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Demons (1985)/Demons 2 (1986)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
DVD Released: 9/25/2007
Blu-ray Discs Released: 11/11/2014
All Ratings out of
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/10/2007; Updated 11/18/2014
In the mid-1980s, the horror film world was sinking under the weight of slasher films. Despite the fact that some classic supernatural horror films did surface in the earlier part of the decade (such as Evil Dead and Poltergeist), the masked-killer genre, which had proven so popular after the success of Halloween and Friday the 13th, had caused many to right off horror altogether. Thus, fright film fans were clamoring for something a little different. Thus, when Italian horror film maestro Dario Argento and heir apparent Lamberto Bava teamed up to make a supernatural horror film entitled Demons, horror fans worldwide embraced the movie...despite the fact that it's not very good.
As Demons opens, we see a young student, Cheryl (Natasha Hovey), receive a free movie ticket from a masked man (Italian director Michele Soavi). She meets her friend, Kathy (Paola Cozzo), and they decide to blow off class and go to the movie. Cheryl and Kathy arrive at the Metropol theater that night to find it populated by an assortment of individuals. The theater's lobby has a display featuring a bizarre mask. A woman, Rosemary (Geretta Giancarlo), dons the mask and it cuts her face. The patrons then file into the theater and begin watching the film, which concerns a group of explorers attempting to find the tomb of Nostradamus. In the movie, the group finds a mask like the one in the theater. When a character puts it on, they become a demon. At that same time, Rosemary begins to feel ill. She visits the bathroom and transforms into a monstrous creature. She slays her friend, who then becomes a demon as well. The filmgoers witness this and attempt to flee the theater. But, they find that the doors have been bricked over. Thus, a battle begins between the demons and the humans. It quickly becomes obvious that any contact with the demons can turn a normal person into a monster. The survivors barricade themselves in the balcony and try to find a way out.
One day, a group of filmmakers got together in Rome and planned to make a movie. Suddenly, Logic was called away on business, but the others decided to go ahead with the film. Whether you love or hate Demons, one has to admit that the movie doesn't make any sense whatsoever. Why does the action in the theater mimic the movie? Was the mask poisoned? Cursed? Why were the exits covered in cement? And the most important question, where did the helicopter come from? (One could argue that the film does explain the origin of the helicopter, but...come on.) (Another great question: Why did the blind guy go to the movie?) The movie never makes any attempts to explain any of this, and apparently we aren't supposed to care. Demons exists for one reason only: to be a gory horror film.
To that end, the movie is somewhat successful, as it certainly features a great deal of mayhem as the demons attack the humans. (It's never clear what the demons want. Maybe I'm asking too much of this movie.) The film features a lot of gore effects, including two memorable moments -- the first time we see the demon transformation and a demon emerging from a character's body. But, the lack of any real story also means that there's not much on which the film can hang these violent scenes. We don't know any of the characters and (in true EuroHorror tradition) there are passages where nothing happens. There's also a subplot (?) featuring a group of punks driving around the city that takes forever to expand.
Despite all of its problems, Demons is somewhat of a touchstone for EuroHorror fans. It broke away from the living dead trend and brought in a more supernatural/fantastic idea. The movie's excessive violence feels somewhat lame today, but it was a big deal in 1985. And, keep in mind, the movie's "trapped in a _____ with _____" theme pre-dates Die Hard by three years.
Demons claws its way onto DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. Anchor Bay previously released the movie on DVD in March, 1999 and again in July, 2001 (as a 2-pack with Demons 2), but this release marks the first time that the film has been done in a 16 x 9 format. For this release, the film has been letterboxed at 1.66:1 and, again, the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. A quick note here, the standard widescreen TV image is roughly 1.78:1. So, a 1.66:1 image isn't as wide. Thus, for the Demons DVD, there are thin black bars on the sides of the image. While I'm sure that Anchor Bay used the best source material available for this DVD, the image is somewhat grainy and shows some defects, such as mild scratches, from the original print. The colors look good and while this is a dark film, the action is always visible. I didn't detect any serious artifacting. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The dubbing makes the dialogue seem a bit loud at times. The music never overwhelms the dialogue. The stereo effects are OK, but I noted very little in the way of surround sound or subwoofer effects.
This DVD contains a few extras. We have an AUDIO COMMENTARY with director Lamberto Bava, special effects make-up artist Sergio Stivaletti, and journalist Loris Curci. Curci is the only one who speaks fluent English here, so he does most of the talking. We learn some from Bava and Stivaletti, but 1) Curci is forced to translate and 2) It's very difficult to hear Bava and Stivaletti at times. I'm sure that there is a lot to learn about this film, but this commentary doesn't quite do the trick. "Behind-the-Scenes Footage" consists of 90-seconds of special effects make-up footage. This was clearly taken from a longer piece, most likely something focusing on Dario Argento. Finally, we have the TRAILER for Demons, which is 16 x 9 and very dark.
