Written by: Tara Mae Jackson
Directed by: Lamberto Bava
Cast: Urbano Barberini, Natasha Hovey, Karl Zinny
In the mid eighties people had already noticed Italian horror titles flooding the market as directors such as Mario Bava, and Dario Argento were taking the world by storm with giallo titles and directors such as Ruggero Deodato and Lucio Fulci were leading the pack with gallons of gore and sheer brutality. A certain standard had come to be expected from such films, over the top effects, gore, sexuality, and tension, along with plots that stretched the imagination further and further. We were hit with maniacal killers and masses of zombies, jungles filled with savage cannibals, and so many twisted nightmares of unforgettable scenes that one could barely fathom what would be next. In 1985 Lamberto Bava, the son of Mario Bava, teamed up with writer Dardano Sacchetti, and Dario Argento, who helped with the screenplay as well as production, to bring us Demons.
Demons bore the tagline “They will make cemeteries their cathedrals and the cities will be your tombs” which speaks of pure evil delight. While the actual spreading of the demonic plague seemed to borrow heavily from the concept of zombie outbreaks, as simple bites and scratches would cause the transformation, the biggest difference was that becoming a demon would not cause you to rot and wander aimlessly, you will in fact become a scary, brutal monster with razor sharp nails. The demons were vicious, cunning, and relentless, on top of that so contagious, as it were, that doom seemed inevitable. We got a vast array of characters for prey, from young lovers, college girls skipping class, and an older couple on their anniversary, and even some punks up to no good in the city. So let the demonic, flesh ripping frenzy begin!
At the start, we witness a strange masked man handing out tickets to the opening of a movie theater called Metropol, there’s a tense chase scene as our lead actress is frightened by the man’s appearance, but in the end she not only takes one ticket, but requests a second for her friend. Upon arriving at the theater we are introduced briefly to some of our other players, as the lobby fills. Rosemary, seemingly a hooker, who is there with her pimp and and fellow prostitute, is picking up the pieces on display and decides to try on a rather creepy looking mask, which in turn nicks her face, and thus puts the wheels in motion. As the movie on screen unfolds we notice the display pieces of the lobby are a significant part of the film, and something seems to be going on with Rosemary’s face that bears a striking resemblance to what’s taking place in the movie. It isn’t long and we’re right in the middle of feverish flurry of terrified movie goers who’ve realized they can’t get out of the theater, and have no weapons to fight off the demonic hell spawn. The violent gore drenched mayhem that follows is pure horror heaven as one by one the victims are shredded and transformed, leaving only a few to make a desperate attempt to escape the theater.
The transformation from human to demon is a seemingly painful process and the fingernails split apart to make room for the claw-like black nails of the demons, and the teeth fall out one by one and are replaced by sharp, pointy fangs. The effects in this movie are both wonderful and cheesy, but I can really appreciate the attempt to show the process take place and not just go from human to suddenly demon. The overall effect of the make-up is actually some pretty scary stuff, and one demon in particular that’s found on some of the movies older vhs covers could induce nightmares!
Another point of interest would be the soundtrack to this film. Being the mid eighties, and taking place in a populated city, we are shown plenty of images of punks with crazy hair and clothes, as well as introduced to some seedy looking characters snorting cocaine out of a soda can while driving around looking for kicks. A lot of the songs seem to kick in during these scenes and we’ll find that these were some popular artists, Billy Idol, Motley Crue, Rick Springfield, as well as Saxon. Aside from the metal feel to the soundtrack we had the work of Claudio Simonetti, who is fairly famous for his work on Italian horror flim soundtracks as well as his work with Goblin, who is featured in many of Argento’s films. With the great music score and the crazy special effects, we can almost ignore the fairly bad dubbing that seems to be the only choice available to American audiences; yes, the dubbing’s bad, but I’ve heard worse!
Overall, the movie is one journey into madness and chaos that can be cheesy good fun. Some of the images can be rather terrifying, and we’re given a decent enough amount of blood and ripped flesh that it’ll please the gorehounds. This one isn’t big on nudity, though you get some, but everything about the flick is just amusing to almost any fan, I feel even ones who don’t really seek out Italian horror titles will appreciate and enjoy this one. While I myself was under the age of 9 at my first viewing, I wouldn’t imagine that most could have got through the movie that young without nightmares. On this one, I’d say grab a friend, grab a snack, and sit back and enjoy!
And don’t forget, it spawned multiple sequels!