Demons (Italian: Dèmoni), 1985.
Directed by Lamberto Bava.
Starring Urbano Barberini, Natasha Hovey, Karl Zinny and Fiore Argento.
A group of people find themselves trapped in a movie theatre infected by ravenous demons.
When discussing Italian cinema, it’s impossible not to mention the horror genre. Furthermore it’s also impossible not to mention Dario Argento. Lending his name as director, writer, producer (and more) to a huge array of iconic films, Argento is mostly synonymous with horror. Films such as Suspiria and Deep Red really became benchmarks for his cinematic countrymen, and indeed had a strong influence on subsequent American films. The 70s were the peak in Italian horror cinema, remaining strong throughout the 80s, and Demons was a successful film that spawned a franchise. Argento is on screenwriting and producing duties for this one, and Lamberto Bava (son of legendary director/cinematographer, Mario Bava) directs.
The premise is very simple indeed. A group of random strangers all get a mysterious invite to a movie theatre to watch a film. Once there things take a strange turn whilst watching a horror film, that begins to mirror what’s happening in the auditorium. As you expect from the genre, the doodoo hits the fan and pretty soon there’s zombies rampaging around and an ever dwindling group of survivors, trapped in the cinema, trying to survive. There’s little in the way of character in this film. The main focus is on two female friends, Cheryl (Natasha Hovey) and Hannah (Fiore Argento) who join together with two male friends who had previously been trying to pull said ladies. There’s no real development but that said, the film doesn’t really waste too much time in getting into the horror side of things.
As you’d expect from an 80s zombie flick, there’s plenty of gruesomeness. It’s gorerrific! These are old school effects of the highest standard, up there with Savini and Baker. There’s some great body-morph sequences, a staple of 80’s horror. There’s puss, blood and more throughout, and with a sense of excessive fun. It’s over the top but brilliantly entertaining, like The Evil Dead or Braindead. The onslaught of undead foe throughout is expectedly relentless and thoroughly enjoyable. Bava manages to make great use of his confided setting and creating a sense of claustrophobia. The film doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s not particularly scary, or psychologically disturbing, but it’s just fun. Argento’s screenplay may lack characterisation, but the story is fairly imaginative. Elsewhere, the film has a fantastic 80s heavy metal and rock soundtrack including Billy Idol and Go West. Legendary synth master Claudio Simonetti produces yet another pulsating score. His scores remain unique and interesting and while this isn’t up there with his best work, it’s good stuff.
In all this isn’t a film that will be mentioned in the same breath as the classics in the genre. It’s still a very enjoyable entry into the Zombie genre that was so prevalent in 80s cinema. A mark of success (most times) is sequels and this spawned two (though the third film wasn’t actually an official sequel). Sit back and enjoy make up wizardry and imaginative carnage with that undefinable 80s horror movie charm.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★