Ahead of tomorrow nights viewing of Demons, David Martin shares his love of Lamberto Bava and Dario Argento's masterpiece and its sequel...
Demons (or Demoni to give it its Italian title) is a 1985 horror masterpiece both in its gore laden scenes and the films pacing. Co Written by Bava and Argento it bares all the hallmarks of the Italian horror movies that I love so much. Demon possession is a subject that has been the focus of many, many horror films over the years, so it is truly significant when a film treats the well worn path with any level of originality. What makes Demons such a tremendous film is hard to simply put down to one aspect and it is a film which has to be seen to be believed. When you watch as many horror films as I do there is a kind of world weariness that settles on you. I tend to watch with increasing disdain as yet another nubile youngster opens a dusty tome and chants the occultic passages or disappears down yet another dimly lit staircase to their bloody death. To find a horror film that truly captures my imagination and retains my interest is getting harder and harder and so I resort to the classics to quench my bloody thirst.
Demons tells the story of Cheryl who is handed a couple of cinema tickets by a masked stranger late at night. You would have thought she would have had severe misgivings about attending as the masked man has seemingly stalked her to thrust the tickets into her hands. However, since the alternative is studying, she duly sets off to the dimly lit Metropole Theatre with her friend, Kathy. When they arrive at the cinema there is a strange air about the lobby, not least because of the horrific demonic mask and display which takes centre stage. The film they are about to watch is a violent and disturbing horror film, with the films characters digging up an ancient 16th century fortune teller called Nostradamus. They find a book and a mask which is indentical to the one in the foyet of the cinema and soon demonic forces take over the grave robbers and slowly start to murder all of those participating. Meanwhile, in the cinema, events are taking place that mirror those on the big screen. Rosemary, one of the cinema goers, is scratched when trying on the mask and transforms into a sharp fanged demon who infects other people around her. In trying to make their escape, Cheryl and the others find themselves trapped as the entrance to the cinema has been bricked up. As the demons take over the cinema Cheryl must use every ounce of her ingenuity if she hopes to survive.
Eighties Horror has a wonderful excess that can be attributed to it and Demons is no exception. The demons themselves are nasty viscious sub creatures which can infect by either a bite or a scratch and as a result of this the infection rate is fast and devastating. The film being watched itself has an effect on those in the auditoirium with their actions also becoming increasingly depraved. Whilst I dont think this is meant to be taken as a comment on the dangers of violent theatre it does add to the forboding atmosphere. The claustrobic atmosphere in the cinema is increased with the discovery that the entrance has been bricked up and this also is a clear indication that the events now taking place are planned. The transformation of Rosemary from human to demon are wonderfully detailed with her demonic fangs and nails literally growing as we watch. The soundtrack to Demons is also delightfully eighties with tracks by Billie Idol, Motley Crue and some truly original synth work by Claudio Simonetti.
Demons, spawned 2 (official) sequels with at least 2 others sharing the title but are not considered to be continuing the story. Demons 2 was released the following year and directly follows on from the events in the first film. Present, are the demonic transformation sequences and a truly remarkable moment when a demon makes the transfer from film footage to an apartment. The aftermath of the demonic outbreak had made it to the outside world and it is this footage that brings about the attack in a high rise apartment block. Bava himself has commented that the third film he officially regards as a sequel is the 1989 released The Church. I would recommend this if you ever get the chance as it really is a tremendous film in its own right. Demons and Demons 2 make it onto my Top 10 of favourite horror because of the way that they treat a subject which can become so passe. It is the inovative use of a derelict cinema and claustrophobia that being trapped inside the building causes that elevates Demons to the level that is has been. The Metropole building itself still stands and is now a bank in Berlin, whilst the external shots were filmed with a building which is now a club and hosts horror conventions to this day.
Bava And Argento made their names by releasing taught and graphic horror films which defined a generation. Demons and Demons 2 add to that reputation and provide horror fans all over the world with images that live long after the final demon has been dispatched.
Photos from IMDB and Wikipedia
Follow David Martin on Twitter as @Ventspleen2014
Purchase Demons and Demons 2 from Amazon here