Dario Argento and Lamberto Bava, son of "Spaghetti Horror" maestro Mario Bava, joined forces to bring gore-hounds everywhere a perversely twisted spectacle of demonic possession run amok in 'Demons.' As in Argento's giallo classic 'Suspiria,' Bava showers the screen with grisly details, a vibrant, colorful palette thanks to cinematographer Gianlorenzo Battaglia and one of the wildest soundtracks around, featuring a strong selection from then popular heavy-metal bands. While the disgusting special effects stun and shock audiences to their wits, the fast-paced screeching sounds of Accept, Pretty Maids and Saxon blast through the speakers, creating a tensely energetic and frantic atmosphere that's not only a fitting complement to the action - but also comical.
Adding to that very subtle comical feel is the original musical score of Claudio Simonetti, especially the main composition at the start of the movie — one of the best and most memorable pieces for a horror movie. Aptly titled "Demons," the music has a creepy but highly spirited circus-like undertone that's more fun than scary. It plays loudly in the background as Cheryl (Natasha Hovey) is followed in the Berlin subway by a masked man (Michele Soavi) handing out complimentary movie tickets. Her friend Kathy (Paola Cozzo) joins her to the theatre where they meet George (Urbano Barberini) and Ken (Karl Zinny). Simonetti's music oddly and somewhat funnily plays during these moments, as if foreshadowing the horrid bathroom scene soon to come. When not used for the gorier segments, the heavy sounds of dark rock take over.
Revisiting these same scenes that overwhelm with heavy-metal madness some decades later, I'm happy to see they still hold-up rather well. Admittedly, these tense, action-packed moments are also a bit on the corny, screwball side of things, particularly when one character rides a dirt bike through the aisles of a theatre while wielding a samurai sword, but they're exciting and exhilarating nonetheless. Lighting, sound and stage setting work in surprisingly perfect harmony, generating a movie-going experience that electrifies audiences into cheering the gruesome mayhem. To be clear, I'm referring to the humans and their fight for survival, not the monstrous creatures with glowing eyes, torn fingernails and sharp, mangled teeth. They're ugly, horrifying ghouls! When charging into battle, I have my "ghetto blaster" and a mix-tape at the ready. (Movie Rating: 4/5)
In all honesty, 'Demons 2' is littered with all sorts of badness, daft characters and a few laughably stupid scenes. The atrocious acting from the entire cast makes the dialogue all the more ridiculous, and certain, roll-your-eyes plot points raise more than an eyebrow. A pregnant woman (Nancy Brilli) suddenly has a sugar craving while all hell breaks loose in her building and loses concern for her husband's (David Edwin Knight) safety. A little boy home alone eventually gives birth to a hideous crossbreed of a gremlin and the Black Lagoon creature, and it spends a good amount of time menacing the defenseless expecting mother. Admittedly, the scenes with the gym instructor (Bobby Rhodes) and his wimpy soldiers of bodybuilders is rather hilarious — one highlight in an ocean of bad camp. One thing, however, is why make Molotov cocktails and not use them?
In the first movie, the demonic pandemonium started after a Rick James wannabe scratched her face with a mask and her transformation corresponded with events in a random horror movie. Here, director Lamberto Bava and producer Dario Argento return for the sequel, but skip the whole mask as intermediary nonsense and simply have a demon break through a TV screen, attacking annoyingly self-centered, callow Sally (Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni) on her birthday. (Full of screams, blood and shrieking panic, it's the best birthday party ever!) Suddenly, doors, phones and elevators don't work throughout the high-rise apartment — except when convenient to the story, of course. And how incredibly lucky is the nerd asked to leave the party just as chaos is about to erupt.
Nonetheless, in spite of all the goofiness and a few laughable sequences, the sequel has garnered a soft spot with me. Part of its enjoyment is its campiness, whether intentional or not, and then there is the wonderfully gruesome practical makeup effects of Sergio Stivaletti. Just as in the first movie, he brings the gore and blood in disturbing, shockingly disgusting details, inducing laughs as well as churning stomachs. I also must admit I'm a bit biased because this follow-up comes with another fantastic soundtrack for a horror movie. Featuring songs from The Smiths, The Cult, Love and Rockets and Gene Loves Jezebel — music I grew up listening to — I have a blast watching 'Demons 2' (the same goes for its predecessor) every time because the music helps tremendously in enjoying the demonic bedlam. (Movie Rating: 3.5/5)
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Arrow Video brings 'Demons/Demons 2' to Blu-ray in three buying options, one of which includes a two-disc steelbook case. The first two are standard releases which can be purchased separately and come in the usual Arrow slipbox packaging with reversible cover art. For this review, we look at the two-disc limited edition steelbook with one Region B locked, BD25 disc sitting comfortably above another on the same panel. The package includes a glossy, 12-page booklet with color photos and a pair of amusing essays from author and critic Calum Waddell. Compared to the other releases, the steelbook is missing the poster and the short collectible comics. At startup, viewers can skip over the distributor's promo piece to an animated main menu with music playing in the background.
