Friday, March 21st, 2008 @ 3:27 am | DVD

Tagline: They will make cemeteries their cathedrals and the cities will be your tombs.
Released: 1985
Starring Urbando Barberini, Natasha Hovey, Karl Zinny, and Fiore Argento
Directed by Lamberto Bava
Written by Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava, Franco Ferrini, and Dardano Sacchetti

Format: DVD
Distributed by Anchor Bay
DVD Release Date: September 25, 2007

Anamorphic Widescreen Presentation
Dolby Surround 5.1, Dolby Surround 2.0
Audio Commentary with Director Lamberto Bava, Mechanical and Transformation artist Sergio Stivaletti, and journalist Loris Curci
Behind the Scenes Footage

Premise: They will make cemeteries their cathedrals and the cities will be your tombs! In 1985, Italian horror masters Dario Argento and Lamberto Bava unleashed this landmark splatter shocker about a group of strangers invited to a sneak preview at a mysterious movie theater, only to be trapped inside and transformed one-by-one into carnage-crazed monsters. It’s a one-of-a-kind combination of creepy terror and relentless gore-orgy, featuring a pounding soundtrack of ‘80s metal, a throbbing score by Claudio Simonetti (SUSPIRIA), and gut-churning special effects by Sergio Stivaletti (CEMETARY MAN, PHENOMENA). This is DEMONS as you’ve never seen it before, with every blood-drenched frame now fully remastered for the ultimate in ooze-spewing, flesh-flaying, spine-ripping madness!

Plot Breakdown: When Cheryl and her friend Kathy arrive in a subway station, they come across a mysterious man in a metal mask handing out flyers advertising the opening of a new theater. The two friends decide to visit the theater, where they sit down to a horror film along with a small group of other moviegoers. Meanwhile, a prostitute who cut herself on a metal mask hanging in the lobby goes to the bathroom to inspect her wound. Her cut festers and mutates, turning her into a ravenous demon that is able to transform others into demons with just a scratch. The demon plague spreads rapidly, forcing the desperate moviegoers to fight for their lives against a legion of hell-spawned beasts. With the help of two young men, George and Ken, Cheryl and Kathy must find a way to escape the madness before they too become hideous demons.


The Good: Demons is one of the most memorable Italian splatter films to come along in quite some time, and for good reason. The twisted minds of Lamberto Bava and Dario Argento joined forces to create this insane and gory film, which combines enough black comedy and gruesome effects to satisfy any gore hound or horror fan.

This is one of those films that has endless replay value, due primarily to its brisk pace and wildly entertaining set pieces. Once the demons break loose and the madness begins, viewers will likely never be bored. One scene in particular involves a katana, a motorcycle, and a hero trying desperately to protect his girl from a horde of demons. It’s safe to say where things go from there. Add on top of that a helicopter propeller decapitating and maiming a group of encroaching demons, and other such insanity, and you have a film that is sure to demand multiple viewings for how much sheer fun that it is to watch.

Given the unrated nature of this DVD release, Bava and Argento’s gory vision can be viewed in all of its bloody glory. The unfortunate patrons of this doomed theater suffer all sorts of cruel fates, including a torn out throat, gouged out eyes, a brutal scalping, and much more. The demon transformation scenes are particularly gruesome, complete with growing, bleeding fingernails and teeth falling out to make way for crooked fangs. The effects in these transformation scenes are particularly well-executed and eerily convincing, exemplifying the virtues of practical effects in skilled hands.

Despite the complete silliness of the proceedings, Demons is not without its fair share of suspense. The linchpin of the film’s plot involves a group of movie patrons who’ve holed themselves up in a movie theater while holding a horde of demons at bay. There’s a palpable sense of dread when watching these hapless victims try desperately to escape this supernatural terror, which has literally walled them in the theater. One of the biggest nail-biters involves a couple trying to escape through an air conditioning duct.

A crazy Italian horror film is not the same without an equally crazy soundtrack, and thankfully this movie delivers in this area. Old-school heavy metal fans such as myself, will adore this film’s soundtrack, which includes such classic bands as Accept and Saxon.

The DVD features on this release are pretty slim, but it does contain an informative commentary with Bava, special effects artist Sergio Stivaletti, and journalist Loris Curci. This commentary provides some interesting behind the scenes and background information on the film.

The Bad: While the film’s plot makes more sense than the absurd sequel, there are still some plot holes that are more like astral voids. It is never clearly explained just who walled the moviegoers in to the theater, and how they did it. I guess those demons must be skilled masons. Even more puzzling is that the mask that causes this whole mess is displayed in the theater lobby for anyone to touch, proving that the theater owners are not too concerned with the liability of a demon outbreak. I guess that’s why they had the katana also on display in the lobby, as a blatant Chekhov’s gun. I was almost expecting to see a sign that read “in case of demon outbreak, take katana.”

Some parts of the plot seemed incomplete, especially the subplot concerning a car full of crack heads driving towards the theater. Their lack of purpose in the overall plot leaves me to wonder if more was written for them in the original script, but was eventually cut.

Perhaps the films biggest flaw however, is the spastic editing. Scenes will jump from one non-sequitur to another without any rhyme or reason, going from inside the theater to the punks in the car and back. This excessive chopping up of scenes hurts the suspense, and often leaves scenes feeling incomplete.

As mentioned before, the DVD features are pretty scant. Aside from the commentary, we get a preposterously brief behind-the-scenes footage segment. Hardcore fans of the film may find the segment to be interesting, but it ends too quickly and leaves one wanting.

Final Thoughts: Demons is one of those films whose many positives easily outshine its negatives. The plot may not make much sense, and the editing may be sloppy, but fans of carnage-ridden horror films will have a blast regardless. Demons is required viewing for all fans of splatter films.
Grade: B (film) | C (DVD)

– by contributing reviewer Chris Neville



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