Daily Archives: March 10, 2020

Demons (1985)

*. Oh boy! It’s guilty pleasure time.
*. There were a lot of trashy video treasures in the 1980s, but few with the same appeal as Demons with all of its crazy Euro weirdness. It’s an Italian production, filmed in Berlin and Rome but seeming to take place in an alternate dimension that the mystic Metropole cinema opens onto. Directed by Lamberto Bava (Mario’s son) and produced and co-written by Dario Argento, it has several hallmarks of the Italian horror films of the period (notably the colour and gore), yet maintains a unique quality.

*. It’s loopy in ways that defy explanation or understanding. Are the demons going to take over the world? Where are they coming from? What is the connection between the demon outbreak and the movie about the kids breaking into Nostradamus’s tomb? Is the cinema a gateway to another realm? Who is the man in the mask? Why is the usher in the green dress made to seem so sinister at the beginning only to be turned into just another victim?
*. The audience for the night’s entertainment are an eclectic bunch, including a blind man whose wife is cheating on him (this is apparently meant as a joke, though blind people do attend movies), and a pimp daddy with two foxy ladies on his arms. They don’t seem like the kind of crowd who’d be likely to go to see such a movie as Nostradamus’s Tomb, but then the ticket didn’t make it clear what was on tap.

*. Demons is very bad in all sorts of enjoyable ways. The dubbing is atrocious, and some of the voices are so out of synch you get several seconds of dialogue being spoken without anyone’s lips moving. That dialogue is, in turn, laughable, with one of the best lines being the cokehead gang member wondering if the demons are after his snow. Dude!
*. The plastic gore effects consist mainly of bodies dissolving or melting like wax into sludge. The action is utter nonsense, culminating in the hero tearing around the theatre on a motorbike while cutting down the demons with a samurai sword. There’s a great heavy metal soundtrack. What’s not to like?
*. The only complaint I have is that it could have been something more. The premise of a haunted movie theatre has a lot of potential that goes unrealized. I mean, look at how much ink has been spilled talking about the end of Peter Bogdanovich’s Targets (1968), which actually seems to be doing something similar to what’s going on here.

*. I sort of agree then with Kim Newman’s conclusion: “The promising subject matter is rather botched as Bava opts for a misjudged Night of the Living Dead rerun, throws in an inept selection of Heavy Metal hits on the soundtrack and fails to find any ironic angles in the story.”
*. All of which is only to say that it’s not as good as it might have been. And yet just it’s just that glimpse of potential that sets it apart from most of the other Eurotrash of this period. The Metropole itself strikes me as evocative of something deeper. It’s a magical place both mysteriously walled in and yet subject to random invasions from the outside world (a helicopter falling through the roof!). Then, once you finally escape the theatre, you find that the world outside has changed. What does it all mean? Probably nothing. But I find it suggestive.