Directed by Lamberto Bava
Directed by the son of Italian horror legend Mario Bava, Demons is the ultimate Europunk zombie flick. While taking the train in Berlin, Cheryl (Hovey) is given movie theater tickets by a strange masked man. She and her friend Kathy attend the screening and meet up with two young men in the newly renovated Metropol theater. The group decides to sit together, but the fun night out turns deadly when one of the theatergoers transforms into a flesh-eating “demon”. When the audience tries to flee from the infected, they find that they are walled in the theater. Cheryl must try to escape before she and her friends succumb to the rapidly spreading demon virus.
Bava’s lineage stems from a great horror master, but his greatest source of inspiration is clearly Dario Argento, who produced Demons. The film is saturated with color, lit beautifully, and backed by a hard rock/punk soundtrack curated by Goblin founder and frequent Argento collaborator Claudio Simonetti. Set in a real abandoned theater, the Metropol interiors are gorgeously done. Although slapped with a thin veneer of 80s cool to lure in unsuspecting patrons, they are quickly transformed into a nightmarish and decrepit haunted house complete with dripping ceilings and cobwebbed hallways when the audience literally tears the walls down. Bava’s demons are a little bit Romero zombie with a healthy dose of Exorcist-style possession. They have bloodshot eyes, extra sharp nails, and gush steady streams of pea soup glop from their mouths, all while exuding super strength as they rip, tear, and bash their victims to pieces.
The movie they’ve come to see, a cheesy-looking supernatural slasher, already has its claws in the real world. The lobby of the theater has a strange promotional display of a knight riding a motorcycle while brandishing a samurai sword and holding a silver devil mask. In the film, the main characters ride on similar motorcycles and the mask is the catalyst for the horror in film on the screen. The character’s possession in the film-within-a-film synchronizes with that of the character’s in the reality of the movie and the theater breaks into chaos as an infected person literally bursts out of the screen.
Like most Italian horror, Demons is top to bottom gore – nearly all of it in shades of neon. As with traditional zombie films, the infection is passed by bites and scratches, and the group of survivors dwindles as the number of infected grows, even as they try to barricade themselves in the upper balcony. The special effects are excellent for the time and the fully infected demons are still incredibly effective and scary. Bava also clearly gleaned the importance of inventive deaths from his father’s and Argento’s previous work.
The plot of Demons is pretty thin, the acting is over the top, and the dubbing horrendous, but this flick is great to look at and a ridiculously fun watch, particularly if you like slapstick gorefests like Evil Dead and Return of the Living Dead. And really, who doesn’t want to see punk demons and a couple of preppy kids lopping off heads as they ride through a movie theater on a motorcycle?! It’s a better choice for horror aficionados than mainstream viewers, especially those interested in SFX.
Fright Rating: 3 gasps out of 5
This film is very gory, with a lot of close up shots of effects, so it’s not for those who get grossed out easily and definitely not appropriate for kids.