Thursday, October 30, 2014


I am not the biggest fan of Italian horror films.  I do recognize their influence on modern cinema today but I find so many of them to be either redundant ripoffs of other films or they flat out don't make any sense whatsoever.  Often these horror films are appreciated for their atmosphere or shock value.  The story doesn't seem to matter.  I kind of like things to make sense in the movies I watch for the most part.  DEMONS directed by Lamberto Bava and produced by Dario Argento is one of the good ones even if some of it doesn't make sense.

The story is about a young college student, Cheryl who accepts a free movie pass to a new theater called the Metropol from a strange man who wears a metal mask that covers half his face.  It is important to note that the actor playing the strange man is Michele Soavi who was also the film's assistant director and would later go on to direct one of the greatest zombie movies ever made, DELLAMORTE, DELLAMORE or CEMETERY MAN.  She and her friend go to the movie which turns out to be a horror movie about some young people discovering a mask that turns one of them into a demon possessed killer.  The mask in the movie happens to look like the mask on display in the theater lobby.  A pimp (played by the always awesome Bobby Rhodes) comes to the movie with two of his ladies and one of them gets cut when she puts the mask on playfully.  Like in the movie they are watching she becomes a monster and goes around killing other movie goers which makes the victims turn into more monsters.  The whole movie becomes a survival horror situation as the theater patrons try to escape the demons that keep growing in numbers.

The story seems simple enough but if you are paying attention, the film gives you clues as to something much bigger going on.  It took me a couple of watches to notice one of the actors in the movie playing in the theater is actually the creepy guy handing out the free tickets.  What does that mean?  Are we watching a moment from the past explaining how the mask in the lobby got there?  What about the strange room to nowhere that is discovered when everyone was trapped on the balcony pounding on the walls to catch the outside world's attention?  Is the Metropol the old building depicted on the big screen where the mask was found?  Who reopened the old theater and set up this free screening anyway?  The characters in the movie are too busy trying to not get their faces ripped off to try and find out for us.  DEMONS gives no answers but just enough to connect some of the dots.  Perhaps there are no answers just like in a nightmare.  Things just are what they are.

The strong visuals, colors and lighting give DEMONS a nightmare look like as if you were watching someone's actual dream rather than just another horror movie.  Sometimes whole scenes are bathed in one color including blue, red or yellow adding to the dreamlike atmosphere.  Every camera angle is perfect and inspired.  The director knows how to evoke the audiences' imagination with his camera.  Often I wondered what was waiting around the next corner for our heroes simply because of how the camera was stationed.  So many iconic moments are captured making sure DEMONS is not a film soon forgotten.  Just look at the movie poster!  The rock soundtrack generates a sense of anarchy throughout the film which plays well into the extremely satisfying climatic finale.  Argento's films have a tendency to inappropriately break into eighties big hair rock music (aka "Butt-Rock") for no reason (See PHENOMENA) but here it is done just right and fits perfectly into the spirit of the film.

DEMONS created a formula that was copied a few more times for the sequels.  The follow up films failed to generate the rich atmosphere and scares the original did.  Nothing new conceptually was ever added except for the locations the story took place.  They were merely copy cats that re-staged moments from the first film with disappointing results.  The freshness was gone.  Still they can't sour the awesomeness that the original DEMONS has brought to our eyes.  If you haven't seen it then by all means go out and get it before the inevitable demon apocalypse descends upon us and turns us all into goo spewing wicked abominations.  How about that ending credit sequence?


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