Friday, October 5, 2007

DEMONS (1985) Movie Review

DEMONS (1985)

The Metropol movie theatre has just reopened, and in order to drum up business passes out free tickets to its first screening all over the city. No one knows just what is to be shown, but everyone likes something for free. Many couples and friends, eager for a night out arrive at the theatre, arrive and are treated to a horror movie about demons. But something is not quite what it appears to be, and when one of the movie patrons turns into a real demon after touching a mysterious mask, it sets off a chain reaction that causes the theatre to erupt into an orgy of violence and death.

While many of the theatre goers panic and become victims of the growing demon numbers, a few are able to keep their wits, fend for themselves, and cause enough commotion to hopefully grab the attention of someone out side the theatre. Unfortunately, all they catch the ear of is a car full of punks high on cocaine. Will these cranked-out delinquents be the theatre’s saviors, or merely more fodder for the fangs and claws of the green-oozing monsters?

After having tasted some American success with his attachment to DAWN OF THE DEAD, Dario Argento wanted to serve up a full meal to the American audiences who were eating up everything horror related in the early eighties. Together with co-writer and director Lamberto Bava, they dreamed up a lavish and nightmarish tale that was short on plot and development, and high on excitement, thrills, and gore. And with the added element of a rocking soundtrack featuring Billy Idol and Saxon, as well as original score work by former Goblin member Claudio Simonetti, the final product was as much a blood-drenched music video as anything else.

By now, if you haven’t seen DEMONS, there is one main reason to - and that is relentless blood drenching, shocking horror effects, and make-up wizardry from Sergio Stivaletti (who also worked on OPERA and PHENOMENA). His ability to bend latex and oddly colored liquids to his will is simply stunning, and with everything of course being done practically on camera, makes it just that more impressive. It would be a shame to spoil too much, suffice it to say that the transformation sequence of one of the humans to demon form should be ranked alongside the tranformation in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. But without suspense, gore is merely make-up, and to that end Bava does his father proud while continuing to create a name and unique style for himself as he builds up each terrifying sequence.

Bava keeps his character development to an absolute minimum, and instead focuses on filling the theatre with an wild assortment of archetypes and eye candy that are given just enough screen time before the demons begin their murderous rampage so that you feel a bit sorry when they die, and then gasp with fear when you see them reborn as monsters. Bava keeps the tempo of movie going at breakneck speed, often trying to match the beat of double-bass drums of the heavy metal music accompanying the terror. It is a blend of elements that works exceedingly well on screen, and much more so when you take into context the time the movie was made, when gore and rock were an inseparable couple.

Just in time for Halloween, DEMONS has been re-released on DVD by Anchor Bay/Starz with a re-mastered and completely uncut print of the movie. Their anamorphic widescreen transfer is pristine, and offer both Dolby 5.1 and Dolby Stereo mixes in English (there is no Italian track). The main extra feature is the audio commentary by Lamberto Bava, effects creator Stivaletti and journalist Loris Curci. Rounding out the extras are a short behind-the-scenes clip and the trailer.

Lamberto Bava follows in the footsteps of Italian contemporaries like Argento and Lucio Fulci, who are much more interested in setting up atmosphere and nightmare vision instead of answering even the most rudimentary of common sense questions that the audience must be thinking, and wondering why the characters aren’t. No real reason is ever given as to how exactly the demons even come into existence, nor who is even running the movie theatre. And quite frankly, the answers are pointless. Like countless Italian zombie movies and slasher films before and after this, there is only one thing to be concerned with - and that is merely to survive to the final freeze frame and end credits.


Midnight on Twitter and Facebook