'Demons' wreak havoc on Blu-ray with a strong and generally satisfying 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.66:1). Only, this high-def transfer appears to have been cleaned up significantly with a good amount of natural grain missing. Contrast has also been boosted, making much of the picture a bit dull and faded, and it's more noticeable in some scenes than in others. Blacks can look somewhat washed-out and murky due to the change. Thankfully, the video isn't completely ruined as shadows remain deep and menacing throughout and whites are comfortably bright and crisp. Fine lines in objects are fairly detailed and well-defined while close-ups of the cast and the gruesome make-up are often revealing. Colors are bold and cleanly rendered with primaries looking particularly energetic. Overall, it's a strong presentation that fans will enjoy. (Video Rating: 3.5/5)
Like its predecessor, the sequel is a new transfer made from the original camera negative done by Cineteca di Bologna. And sadly, the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode suffers from the same problems with one very noticeable exception. A brief description at the start of the video explains that a few sequences are permanently damaged by a camera defect which available tools failed to correct. Only way to describe the anomaly is as a type of stuttering where the 1.66:1 frame repeats itself and creates a bizarre ghosting effect.
On top of that, viewers must also contend with another case of contrast boosting, making natural film grain more apparent and appear like mosquito noise. While shadow delineation is much stronger, overall black levels seem faded and grayish. On a positive side, colors are bolder and more animated with excellent, healthy skin tones. Definition and resolution is definitely a step-up to previous home video editions with often amazing clarity and detail in the makeup. Overlooking some minor disappointments, the high-def presentation is generally satisfying. (Video Rating: 3/5)
Arrow Video offers the Bava/Argento production with two great listening options, and the difference between them is rather surprising to say the least. Both are presented in uncompressed PCM 2.0 stereo, but I found myself enjoying the English dub better, mostly because imaging seemed more accurate and faithful to the original presentation. Although noise and air can, at times, be heard in the background, the soundtrack is better focused in the center of the screen while the other channels display some minor off-screen action to broaden the soundstage.
The Italian track, on the other hand, is much cleaner and clearer but also significantly louder, delivering those same ambient effects with ear-splitting intensity. The soundstage is definitely wider, yet it feels a bit forced and unnatural. Also, while dialogue reproduction is precise and intelligible in both tracks, lip sync appears more accurate in the English dub than in the Italian. Both come with excellent detailing in the mid-range and a robust, full-bodied low-end that adds depth and weight to the action as well as the many heavy-metal song selections.
In either case, fans familiar with the movie on other home video formats will instantly notice both lossless mixes are far richer and more vibrant than in previous editions. (Audio Rating: 4/5)
The audio for the sequel is on par with its predecessor, particularly with Arrow offering fans two uncompressed PCM stereo choices. And like the first movie, the English dub is the preferred listening option, sounding more natural and stronger than the Italian recording. The latter may appear fuller and slightly wider, but that could also be the result of the added decibels. The former is better focused and stable in the center of the screen, creating a more faithful presentation with an excellent sense of presence. Lip movements also better match the soundtrack as dialogue reproduction comes in crystal clear and precise. Background activity is discrete with exceptional clarity and detail in the mid-range and minimal audible noise. Low bass is surprisingly deep and energetic, especially in the music and song selections, making this lossless mix a fun listen. (Audio Rating: 4/5)
Dario Argento and Lamberto Bava join forces to bring a gruesome, bloody vision of demonic possession run amok inside a movie theater in 'Demons.' They return with another graphically violent spectacle of amazing special effects wizardry in 'Demons 2,' but set the bedlam inside a high-rise apartment building with children, a pregnant woman and a self-centered party girl. The two movies are mostly memorable for the effects and the wonderful soundtracks, but they can also be equally enjoyed for their goofy campiness and several freakishly nightmare moments. The steelbook Blu-ray arrives with strong video, except for some minor disappointments, but an excellent audio presentation that fans will love. Supplements are not very extensive but insightful nonetheless, making the overall package is great collector's item for cult enthusiasts.