Still from 1985's "Demons."

Demons September 4, 2017        


Lamberto Bava



Urbano Barberini

Natasha Hovey

Karl Zinny

Paola Cozzo

Fiore Argento

Geretta Giancarlo









1 Hr., 28 Mins.


ucked as Demons’s (1985) logic is, we’re not so quick to attack its various wanderings into general insipidness. If we were, we’d first take shots at the fact that the movie is a zombie feature and should thus be entitled Zombies. But from Claudio Fragasso’s Troll 2 (1990) — which starred goblins — to Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2 (1979) — which didn’t have a predecessor — indisputable is that low-budget, schlocky European horror movies don’t always live up their promises.

Yet as it often goes, a good time is a good time, even if we’re prompted to imagine the various Elvira one-liners which might come to a head if the horror hostess were to sit and watch the idiocy go down with us. Fortunately for Demons, directed by Lamberto “Mario’s Son” Bava and produced by genre maven Dario Argento, the stupidity in store is of the excusable brand. It's a movie made specifically to hone the aesthetic specialties of the zombie film — namely exploding pustules and the expulsion of gallons of vomit — and never sets out to be more than its gross-outs. And Demons delivers.


It has a nifty premise to season its gory effects: its protagonists (Natasha Hovey, Paola Cozza), both of whom look like certain someones in a Carolyn Keene novel, go to a movie premiere and find that the events occurring in the film being watched are also happening in the aisles.


Being that they’re viewing what appears to be a zombie movie (what we see in the movie within the movie sometimes looks like a showcasing of the living dead, in others a basic stalk-and-slash), this isn’t good, and leaves them fighting for survival during a night they thought was going to be leisurely.


Though admittedly, these girls would be silly not to reason that the screening is a little fishy to begin with. In the first place, they get the tickets from a mask-donning creep who stalks one of them before handing over the shiny slips. They’ve never heard of the theater despite its being smack dab in the center of the city. And when walking into the megaplex, they might notice that ads for an odd assortment of movies, including Metropolis (1927), Argento’s own Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971), and Harry and Son (1984), surround, as does occultist artwork and an attendant who’s a potential Lily Cole relative and a wearer of an earthlier sexy Santa Halloween costume.


Something’s not right.


All is set in motion when one of the premiere’s audience members snatches a mask off a decorative fixture to scare a friend, only to get mysteriously cut. This also happens in the movie this character will be watching, and the scrape, inevitably, causes her to become a zombie and act as the instrument to turn the theater into its own version of Hell.

Did the persons running the theater (presumably Satan and his minions, though names go unmentioned) know that this particular individual would put on the mask to kickstart the turning of the world into Zombieland? If they did, does that mean they also possess psychic abilities? If they didn’t, how would they establish the infestation? And why did they choose a theater as their catalyst for takeover?

Questions like these teem, but we best not hover over them too frantically. Reality is is that Bava and Argento likely didn’t mull over such plot holes all that much, preferring to sketch out a story just intriguing enough to give a home to all the neat special effects and evocative visual ideas. And that’s fine — the union of style and bloodshed is a strong one, and the unknowing Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1988-99) baiting is plentiful. George A. Romero might know a thing or two more about the crafting of the perfect zombie movie, but Bava and Argento aren’t so shabby of splatter artistes themselves. B