Demons/Demons 2 REVIEW
When you see the green man, don't walk — run!
1985/1986 | 18 | 172 minutes | £34.99 (steelbook Blu-ray)
Also available separately: £27.99 (Blu-ray)/£17.99 (DVD)
Distributor: Arrow Video
Director: Lamberto Bava
Cast: Urbano Barberini, Natasha Hovey, David Edwin Knight, Nancy Brilli
Ever wondered what it’d look like if Esther Rantzen went Hulk? This pair of not-really-zombies shockers, dating from the fag-end of Italian gore’s high period, show us, as a demonic infection spread by claw scratches causes victims to turn green and sprout almighty choppers.
Producer Dario Argento’s influence over director Lamberto Bava is apparent, with much use of the horror auteur’s characteristic red and blue lighting, though the disciple’s work isn’t quite up to the standard of the master.
A dash of meta-fictional surrealism raises both films above your average bloodbath. In the first, chaos is unleashed on a cinema full of moviegoers as they watch a horror film about… people getting turned into demons (in a stand-out moment, an infected woman tears through the screen during a scene where demonic claws are ripping open a tent). Both plot elements and cast are recycled for the sequel, in which a demon emerges from a TV to infect a high-rise; as well as shamelessly lifting from Cronenberg’s Videodrome and Shivers, Bava also cribs from Alien, with acidic blood burning through the building’s floors. At other times the sequel reminds you variously of Rear Window, Halloween and even (as a bunch of survivors surround themselves with a circle of cars, down in the parking lot), a Western.
Don’t expect non-stop winking post-modernism, though. Once the demons are unleashed, it’s largely an orgy of throat-tearing, eye gouging and skull-smashing (the gym-phobic will particularly enjoy the sequence in Demons 2 where a bunch of hardbodies get offed with their own exercise equipment), with barely a moment to spare for the luxury of sketching out characters; transformation into a sweaty torsoed, ass-kicking Ash-alike is the best an actor can hope for. Still, the pace is frenetic, the carnage is eye-poppingly brutal, particularly when demons start tearing out of backs and stomaches in a monstrous perversion of childbirth (admittedly, the rubbery prosthetics haven’t aged well), and while Bava’s better ideas are all pilfered, at least he steals from the best.
Both films have been lovingly restored — although nothing could be done about a couple of moments in Demons 2 where the picture becomes unstable due to a camera fault. Demons has two commentaries (both featuring Bava), as well as unremarkable interviews with Dario Argento (10 minutes) and composer Claudio Simonetti and a canter through the top ten of “spaghetti splatter” by director/horror fan Luigi Cozzi (11 minutes). Cozzi also provides a potted history of Italian horror (17 minutes) on Demons 2. There’s also an interesting interview with make-up maestro Sergio Stivaletti, in which he claims to have been influenced by the paintings of Hieronymous Bosch. Sadly, the commentary on the sequel (featuring Bava, Stivaletti and a translator) is infuriatingly shoddy — it’s all pregnant pauses and people mumbling in the distance, and the moderator seems to think that repeatedly asking “Who’s this actor?” is insightful. The package is completed by a brand new, two-part Demons 3 comic and the usual lavish Arrow Video packaging: reversible sleeve, fold-out poster and collectable booklet.
Ian Berriman twitter.com/ianberriman
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