in Shocktober

Demons (1985)

In another last minute entry, I give you Shocktober’s fourth Italian movie in a row and third to include Dario Argento. In this case the Pope of Giallo—my own coined nickname—acts as the producer and co-writer to the 1985 splatterfest Demons. Directed by Lamberto Bava, the less talented son of Italian Horror legend Mario Bava (Black Sunday, Black Sabbath), Demons is 1980s horror in a nutshell. Everything you would hope to see in a trashy retro Euro-Horror film is here; shitty metal music, gross out makeup effects, really bad characters and even worse dialogue. It’s great. Not because these ingredients somehow make it work, rather this film is so insane you can’t help but smile.

The premise is fairly unique. The film begins with a Berlin student named Cheryl (Natasha Hovey) being stalked by a guy with a half metal face. Imagine if Dr. Doom and the Phantom of the Opera had a baby. Cheryl thinks this man is out to get her when in actuality, he’s handing out tickets to a free screening of a horror movie. Cheryl accepts and along with her insufferable friend Kathy (Paola Cozzo) goes to see the film in a crowded movie theater in the city. Other guests at the theater include two douchey-looking dudes, a blind man who needs his daughter to describe the entire film to him, a married couple who are having the worst anniversary ever, and a stereotypical black pimp with two prostitutes. This last character is both hilarious and horribly offensive at the same time. On one hand, he kicks ass. On the other hand, he says things like, “Outta my way bitch” in a gruff, dubbed Amos and Andy accent. The results are very polarizing.

In the theater’s lobby, these characters gather around the various displays of props from the movie. Most prominently, this includes a metal demon mask and for some reason a motorcycle. Before the movie, one of the pimp’s prostitutes puts on the demon mask and cuts her cheek. Big mistake. Once the screening starts, we are treated to a hilariously bad movie-within-a-movie about a group of teenagers uncovering the tomb of Nostradamus. It seems pretty sweet. I think this movie-within-a-movie is supposed to be bad, but the sad part is it isn’t much worse than the actual movie. There are some great lines, like one girl says, “Nostradamus? Sounds like a rap group.” What does that mean? The teens uncover the grave of Nostradamus and find an old book alongside the same silver demon mask from the lobby. This leads to another one of my favorite exchanges. Just for setup, one of the teens is reading the book of Nostradamus while another is putting on the demon mask.

“Don’t. Whoever wears it becomes a demon”
“How do you know?”
“Because it says whoever wears it becomes a demon.”

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Wow, even for fake bad dialogue that’s bad. Funny though. Once the character in the film removes the demon mask they discover they’ve cut their cheek and start turning into a demon. Then, the prostitute outside the movie finds her cheek bleeding and hurries to the bathroom. What follows is an absolutely disgusting metamorphosis into a walking ball of demon puss. It’s a very sticky situation. The prostitute heads back into the theater and starts turning others into demons as the whole film turns into a full blown zombie movie. Except instead of zombies you get sharp-toothed demons who can run like hell and rip you apart like a fat family at an All-You-Can-Eat $9.99 Buffet.

The gore is incredible. People get their faces ripped off, the blind man gets his eyes gouged out—seems a little redundant—we even see a demon climb its way out of the spine of a human corpse. I have to give massive props to makeup artist Sergio Stivaletti. The man is one sick son of a bitch. There’s some great killin’ as well. At one point a guy takes the motorcycle from the lobby and goes around fighting demons with a samurai sword. It’s like some kind of beautiful dream.

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My main problem is there isn’t much in the way of story or character development. Aside from the offensive pimp character no one stands out. I also don’t understand how a movie with about five minutes of plot required five screenwriters. I think it just goes to show no one was really sure what they wanted with this movie, they just wanted demons.

Based on the normal criteria of what makes a movie good, Demons is terrible. Though using the late night grindhouse criteria, I’d give Demons five out five demon-killing samurai swords. Check it out if you’re drunk or need a good laugh, and kick back with an extra big bucket of a poppin’ corn. I’ll take mine with extra puss.