Demons is a great crash-course in Italian Horror. It’s pretty, the practical effects are absurdly good, it’s crazy violent, and seemingly no effort was committed to writing a plot or dialogue that makes any sort of sense.
The premise is that a bunch of people get invited to a free screening at a movie theater. A prostitute (American actress Geretta Geretta) takes a mask from a display in the lobby, which cuts her face when she puts it on. All the people get inside and start watching the movie and lo and behold, the same mask appears in the movie where a person puts it on and gets the same scratch.
What’s the deal with the mask you ask? Oh it turns people into demons and anyone who is bitten or scratched by the demons also becomes a demon. This happens to the prostitute and all hell breaks loose. The theater becomes inescapable and the demons roam the building picking off the movie-goers one by one. To simplify it even more, it’s Evil Dead meets Return of the Living Dead except the comedy is all unintentional.
Later some punks show up and get into the theater by means which are unexplained (even Lamberto Bava in the film’s commentary chuckles and says he has no idea). The film culminates in a man riding a dirtbike down the center aisle of the theater, dispatching demons with a katana. The film ends showing us that the demons have gotten out and the world is pretty much fucked, the end. OR IS IT?!
My biggest question going into this movie was how they were going to walk it back from the ending of the first one. I’m here to tell you that Lamberto Bava and Dario Argento put as much thought into the connective tissue to these films as they did into coherant storytelling or naturalistic dialogue.
Demons 2 takes place in a high-rise apartment building where many of the residents are watching what appears to be a retrospective special on the demon invasion that has apparently affected the world none at all. The narration speaks of whether the demons could actually return but then we go into documentary footage of some kids sneaking into the “Forbidden Zone” wheere the remaining demons apparently reside.
The only problem is that nobody is filming the documentary footage, it’s shot just like a movie. I’m unclear if the movie they’re watching is a sequel to the movie-within-a-movie from Demons, if it’s meant to be a sequel to Demons which is just a movie in this world, or if the events of Demons happened and this footage isn’t trying to seem realistic because as long as it looks nice Italian filmmakers give zero fucks. It’s up to interpretation, I guess.
So after the dumb kids in the movie find a dead demon on the ground and one of them stupidly lets her cut drip blood into its mouth, it wakes up and kills them. Meanwhile, Sally (Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni) is celebrating her birthday party with a bunch of friends. Unfortunately Sally is a horrible drama queen and is in the process of sulking in her bedroom watching the demon special. After the demon in the movie/documentary/whatever kills the people in the movie it then stares at the screen and pops out of her TV Poltergeist style and possesses her.
Demon-Sally infects all her party guests and then bleeds acidic blood through the floor which infects a bunch of other people (and a dog) and cuts the electricity in the building. A bunch of survivors hide out in the parking garage lead by a no-nonsense bodybuilder (Bobby Rhodes, who played the pimp in the first movie) preparing for a demon siege, a small boy left home alone tries to evade the demons, and a man trapped in an elevator tries to find a way to get back to his apartment (which is filled with an irresponsible amount of neon signs) to save his pregnant wife and escape.
The practical effects are amazing, the cinematography is gorgeous, the soundtrack rules. The dialogue is overwrought and bad, the women are painfully beautiful, and the men are obscenely sweaty. Frequently things happen that make no sense. This movie is fucking rad!
Does It Hold Up?
Hell yes it does! I love Demons but it was very much a style-over-substance picture that raised more questions than answers. (There’s a blind guy who comes to a movie theater and doesn’t get one of those headsets, he just sits in the back and asks the lady he came with to tell him what’s happening periodically.) The film isn’t just Italian Horror summarized, it’s the ’80s personified. Demons 2 dials back a bit on the absurdity. Things make significantly more sense than they did in the first film and though it’s maybe not quite as gory as the first, that’s only by a small margin.
What’s important is that what gore there is in this one looks amazing. The demonic transformations are wonderful pieces of body horror and the demons remain some of the most frightening looking creatures on film (particularly the demonic Sally who is effectively the “boss” of the movie.) It’s a lot more of a straight and very effective horror film and even though it has a lot of the lazy writing of Bava and Argento films it also has the look and atmosphere that almost makes you forget about all that.
I’ve seen people on both sides of this argument, but in my book Demons 2 is the superior of Demons in every way.
Watch, Toss, Or Buy?
Buy it! Buy it twice! And then go buy the first one. If you don’t already own this movie then correct this error immediately!
Where Can I Find It?
Synapse films has a lovely edition available on DVD and Blu-Ray.