(dir. Lamberto Bava)
*First time viewing
After being invited to a secret screening, a group of moviegoers are trapped in a theater full of demons.
Sometimes you encounter a movie that just feels like it was made for you, this is how I feel about Demons. Bava’s stylish horror film is a fountain of pure goodness of the very likes that made me fall in love with the genre in the first place. Thematically, there’s nothing to this film, but on a pure visceral level, Demons is a film for the horror heart, despite its severed relationship to the head. Produced and co-written by Dario Argento, Demons shares a lot with his style, be it in terms of the lighting, the singular setting of horror, and the story that almost kind of makes sense, but not quite. But Lamberto Bava, son of the famed giallo director Mario Bava, gives the film a modern touch that isn’t so out of sync with its American horror contemporaries; it just happens to be more stylish and seemingly less fearful of censors. Set to a catalog of 80s music from the likes of Billy Idol, Motley Crue, and Rick Springfield, and others, Demons has an energetic music video vibe that could be considered hip if it wasn’t for the laughable dubbing of the cast. While Italian horror films can sometimes be a bit plodding as they build to a tremendous climax, Demons is consistently entertaining and full of a high-energy that seems impossible for it to top, and yet it always does.
At its heart, Demons is a siege movie that feels like a love letter to the genre. The movie theater setting allows Bava to play with the genre’s tropes through the film within the film, as well as create a horror movie that feels like it’s taking place on a grand thematic stage. In terms of plot construction, Demons doesn’t differ from most other siege movies. You could replace demons with zombies and have the same effect, particularly given that a bite, scratch, or transference of fluid from a demon turns a human into one. But the filmmaking is what makes Demons stand out. Every transformation is given its due, and every kill scene is a unique depiction of gore that’s surprisingly realistic and gruesome for its time. There’s an artfulness to the way Bava handles the horror, and each shot is thing of beauty but also fan- service. By the time one of our lead characters is using a motorbike and sword to cut down demons, it’s clear that Bava, like so many of us, is just another kid raised on horror, finally given the chance to have the time of his life.
Scare Factor: 2/5 Demons features some of the best looking creatures of this particular subgenre as well as some wonderfully imaginative and gory transformations, and kill scenes. It’s silly in parts, but it’s so wonderfully outrageous that it’s hard not to love its good parts as equally as the bad. I may make this a yearly viewing, so give it a watch and join me for it next year!
**Available to watch on Hulu.