Just in time for Halloween, Anchor Bay is trotting out a couple of old dogs (sorry, no new tricks). True enough — the repackaged bark is worse than its bite, but the pair might still be worth a spin in the trusty DVD player for those who long for the days of practical special effects, acid washed denim, and the soulful tunes Rick Springfield.
Produced and co-written by one of my favorite directors of all time, Dario Argento, both movies are helmed by Lamberto Bava (whose most recent feature, Ghost Son, was reviewed last month) and it shows. No offense to Bava, but I'm just not a fan of his cheez-whiz cinematic style. However, I am not "not a fan", either — his movies are OK, but I seldom want to come back for seconds. In this case, I got a double-whammy all in one day and I'm good on Bava for the rest of the year!
1985's Demons is the better of the two — or at least, the most fun because it is so dated it might as well be carbon-dated. Which, of corpse, adds to its cheesy charm.
A group of walking fashion disasters (ladies sport Muppet-like perms and spandex pants, while the guys are lacquered with hair spray and clad in shoulder-exposing, belly-baring 'Flashdance' sweaters — I think I even saw some legwarmers!) enters an abandoned movie theater to get a sneak-peek at a never-before-seen horror movie. Before you can say "Demons, be gone!" the action onscreen turns to screams from inside the auditorium and gooey, goopy, gummy models and dummies take center-stage as their hacked apart in every conceivable manner.
Some really inventive (if too assembly-line style) deaths take place and the credits roll at just the right time. The DVD has a previously-released commentary track featuring a mix of English and Italian from director Bava, make-up artist Sergio Stivaletti and moderator Loris Curci. Curci starts the festivities off by declaring: "Demons is one of the most important Italian horror films of the decade." It's all downhill from there.
1986's Demons 2 is somewhat less-passe than its stone-washed parental unit, but it's still got plenty of loosely-looped actors wearing broad shoulder-pads, shiny spandex, and 'Let's Get Physical' headbands, grooving to the latest tunes (like one from Dead Can Dance! Oh, the irony).
While Demons 2 runs longer and has less going for it over all, there are a few winners in this mass grave:
- The Sally demon (played by Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, who's also in Ghost Son) has a real personality and leads giddy gallops of goopy, gory glory along with her posse of undead flesh-ripping friends;
- Some of the best lines are delivered by Bavas — Lamberto says in a cameo as Sally's dad, "I have to eat like a dog! Just because Sally wants to have a party." And his young son, portraying a latch-key kid, says on the phone to an anonymous caller: "Mommy's not home. Daddy's not home. I'm here all alone.";
- And, finally, there's a demonic dog which hatches a toothy alien from its mangy, furry body.
The DVD has a little 'making of' featurette that's short and fun, plus a bi-lingual yak track by Bava (who comes off sounding quite bored), effect artist Sergio Stivaletti and once again, our over-eager moderator, Loris Curci. They compliment Tassoni, and verbally back-hand the model-turned-"actor", David Knight (who went on to do only one other film after this). It's kinda-sorta entertaining.
I suspect that both of the above films are a lot more fun in a group situation, but even if you're all alone ("Mommy's not home. Daddy's not home.") and up for some movie-mozzarella, Demons 1 and Demons 2 are worth a back-to-back look.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson