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Night of the Demons (1988)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/4/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/21/2014
We all remember the very self-reflexive scene inScream 2 where the film class discusses the notion of sequels which are better than the originals. Of course, they mention obvious answers like Aliens, Terminator 2, and The Godfather: Part 2. But, there are other, much more obscure examples out there. I think that Night of the Demons 2 may come in second to only Evil Dead 2 as being the wackiest, most unconventional horror movies ever made. It mixes gore, laughs, and a strange message about sexuality into a mixture which is never boring, while still retaining the concept found in the original film. As for that original film, Night of the Demons is another story.
It's Halloween night, and Judy (Cathy Podewell) is very excited about her first date with Jay (Lance Fenton). She's expecting to go to a party with some other popular kids, but, instead, Jay wants to attend a bash being thrown by Angela (Mimi Kinkade), the class goth girl. To make matters worse, the party is being held in Hull House, an abandoned funeral home. Judy protests at first, but agrees to go. So, she and Jay pick up their friends Frannie (Jill Terashita) and Max (Philip Tanzini) and head to the party. Once there, they find that Suzanne (Linnea Quigley), Stooge (Hal Havins), Rodger (Alvin Alexis), and Helen (Allison Barron) are also in attendance, as is Sal (William Gallo), who is also vying for Judy's attention. It's suggested that the group have a past-life seance (Do what now?), in which they look into a mirror. A demon appears in the mirror and suddenly Suzanne is possessed. The possession spreads and soon half of the group is trying to kill the other half. Will anyone make it to sunrise?
Horror films are often accused of being simplistic and shallow, and it must be said that this is one of the few genres where a movie can get away with being underwritten. There are plenty of examples of horror movies which have introduced a very simple plot and then made with the scary. Night of the Demons strives to be one of these movies. Unfortunately, it makes so many mistakes that it comes across as not only simplistic, but amateurish.
The easiest way to discuss Night of the Demons is to simply list its mis-cues. First of all, the story is a bit to dim-witted, even for a horror movie. A group of characters meet in an old funeral home and, for reasons never explained, a demon appears in a mirror who then selectively possesses the characters, some of whom become murderous, but also can just simply be annoying. An old funeral home is a great setting for a horror movie and is rife with possibilities. But, all that we get here is one coffin and a crematorium (which does nothing). I realize that the film was limited by its budget, but the funeral home idea goes nowhere. Then, as noted, the whole possession thing is a mish-mash. The whole "past-life seance" game is never explained, and the demon, while impressive looking, is just simply "there". The story wants to play like Evil Dead, but there is no logic here. The "story" reaches its low point during Angela's dance sequence. Just because an actress has dance training, you don't have to let her dance in your movie.
The movie also does very little to draw us in. It opens and closes with a sort of wrap-around story about an old man which has nothing to do with anything else. (The movie was originally called "Halloween Party", and these scenes seem to have more to do with celebrating the holiday then staying in line with the rest of the film.) Night of the Demons' biggest mistake may be the fact that the movie doesn't contain a single likeable character. Stooge, Sal, and Jay are obnoxious and annoying. Helen, Max, and Frannie are barely characters. Judy and Rodger are so wishy-washy that we can't back them. Suzanne is...well...I still can't believe that people found Linnea Quigley attractive. Angela is supposed to be the crux of the film -- she was prominently featured in all of the advertising -- but we learn nothing about her. She's called "that weird girl in class" or something like that, but she has no backstory. Therefore, we are forced to watched a group of characters for whom we do not care running around doing things that make no sense.
The bottom-line with Night of the Demons is that there isn't much to see here. The movie isn't scary or suspenseful and it certainly looks like a low-budget film. The only interesting thing about the film is the make-up designs of Steve Johnson. Those possessed certainly have a wild look and the infamous lipstick scene is definitely unique. Yet, somehow, the movie found an audience, which I guess is good in some respects, because it did well enough to justify the existence of the far superior Night of the Demons 2.
Night of the Demons is one of those 80s movies where people dance to heavy metal on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Shout! Factory. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 32 Mbps. The image is sharp, but there is a light amount of grain on the image. Again, the movie shows its low-budget roots and this comes through in the transfer. The picture is dark, with only parts of the screen lit at times. The colors are slightly faded and certainly aren't vibrant. The amount of detail is OK, but the image has a decidedly flat look. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. There are some interesting stereo effects, and the score sounds fine, but I didn't detect any notable surround or subwoofer effects. The surround effects I did hear seemed to mimic the front speakers.
The Night of the Demons Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Kevin Tenney, Cathy Podewell, Billy Gallo, Hal Havins, and Special Make-up Effects Creator Steve Johnson. This is followed by a second COMMENTARY with Tenney, Producer Jeff Geoffrey, and Executive Producer Walter Josten. "You're Invited: The Making of Night of the Demons" (72 minutes) is an in-depth featurette which contains interviews with the primary cast and crew. Beginning with the script's inception, Kevin Tenney guides us through this making-of and we go step-by-step through the pre-production process, the casting, the production, and the film's reception. As one would expect, there is a discussion of the special effects makeup. "Interview with Amelia Kinkade" (23 minutes) is a chat with the main demon, in which she shares memories of working on the Night of the Demons series. The actress who played Helen shares photos from the film in "Allison Barron's Demon Memories" (4 minutes). The THEATRICAL TRAILER is included here, as well as a "Video Trailer". We get 3 TV SPOTS, as well as one RADIO SPOT. The "Promo Reel" (4 minutes) plays like a long commercial, complete with review blurbs. "Behind the Scenes Gallery" contains over 100 stills, as does the "Photo Gallery". There is a photo gallery devoted to the "Special Effects and Makeup" which also have over 100 stills. Finally, we have a gallery of "Posters and Storyboards".
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long