film reel image

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Demons 1985 * * * Stars

Picture of the movie poster for the film Demons
Director: Lamberto Bava
Year: 1985
Rating: * * * Stars
Rating: Unrated
Cast: Urbano Barberini, Natasha Hovey, Fiore Argento 

Long before the TV show The Walking Dead and Ruben Fleischer's exhilarating Zombieland (2009), came this campy motion picture rooted in good ol' fashioned blood and gore. Filmed primarily in Berlin, Germany and made by an Italian director, Demons is a clear snapshot of what an 80's horror film is supposed to be. Although the idea for it is surprisingly original, this puppy runs rampant with nostalgia from that era. Characters have the big hair (the women really spritz it up for this one), they tie their sweaters around their necks (everyone has got that Kmart look going on) and the grimness of cheesy synthesizer music is abundant in every frame (added to that, heavy metal tunes sometime appear in the movie's soundtrack). Most of the actors in Demons also come off as mean and shallow. They all however, have perfect, innocent faces for the look of a scary movie (except for this one guy who's got a chrome dome and sideburns the size of Texas). Plus, they are all quite amusing due to the virtual dubbing (it sounded like dubbing) in every spoken word of their dialogue. And let's not forget another trait for splatter films of the 1980's. Most of the cast in Demons accomplishes it in that they are virtually unknown and comprised of actors and actresses you'll never see or hear from again. Let me ask you a question, have you ever heard of Urbano Barberini and Karl Zinny? Yeah, me neither.  

The make up of this high jinks exercise in unabashed fun goes like this: A woman on a subway has visions of a mysterious man who is facially scarred and wears a creepy mask. When she gets off the subway, this same man follows her and gives her a ticket for a free movie showing at a theater in West Berlin. She then proceeds to invite her friend (the two of them skip their high school classes, not a good idea) and they venture to the theater along with 40 or so other people (these people were also randomly given tickets and summoned by the same creepy dude who doesn't utter one word). Once everyone is settled in the half empty building, a random horror film is shown on screen, a woman in the audience turns into a demon (I can't tell you how, you gotta watch for yourself) and chaos ensues (the rule is that if a possessed person bites or scratches you, you become a demon as well). Everyone therefore is trapped in the theater for some strange reason (I figured why don't they find out where the entrance is at which they came in and try to break it down, oh well).  

I must say I was entertained and sort of taken aback by this flick. It harked back to my childhood where you could wake up, flip on the cable box at 4am, and see something like this playing on Showtime or Cinemax. Like I said earlier, Demons has what I like to think of as a pretty original idea for a fright fest. But make no mistake about it; it's still a run-of-the mill exercise in horror fare. It does just what you want it to do, nothing more, and nothing less. And that's okay with me. Yeah its got elements from the George Romero movies and The Evil Dead (1981) (minus the slight comedic vibe), but Demons still manages to be effective because it does an adequate job of establishing the characters, setting up the shocks and scares (it takes a good 20 minutes before things get going and this is an 88 minute flick), and not straying too far away from the focus of the story (only during the 1 hour mark do things go off on a small tangent). Another treat is that this special effects behemoth marks the first time I've seen or heard the following tidbits in any movie of any genre: Billy Idol's rock anthem "White Wedding" playing in the background, two female characters who are deadpan look-alikes of the late Corey Haim and late rock superstar Rick James (I'm not kidding folks), another character wielding a samurai sword while on a motorcycle (hacking zombies along the way and riding through a movie theater no less), even another character who is blind and actually taking in the movie within a movie (huh?), and an interesting product placement for Coca Cola (you'll know it when you see it). 

If you're into horror films and want to invade the time warp which is the mid 80's, Demons will probably satisfy your thirst for terror. I mean who doesn't want to see the indelible sight of flesh eating ghouls walking down a corridor with their creepy ceiling shadows. Ah, they sure don't make em' like this anymore and if they did now, they'd be hard pressed to emulate the veritable time capsule that is this movie. Oh, and I almost forgot about the ending. It makes it an even better film than it really is. I was caught off guard by it but I thought yeah, this makes sense. So to end this review, I'll say this: if Demons ever makes it to the midnight movie circuit (I'm not sure it hasn’t) then you should get a bunch of your friends together and check it out. You'll get to see a movie within a movie at a movie theater. Got it. Now get to it ASAP!  

Written by Jesse Burleson

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