced to drag Cheryl along all this time.
Complaining about the story in “Demons” is rather silly. The movie is completely uninterested in something as mundane as story or plot, and spends most of its 85 minutes trying to figure out groovy ways to kill off its victims. We get a number of interesting kills, including eye gouging, the always popular claw-slash-to-the-chest, neck chewing, and mass decapitations by a character riding around on a motorcycle in the theater’s cramp space swinging a katana sword.
Although why a motorcycle and a clearly dangerous katana sword is sitting in the lobby for anyone to just grab and use is beyond me. If the demon entity had set up the theater just to feast on unsuspecting victims, you would think it wouldn’t leave around a sword to be used against it. (Uh oh, started thinking. Must…stop…thinking!)
I like gore, don’t get me wrong. And “Demons” certainly provides a lot of gore. It’s just that I would like some reason for the gore. The demons appear pretty much for no apparent reason and runs around biting and infecting moviegoers. The film spends its entire run with a large group of characters trying make their way out of the theater, but unfortunately the doors have all been blocked by concrete walls. Don’t even ask where the concrete walls come from.
If you like mindless bloodletting and well done gore, you’ll love “Demons”. The film has zero scares and its killings are done in a silly, even humorous, manner. The acting is, not surprisingly, sub par.
“Demons” is not for everyone. It’s good in that it does what it does well, but it’s bad in that it does everything else, well, badly.
Lamberto Bava (director) / Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava, Franco Ferrini, Dardano Sacchetti (screenplay)
CAST: Urbano Barberini …. George
Natasha Hovey …. Cheryl
Karl Zinny …. Ken
Fiore Argento …. Hannah
Paola Cozzo …. Kathy