Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #342
Number of Views: Multiple
Release Date: 9 October 1986
Sub-Genre: Zombie Horror
Country of Origin: Italy
Running Time: 92 minutes
Director: Lamberto Bava
Producers: Dario Argento, Ferdinando Caputo
Screenplay: Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava, Franco Ferrini, Dardano Sacchetti
Special Effects: Sergio Stivaletti, Danilo Bollettini, Rosario Prestopino
Cinematography: Gianlorenzo Battaglia
Score: Simon Boswell
Editing: Piero Bozza, Franco Fraticelli
Studio: DACFILM Rome
Distributors: Titanus Distribuzione, Artists Entertainment Group, Imperial Entertainment
Stars: David Edwin Knight, Nancy Brilli, Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, Bobby Rhodes, Asia Argento, Virginia Bryant, Anita Bartolucci, Antonio Cantafora, Luisa Passega, Davide Marotta, Marco Vivio, Dario Casalini, Michele Mirabella, Lorenzo Gioielli, Maria Chiara Sasso
Suggested Audio Candy
 Simon Boswell “Demonica”
 Simon Boswell “Demon’s Groove”
If you asked me to name an Italian film, outside of the work of greats Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci, that best captures the essence of eighties horror then it would undoubtedly be Lamberto Bava’s delightful Demons, with Michelle Soavi’s similarly delectable Stagefright no more than an owl’s feather behind. Arriving in 1985, on the back-end of the whole video nasty debacle, it somehow slid past censors unscathed and was promptly taken to the hearts of horror aficionados worldwide, with its rip-roaring pace and off-the-chain make-up effects and schlocky grue. It was preposterous in the extreme but reveled in its role strictly as an entertainer; offering up 88 minutes of splatter wonder which holds up still to its day, so long as rose-tinted spectacles are stocked in your inventory.
The influence of Argento was there for all to see and many of the characteristics that defined Demons came about through his involvement, while he even co-wrote the screenplay. Indeed it is the kind of movie he may have directed after a particularly rambunctious bender on the vino. There seemed no feasible way to replicate its crossover success, but clearly Dario had a ball with the distinct change of pace of standing on the sidelines thus, when Bava earned himself a second bite of the cherry, Argento gladly returned in the same capacity. The result is a sequel which practically emulates the original to homage degree and treads many of the same boards, albeit within a different location.
Speaking of paying reverence to the greats, the influence of Canadian technomancer, David Cronenberg, is in über abundance also. Demons 2 does away with its desecrated movie house setting and locks us down in a German apartment complex just to prevent its doomed cast from going free-range. Evidently the insular feel of the original, combined with the rage-like velocity of our marauding demoni, made for such a formidable threat to our senses once already and, in true Shivers fashion, Bava snaps at our heels akin to a disgruntled landlord for another 90+ minutes of wonderfully ludicrous foot to the pedal splatter action in a similar high-rise. This is the epitome of a no-brainer, just as intended.
Videodrome is clearly another motivation, this time in respect of the introduction of our hi-octane hell spawn. Gone also is the malevolent mask of Demons past and this time they make their entrance via latex television screen, leaving the portal wide open for The Video Dead to clamber through in the process. If there is social subtext in that then it’s as slight as the plot; Bava is disinterested in crafting a film destined to be regarded on its own merits and instead offers up a remix of sorts. Different locale, same shady antics. Only this time he really shakes the soda and some of the bubbles go straight to his head. Demons 2 is a movie which meshes well with inebriation and a dash of forgiveness.
Speaking of storyline, wherever are my manners? Snot-clogged teen Sally (Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni) is about to celebrate her birthday. In a pretty tenuous umbilical to the first film, the scenes of carnage have made the headlines, and it’s not long before those impish irritants catch a whiff of her icing and gatecrash the party. She’s not alone in her tasty appeal as a fresh platter of chow down is presented in the form of other tenants, including a doting couple expecting an imminent new edition, (David Edwin Knight and Nancy Brilli), a young girl (Asia Argento in her feature-film debut), and in a hilarious fist bump of a decision, horror’s very own John Shaft Bobby Rhodes makes his more than welcome return.
This time he’s wary of bringing his bitches and deems his motivational expertise and leadership skills better suited to a fitness center full of pumped up knuckleheads clad in spandex. Good call Bobby. While everyone about him is losing their minds, he’s the one rallying the troops and starting the revolution. Alas, just like last time, Rhodes struggles somewhat with fatigue and that leg cramp comes back to curse him once again. As a lover of all things Demons, I’m just grateful he received an invite.
The shot composition regularly tips its hat to pop art decor, as does the soundtrack which employs the likes of The Cult, The Art of Noise and The Smiths among others. There’s a bubblegum novelty to proceedings throughout and, when you consider how accurately pitched the original was barely a year previous, that could never be regarded as a negative thing. Dialogue may amount to little more than verbal spam and the nonsensical ending is stretching even the most far-reaching realm of possibility but are we really here to nitpick? Of course we’re not. Time for that all-important bottom line. Gremlins 2: The New Batch aside, if ever a sequel does precisely what it states on its tin, then Demons 2 is that movie.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: Perhaps the only vague disappointment is that, while the sequel is no slouch when it comes to grue and grotesque imagery, it doesn’t quite scale the heady heights of its predecessor. Back in the day, Japanese laserdisc presented the thinking man’s option as opposed to the R-rated version widely available which was cut by three minutes. Even with trimmings restored, it’s never quite as bloodthirsty an affair. As you would expect the practical effects, and Sergio Stivaletti’s mechanical monstrosities in particular, are generally excellent including the opening resurrection which reverses a wax head melting to glorious effect.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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This was my first Italian horror film and it opened the doorway to other fantastic examples of the genre and later on to the Giallos. It will always have a special place in my heart.
Someday I hope to catch up on my backlog of your posts. Too busy writing these days but after I’m done with my current WIP I should have some more time.
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