Directed by Lamberto Bava.
Starring Urbano Barberini, Natasha Hovey, Karl Zinny, Paola Cozzo and Nicoletta Elmi.
A group of random people are invited to a screening of a mysterious movie, only to find themselves trapped in the theatre with ravenous demons.
After a tough year (to put it mildly), it’s nice to see cinemas slowly making their way back from the brink, taking our money and showing us the latest films that we quickly discover weren’t worth the hassle of delaying. So for today, I’ve picked what might be the ideal film to celebrate the return of the big screen. The gruesome gore-soaked heavy metal scored, cinema set Dario Argento-produced oddity Demons.
This being an Italian production, of course, all the actors are dubbed. Therefore, I can’t give the performances any kind of fair criticism. However, the dubbing is simply hilarious as the voice actors overact their parts, especially in repeated instances in which they perform various highly questionable sound effects. The characters are about as well rounded as a square, so thinly written that you can practically see through them and only really serving as demon fodder. However, I particularly enjoyed the pimp character played by Bobby Rhodes. A walking stereotype straight out of a 1970s Blaxploitation film, with his no-nonsense, casual sexism and bullying manner making him the ideal man to take charge when shit goes down. I love how, when other characters are busy arguing about climbing through a window to get into a locked room, Superfly here takes the initiative and kicks the door down. Or how when everyone screams at the sudden emergence of a demon, he just stabs the fanged bastard to a bloody pulp.
The plot concerns a mysterious film screening at a recently renovated cinema that turns into an orgy of death and destruction courtesy of a demon infestation. That is essentially the entire film in one sentence, and despite its apparent simplicity, it raises lots of questions. Why does being scratched by a mask turn a prostitute into a demon? No answer. Why is the cinema suddenly boarded up from the inside to prevent escape? No clue. Why does the film cut away to a bunch of coke-snorting punks driving around town only for them to serve no real purpose? Just stop asking questions already. However, while the story is stupid and barely makes sense, none of that really matters in the end. When your film is this chaotic, silly and fun, who cares if it doesn’t make sense?
The pace is frenetic as director Lamberto Bava squeezes as much bloody mayhem into his short 88-minute runtime as he can muster. The special effects are spectacularly stomach-churning and brilliantly realised by the effects team. Teeth forced out by growing fangs, claws sprout from fingers nails, gremlins erupt from spines and pulsating boils exploding in showers of green goo covering victims in what can best be described as “assorted demonic fluids”. This is this maybe not a film to watch with your dinner.
Complimenting the on-screen chaos is a terrific musical score and accompanying soundtrack. The score by Claudio Simonetti (of Italian rock band Goblin) is a melding of pounding synthesisers that sets the appropriately cheesy tone for the carnage to come. With said carnage scored by fast-paced rock beats that suit the mood well. It also serves as a helpful reminder that, yes, this film was made in the 1980s. The soundtrack, littered with a plethora of rock acts from Billy Idol and Motley Crue, among others, is a perfect complement to the original music. Although their songs are not always used to their best effect (Idol’s “White Wedding” is wasted on a dull care journey). When they are used well, some magical things happen. The ending is on such scene, the sight of a city in chaos rendered awesome when set to the thumping tunes of Saxon’s”Everybody Up”.
The film sags in the middle with an extended scene where the protagonists simply sit around waiting for help to arrive, save for a brief but ultimately pointless escape. This slows the film down, feeling as if it was only added to pad the runtime out to feature-length. Then there are the coke-snorting punks that the film cuts to in-between scenes of chaos, ultimately contributing nothing other than upping the body count. Seriously, the punks have no reason for being here, being killed as soon as they reach the theatre to join the main cast.
However, the film redeems itself with its finale and, boy, what a finale it is. Combining a motorbike, a katana and a heavy metal soundtrack, the final is a wonderfully staged, hilariously absurd and delightfully fun set piece in which our heroes barrel around the cinema, jumping over seats and up stairwells while slicing and dicing the demonic hordes. It’s a sight to behold and, just when you think it’s all over, a helicopter suddenly comes crashing through the roof, almost like a big cherry on top of a big stupid cake. Also, this film tricks you into thinking it’s over when the credits start rolling but don’t be fooled. Although, instead of your clichéd final jump scare, what we get is more akin to a punchline at the end of a joke.
Demons is absurd, poorly written, thinly plotted, atrociously dubbed and, frankly, just plain moronic. Yet, I can’t deny that I had a blast watching it. While it is far from uber stylish artistic heights of other Italian horrors, the sheer chaotic glee and fast-paced rocking music combine to make Demons a gruesome good time for all. Check it out.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★