Anchor Bay presents
Demons (Demoni) (1985)
"The movie....it's happening just like in the movie."- Kathy (Paola Cozzo)
Stars: Urbano Barberini, Natasha Hovey, Karl Zinny, Fiore Argento
Other Stars: Paola Cozza, Fabiola Toledo, Nicoletta Elmi
Director: Lamberto Bava
Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: R for (language, extreme gore, drug use, nudity)
Run Time: 01h:28m:29s
Release Date: 1999-03-16
DVD ReviewSuspension of disbelief is a funny thing. In a film one can accept the notion of cursed masks turning people into demons, who can in turn infect others with just a scratch, and as long as that's internally consistent, feel fine. But if the hero starts riding a motorbike, with a passenger, over rows of theater seats while brandishing a Japanese katana, well, suddenly the bubble pops and I have to say, "Hey, wait a minute."
Demons (Demoni in the original Italian) is such a film. Director Lamberto Bava (son of Black Sunday's director, Mario Bava) sets us up nicely, by having young Hannah (Natasha Hovey) receive free tickets to a film at the new Metropol theatre. She takes her friend Kathy (Paola Cozzo), and they meet two young men, George (Urbano Barberini) and Ken (Karl Zinny). There, along with several dozen others, they watch a film about some kids who rob the grave of seer Nostradumus of a silver demon mask. When they put the mask on, they become just such demons, with nasty fingernails, sprouting pustules and drooling neon green. Their claws infect those who they touch, and soon there are monsters on the rampage.
Unfortunately, another young woman in the audience was fooling with a similar prop mask in the lobby. She in short order also becomes a demon just like in the film, and proceeds to infect the audience one by one. When they finally realize something's wrong, it's too late: the doors have been mystically barred shut. It's then a fight for survival against hopeless odds, all while trapped in the claustrophobic interiors of the movie theater. We have a good exercise in terror going, until we get to the motorbike ride referenced above, which is followed in short order by a helicopter coming through the roof. At this point, the movie lost my suspension of disbelief for good. Bava also makes the mistake of briefly going outside the theater, which chips away at the carefully constructed sense of claustrophobia.
The film works less well on home video than it would in a theater, since there you have the extra dimension of being in a theater with a bunch of strangers, just like the characters in the movie. That would also magnify the sense of the evil of the movie-within-the-movie venturing into the movie audience. The crossing of a film from the screen to the audience has its roots in William Castle's 1958 film, The Tingler. A scene in that film took place in a movie theater, and the live film would be interrupted by a cry that The Tingler has escaped! while randomly wired seats would jolt theatregoers. A similar theme was explored later by Woody Allen in Purple Rose of Cairo, where characters cross from the screen to the audience. Bava and the screenwriters, headed by horrormeister Dario Argento, take this theme and run with it, combined with a paranoid fear of contamination reminiscent of that in Night of the Living Dead as well as the trapped feeling in that earlier movie.
But Demons is more than just a pastiche of these themes; Bava has a good sense of timing of suspense for a novice director. He is helped by some good effects work by Sergio Stivaletti; most notably a nasty shot of a transforming person's teeth being forced out by razor-sharp demon teeth. The effects are uneven, however, for sometimes the transformations are deflated by cutaways to obviously phony prop bodies. Had the same level of effects work been accomplished throughout, this could have been a much better film. As it is, Demons is a paranoid, gory romp that will satisfy most horror fans. Argento fans will want to keep an eye open for Nicoletta Elmi (who was in Deep Red) as the usherette for the Metropol.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-
|Aspect Ratio||1.66:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||no|
Image Transfer Review: The nonanamorphic picture is presented in 1.66:1. Colors are generally quite good, with rich reds and deep blacks. Indeed, considering the bit rate is a meager 2-3 Mbps, the picture's probably better than it should be. The ghastly scene on the cover of the keepcase, with the demon hordes, eyes glowing, framed in an eerier blue light, comes off superbly in this transfer. Overall, a very good transfer, although detail is sometimes a little lacking.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: Demons has a pounding hard rock score, featuring such 80s artists as Billy Idol, The Scorpions, Motley Crue, Go West, Saxon and Rick Springfield. The 5.1 DD track is quite good, with decent clarity and excellent bass from the score by Claudio Simonetti (formerly of Goblin). There is unfortunately also a fair amount of hiss, knocking the track down from an 'A' grade. There is plenty of surround activity throughout the film. A Dolby Surround track is also provided.
According to the commentary, the film, even though Italian, was shot in English. The one major exception, oddly enough, is the blaxploitation-type hero who only spoke in Italian. A nice job of dubbing is done on him. The dialogue occasionally sounds ADR-produced, but overall is pretty easy to understand.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Lamberto Bava, Makeup/effects artist Sergio Stivaletti
Extras Review: Anchor Bay provides us a nice array of extras for this gorefest, starting with a commentary by director Lamberto Bava and makeup/effects artist Sergio Stivaletti. Bava's English is not the best, and he reverts to Italian often, necessitating a translation. He doesn't seem well prepared for the commentary, and in fact seems to remember very little about the film. Stivaletti does much better, discussing several of the important effects shots and giving us an interesting look behind the curtain.
A brief (1m:17s) clip of behind the scenes footage is included; this seems to be an excerpt from another program. It's all too brief and leaves us wanting more. Bios and filmographies are provided for Bava, Argento, Stivaletti, screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti and assistant director/actor/Argento protégé Michele Soavi. The package is wrapped up by a nice-condition 1.66:1 trailer for the film. Quite satisfactory for a film of this nature, although I wish that Bava had done a little memory refreshing before he sat down for the commentary.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsAn entertaining and nasty horror romp, over the top with grisliness at times. You could do a heck of a lot worse than this one when looking for Eurohorror. The decent array of extras help make the DVD experience even better. Recommended, but not for the queasy.
Mark Zimmer 2000-09-08