Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Demons (1985) Good Mindless Rock N Roll Fun

People supernaturally trapped in a theater face off with bloodthirsty demons.

That pretty much sums up the plot of Lamberto Bava's Demons from 1985, but really there's more to it. You've got Lamberto, the son of famed Italian director Mario Bava (who helmed the crazy 60's thief fantasy Danger: Diabolik, which has the distinction of being the final "Mystery Science Theater 3000" movie). You've got a script and a production credit by film great Dario Argento. You've got a soundtrack that includes not only Motley Crue, but tracks by kick-ass hard rockers Accept and Saxon, and also Rick Springfield. Wait, what?

That's not me in the shades but I scream like him when in pain.

It doesn't sound like much, but for me, it's one of those movies I've seen several times that has become a bit of a comfort film. If I was a bon-bon-eatin' guy, I'd chow down on bon-bons while watching this. As it is, I like cake so hey, to each his own.

The beginning of Demons introduces us to one of our main players, Cheryl. While in the subway station, she receives a free ticket to a movie at The Metropol from a bizarre man in a metal half-mask. Intrigued by the idea of a free movie - as many of us are - she snags another ticket for her friend, Kathy, who hopes it's not a horror movie. Yeah, hope all you want, lady.

Those lucky ticket holders later file into the Metropol, hoping for a glimpse of the hermit Willy Wonka...oh, wait, wrong movie. They'll later wish this was a friggin' chocolate factory, though. In the lobby, we're introduced to all manner of cannon fodder movie patrons including the older couple, the pimp and his two ladies of the evening, the blind man and his daughter, and two young, wild and crazy guys on the make, George and Ken. George and Ken, meet Cheryl and Kathy over a defective Coke machine. Meanwhile, one of pimp Tony's ladies goofs around with the demonic mask on display and gets a little cut on her face. This will not turn out good for this hooker's future cash flow.

Do NOT take a ticket from this guy. Trust me on this.

The movie begins and it appears to be about a group of young folk checking out a grave reported to be Nostradamus'. They find a mask eerily like the one in the lobby. And...hey, wait a minute, that strapping young actor looks like the dude passing out the free tickets. As the movie progresses, this same actor gets his face scratched and slowly turns into a murderous demon. The unlucky hooker excuses herself to go through the same transformation in the ladies' bathroom. When Tony gets impatient, he sends Hooker #2 after her. Not a good idea for that poor girl.

Raise your hand if you've ever felt like this after a night on the town.

Scratched, Hooker #2 stumbles into the theater and falls through the screen, causing the patrons to rush to her aid. But it's definitely too late for her as she transforms before their eyes, causing a panic to take over. Rushing to the front doors, everyone suddenly discovers that they are not only locked inside, they're bricked in. The building has magically bricked itself up, and the demon disease is spreading quickly through bites and scratches. The blind guy's daughter and her secret lover participate in what I would call a "death by making out." Still, worse ways to go. The poor blind guy gets insult upon injury and his eyes poked out. The filmgoers barricade themselves in up on the balcony, and even that's a risky proposition.

In what seems almost like an unrelated plot thread, we meet a bunch of new wave punks (as only 80's Europe could present) out for a joy ride in a stolen car. They run afoul of some cops and make their getaway in an alley behind The Metropol. They sneak inside when a door mysteriously opens, allowing a hunched figure to sneak out. The cops check on the figure, but it's the blind old man, now a demon. And he lunges...

Back inside, the demons rise and give chase. More and more fall to them, and it's carnage at the theater. Cheryl, Kathy, George, and Ken make it out of the actual theater but Kathy is acting weird. Her eyes change color and her voice changes faster than Peter Brady's. She attacks Ken, scratching him before he wails away on her with a vent cover. An actual demon climbs out of her spine and dances off into the dark in a lovely, surreal scene.

C'mon, give us a kiss.

Ken begs George to kill him with the prop sword in the lobby and just after he turns, he gets his wish. George and Cheryl hop on the motorcycle that's there and frantically tool around the ruined theater, dispatching demons at top speed while insane 80's metal plays...just the way life should be.

In college, we called this a Saturday night.

In a scene that screams WTF when first viewed, a helicopter falls through the ceiling. It makes sense later, but when one first sees it, you're already having so much fun with the guitar-riffing and demon-killing that you begin to wonder if you secretly desired it. George rigs the winch to carry them out to the roof, where they're attacked by the half-mask ticket actor guy. After impaling him eye first on a rusty piece of metal, it becomes clear what has happened: the demon virus has spread to the outside world. George and Cheryl run for a bit before they are picked up by a family on the run out of the city. Ah, rescue has come at last. Surely this will be a happy ending.

As the credits roll, the camera slowly zooms on Cheryl. She whips around to reveal that she has now turned, freezing poor, sad George. That future with the white picket fence and two-point-five kids? Blown to hell, quite literally. Cheryl is shot and left in a pile on the road as the family, with a dumbstruck George, drives off into the sunset.

Demons is a bit of a goof, but one that doesn't care, and therein lies the charm. The gore is explosive and in-your-face sadistic, the soundtrack is metal one second and Go West pop the next, and the plot is delightfully linear and simple. Many horror films that try - or any genre, really - can't pull off that kind of fun abandon. It's a party movie. Enjoy it with a heaping plate of nachos.

Great, I've got zombies to worry about and now a demon plague? It just doesn't end, so be careful out there, dear readers.


  1. Love Demons. I'm spotlighting Geretta Geretta (hooker #2/Rosemary) for one of my upcoming black history month posts- and she gave me a great personal interview- exciting stuff!! Gives us a few details of how life was on the set!

  2. I will definitely check that out, Andre! This movie just looked like a bundle of fun to make.