Demons and Demons 2 directed by Lamberto Bava
Originally released in October 1985 under the Italian title Demoni, Lamberto Bava’s fifth film enjoyed a marginal success in the director’s native Italy, and the following year was released in the U.S. under the title Demons. The film was popular enough to spawn a sequel, 1986’s Demoni 2, which was very much in keeping with its predecessor; a perfect follow-up, really. Here are some brief thoughts on both of these cult items, for your one-stop Demons shopping … just in case you are thinking to yourself now “Show me Demoni!”
Old-fashioned horror fans who still esteem such cinematic virtues as characterization, logic and explanations may come away from director Lamberto (son of Mario) Bava’s first film, Demons (1985), a trifle disappointed, as this film contains … well, none of those attributes. This loud, merciless picture tells an exceedingly simple story: A theatre audience watches a horror film about demons infecting the Earth, in fulfillment of a Nostradamus prophecy; a hooker in the audience scratches herself on a demon mask in the lobby, becomes a demon herself, and one by one the contagion spreads to one and all (in this crazy film, a mere scratch from a demon is enough to turn its victim into a monster, too). The film is lazily scripted, to say the least, with zilch in the way of explication or character development; all the folks we meet are pretty much undifferentiated grist for the demon mill. The picture may indeed have worked better as a nightmare, rather than an unexplained depiction of a demonic apocalypse.
Having said that, there are still many pleasures to be had here — especially for the gorehounds, for whom this picture should prove a smorgasbord — and I will admit that I enjoyed Demons much more during a repeat viewing, with altered expectations. Bava keeps the action rolling along pretty furiously, and when things get going, there’s just no letup. The carnage on display is often way over the top, with countless gross-out sequences (such as the second hooker’s transformation), much humor (I love those punks sniffing coke out of a Coke can!), gonzo action (howzabout that sword-swinging motorcycle romp through the theatre?!), a surging heavy-metal soundtrack to match, and some truly memorable makeup creations from Sergio Stivaletti. “There has to be an explanation,” wails one of the demon victims at one point, but sadly, that explanation never comes, ultimately leaving us with a thrilling but curiously unsatisfying film. Demons 2, by the way, though still short on logic, is an improvement…
Lamberto Bava’s original Demons movie from 1985 was a loud, exciting, remarkably gory affair that was almost fatally undermined for this viewer by a complete lack of logic, characterizations and explanations. Bava’s sequel, 1986’s Demons 2, suffers from many of those same flaws but seems to be more successful, if only because we actually get to know some of the characters a bit better this time. In the second film, the action transpires in a locked-up apartment building, rather than a mysteriously locked-up movie theatre, and as the demon scourge gets started again, we make the acquaintance of some of the building’s inhabitants, who, in a series of alternating stories, must fight the plague and thus risk being transformed into demons themselves. There is a birthday party full of yuppie types, a young “home alone” boy, a pregnant couple, a gym full of bodybuilders and so on.
Whereas a theatrical film in Demons was seemingly responsible for the start of the scourge, here, a televised film of the demons gets things rolling, and, in a startling sequence, almost seems to suggest a possible inspiration for Ringu‘s most chilling scene. As in the first film, the demonic carnage is completely over the top, with some wild action scenes (I love the one with a female demon following one of our heroes up an elevator cable), bizarre humor (such as that battle royale between the expectant mother and a just-born demon infant) and any number of yucky gross-outs (such as any glimpse of transformed birthday girl Sally). The sequel also ups the ante with a demon boy, a demon puppy (these films are just merciless in their choice of victims!), and acidic demon blood (a la Alien). The film has more clever and imaginative situations than the first, and Bava’s stylish direction and Sergio Stivaletti’s memorable demon makeup are again great assets. All in all, a fun, nonsensical wringer of a horror film. Bravo, Bava!