People from all walks of life are invited to a special screening at an isolated movie theatre. As some are disgusted by the film, a vicious horror flick about a prophecy of Nostradamus which says that Demons will one day conquer the earth], an usherette cuts her face on a display mask in the foyer and turns into a hideous Demon, starting a spreading plague that engulfs the whole cinema. As a few survivors battle the growing Demon horde, four cocaine-snorting delinquents stop outside the cinema………………….
This in my opinion is a great guilty pleasure and a perfect Beer Movie. In terms of Italian horror it’s the flipside to artistic masterpieces like Inferno and The Beyond, and in fact more Italian horror was actually like this-silly, trashy and extremely entertaining sometimes in a ‘so bad it’s good’ way. Despite being often referred to as ‘Dario Argento’s Demons’, it was directed by Lamberto Bava who never got anywhere near his father Mario in terms of talent but often showed that he knew how to make a very entertaining movie, and Demons was his most commercially successful and his most sheerly enjoyable film. It had three minutes of gore removed by the BBFC upon release though luckily is now widely available in it’s full uncut glory for all to enjoy. It’s obviously influenced by Dawn Of The Dead and The Evil Dead [and I think in turn influenced later films such as From Dusk Till Dawn] but it has a manic energy all it’s own.
From the opening scene, where a man in a mask [Michele Soavi, who not long after directed some great Italian horror films himself] pursues a girl on a train and when he catches up with her just gives her a mask, we know that we are not to meant to take this movie seriously. Then in typical ‘B’ Movie style we are introduced to our disparate group of characters, including a blind man with a wife who goes off in search of random sexual fulfillment and a truly funny ‘pimp’ character. All this only takes about fifteen minutes, then it’s straight on with the action and the gore, which gives us such delights as two eye gougings, a brain ripping, a demon bursting from a stomach, and literally tons of pus and goo. This was all done by Gianetto De Rossi, who did the gore effects in some of Lucio Fulci’s classic early 80s pictures, and there’s certainly a similarity in some of them. The blood and violence is constant but never really nasty because of the tongue in cheek tone of it all, and it now seems quite ridiculous that the British censors removed so much of it all, though of course one can now say that about many films! As for Argento, his influence does show in some very garish lighting, but otherwise it doesn’t feel like one of his films at all.
Demons never really tries to be scary, although there are a couple of great shots showing the infected people or Demons in shadow with only their eyes lit up looking really creepy [like on most DVD and video covers!] and the cinema setting is quite well used, infact I don’t know why it isn’t used more often in horror movies. As for the script, well, it’s very ramshackle, and at times appears to have been made up as they went along. There are so many unanswered questions. Where did the mask come from? Why does the usherette appear to know more [but is then killed]? What was the point of the showing and who made the film? Why does…….o sod it, never mind! By the time a helicopter crashes through the ceiling, in a truly great ‘WTF’ moment, you shouldn’t really care, the sheer randomness is part of the fun. Most ‘serious’ Italian horror movies have a kind of randomness, but it’s an oddly logical kind of randomness [if that makes sense] in that it’s the kind of randomness you get in a nightmare, and also everything feels a part of the whole even though logically it shoudn’t. Sometimes, though, the kind of randonmess shown in Demons, which makes no sense even on a subconscious level, is just the ticket and kind of exhilarating.
I’m not really a fan of Pop/Rock music in films, but in Demons rip roaring tracks from the likes of Saxon and Motley Crew, alongside great compositions from Claudio Simonetti in the style of Goblin, suit the film perfectly, which brings me to the films’s incredible hell yeah! sequence, where a guy on a motorbike rides up and down the aisles cutting down demons with a samurai sword while Billy Idol plays on the soundtrack. Great stuff, which I like to rewind whenever I watch the film. Which is often. It may not be great art, and perhaps looking at it critically I would give it five out of ten. I haven’t yet mentioned the acting, which is pretty much awful all round, even if one appreciates that most people are speaking silently and often in English, then dubbed by someone else! When the film is this fun though, do little things like acting and script matter that much? So for quality five out of ten, but for fun ten, so