Demons was such a success that a sequel was immediately put into production and appeared a year later.
Sally (Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni) lives in a very modern high-rise apartment building and she's having a birthday party. While preparing for the party, Sally begins watching a TV show which shows a group of people exploring a ruined city. (It's implied that the city is the one where Demons took place. It's never made clear if this is a movie or a documentary.) When the characters in the show find a demon, Sally is shocked when this demon comes through the TV and attacks her. (This was years before Ringu.) Sally then attacks her party guests in turn, and a new demon plague begins. This time, the demons' blood is acidic and it eats through the building's wiring and circuitry, causing the security system to engage. Thus, the residents are trapped inside the building. As the demons run amok, we watch a group of survivors try to make it through the night.
If Demons is somewhat silly, then Demons 2 takes that silliness to new heights, and yet, at least the explanation for why the people are trapped in the building makes some sense. Although, nothing can account for why the demon comes through the TV. (And why just Sally's TV? Everyone in the building was watching the show. It must have been the highest-rated show in Italian TV history. Did anyone else receive a demon home invasion? Again, I probably question too much.) Demons 2 plays as much more of siege movie, as we watch the characters either hide, or fight back against the demons. There is a bit more character development here, but the movie basically exists so that we can watch the demons kill people.
The first half of Demons 2 is actually much better than that of Demons, as the movie gets going pretty quickly and the gore flows freely. But, things fall apart in the second half as the film become laughable. I don't want to give too much away, but Gremlins must have been a huge hit in Italy, as there is a sequence here which rips off that film. And that sequence just keeps going and going, and it features some laughable special effects. There is also a scene where a dog becomes a demon and we get to see his fangs replaced by fangs. What? As with Demons, the sequel has a subplot in which a group of people drive around the city, but it never pans out. Demons 2 has some good moments, but it feels like the quickie sequel that it is.
As with Demons, the Demons 2 DVD has the film letterboxed at 1.66:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks better here, as the image is sharper and clearer. There is still some grain, but not as much as the other film. The colors look fine and the image is stable. The audio is better as well, as the Dolby Digital 5.1 track actually features some notable surround sound in the form of music and the demons' growls. The dialogue is clear, but we still get that "loud" dubbing effect.
This DVD also has a commentary with Curci, Bava, and Stivaletti and it features the same frustrations as the first one. Bava's son helps with translation, but it still feels as if much is left unsaid or lost in translation. The TRAILER for Demons 2 is offered here, 16 x 9 and, again, very dark.
On November 11, 2014, Synapse Films released both Demons and Demons 2 on Blu-ray Disc. Demons has been letterboxed at 1.66:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing basically no grain and no overt defects from the source materials. This Blu-ray Disc features a brand-new HD transfer and the care put into it really shows here. The defects found on the DVD release are absent here. The colors look very good and despite the fact that the film gets dark at times, the image here is never overly dark. The picture shows a nice amount of depth and the level of detail on the image is impressive. I've seen this movie several times and this is the best that it's ever looked. It's rare to see an Italian film from this era which shows this kind of clarity and which doesn't look flat. The Disc carries a DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. I noted a very slight hiss on the track during the few silent periods, but otherwise, this is a solid track. While we don't get any dynamic effects here, the stereo effects do show nice separation. The film's soundtrack of popular music, some oddly placed, sounds fine and never overpowers the dialogue.
The only extra on the Demons Blu-ray Disc is the original U.S. THEATRICAL TRAILER.
Demons 2 has been letterboxed at 1.66:1 as well and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no notable defects from the source material. However, unlike Demons, there is a very fine grain visible here. Despite this, the image still looks very good. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The image remains stable throughout, showing notable detail and depth. As with Demons, the image avoids the flat looks which often accompanies older foreign films. This Disc carries a DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. No hiss was noted here, as we get another solid track which brings us intelligible dialogue with no distortion. The music (dancing to The Smiths?) sounds fine and the sound effect don't have that "canned" sound we get with foreign movies.
The lone extra on the Demons 2 Blu-ray Disc is a TRAILER.
Some final thoughts -- Watching these movies again, it's obvious that they are both still very stupid, and rarely make sense. However, looking at them now, I see that they took the zombie formula and the old dark house cliche and created something somewhat unique. The interesting aspect of the Demons films is that they took the zombie epidemic idea and introduced vicious creatures which could move quickly. This could be seen as paving the way for 2004's Dawn of the Dead and World War Z. Given this notion, more modern audiences need to check out these movies.
Review Copyright 2007/2014 by Mike Long