What I’ve noticed during this week of Italian horror is how incredibly serious many of these films take themselves. Whether its the end of the world, a zombie apocalypse or a coven of witches, it’s all an incredibly straight faced affair. Not so Demons. It is, quite frankly, ridiculous, and it knows it. And even better, it doesn’t even care.
I am going to spoil the shit out of this film from twenty seven years ago but really, if you’ve not seen it by now then watch it anyway. Nothing I say can take away from the ludicrous experience of watching Lamberto Bava’s, er, classic is the wrong word, er, crazy nonsense?
Things start with the standard Italian staple of a pretty girl being stalked by a masked mad man in the Rome underground. However he isn’t trying to kill her but give her a preview ticket for a new movie, which, trust me, can some times prove to be worse than death. The girl, Cheryl, meets up with her best mate Carmen and head off the screening where various other oddball types are also showing up, presumably hoping to get to see Episode 7 but are more likely to end up with The Expendable 3.
The other characters are, of course, crazy. There’s an old couple who seem to hate each other and desperately hope it’s not going to be a horror movie (you guys are not going to be in luck). Then there’s a blind man and his female guide. The blind man doesn’t seem to want to even be there, oddly enough for someone who can’t see a mostly visual experience. His guide is a terrible human being – not only is her audio description weak to say the least (“a boy climbs down a hole, then a girl, then another boy”) but it transpires she’s only there so she can meet up with her lover, some short bald accountant type who fingers her while sitting next to the blind man. These are not good people. It is a relief when a demon shows up and strangles both of them, their heads tied tightly together until they choke to death on each other’s tongues.
The best characters however are the pimp and his two hookers. He is so cliched he wears a white suit with a massive collared black shirt and gold teeth. I was disappointed he didn’t have a wide brimmed hat but I suppose that would have been annoying for other members of the cinema audience. Him and his girls talk, drink and smoke their way through the beginning of the film. It’s one of these girls who first becomes a demon by trying on the demon mask which hangs in the foyer. Oh yeah the foyer: it randomly has a display of a motorcycle with a shop dummy holding said mask and a samurai sword. I wonder if they will come in useful later on?
So Cheryl and Carman meet a couple of strapping young lads with the strong Italian names George and Ken. Our four heroes mostly start hooking up with each other in fear of the film they’re all watching: some guff about four teenagers finding a mask that turns one of them into a demon. Hang on! Is life repeating art? Well maybe art is pushing it a bit. Is life repeating cheesy movie? Its at this point the hooker who tried on the demon mask sneaks off to the bathroom and gets all veiny and toothy and starts to dribble what looks like a bubbly margarita out of her face. Demons blood is lime green apparently.
I’m not sure if Bava and his producer Dario Argento are trying to make a point about watching horror movies makes you into a monster or whether they just thought it was a good idea for a story, but the film within a film idea here really is so perfunctory and silly that I’m not even going to try to analyse it. What’s more important is that once the first hooker demon shows up, all hell breaks loose and everything gets very mental very quickly. The other hooker gets torn up and turns into a demon with a massive tongue, the blind man has his eyes gouged out, which seems a bit pointless, and the pimp turns into the main hero as the only one with anything sensible to say. Well like “yo, let’s cut that fucker up,” and “let’s block that door with this fucking coke can machine” which aren’t that helpful but are better than anyone else’s suggestions.
Let’s talk about Coca Cola. Will they put product placement in anything? Everyone is drinking it at the cinema, and the Coke vending machine comes in very handy at chopping off the hooker demon’s finger. The most obvious bit of placement is when some punks are snorting cocaine from a coke can. Is this really what the international family friendly Coca Cola had in mind when they said Demons should have their product in it?
Anyway, the survivors in the cinema work out that it’s the movie being shown that is causing the demons to turn up so break into the projector room to stop the film. Here they are shocked to find the whole thing is automated. In these modern times this would not be a shock to anyone, but I’m impressed that the film was in focus and bright enough, something the automated projectors of in 2014 don’t seem to be able to do. Maybe they need to hire some demons in.
The survivors destroy the projectors at which point you realise that the filmmakers are just having a laugh as on the film’s cinema screen the words “end of first half” come up and then we cut to the outside world and a whole bunch of new characters. These are the punks with the coke in the coke can, driving around in a stolen car and generally being obnoxious. We spend a fair about of time with them, and the camera becomes particularly interested in the female of the gang, a weird blonde creature that looks like an twelve year old boy with breasts. The gang finally end up at the cinema which they get into and are promptly eaten/turned into demons. I’ve often wondered what was the point of these characters other than to increase the flimsy story’s running time and all I could come up with was that they open the door to the cinema so the demons could escape into the outside world. But the door opens by itself so that can’t be the case. Maybe they’re just there so Bava can show us what a twelve year old boy with tits looks like.
Meanwhile in the cinema, mayhem ensues. The pimp, tragically, or not, ends up dangling off the upper circle while being gorged on by two demons. But don’t dispare too much, he soon returns as a demon pimp so we don’t miss him for too long. Ken gets bitten and we realise that despite flirting with Cheryl and Carmen, the two boys only really had eyes for each other. George gets to use the samurai sword and drive up and down the aisles on the motorbike while listening to AC/DC and then a helicopter crashes through the ceiling and chops everyone’s heads off. Why? Because apparently the film makers always wanted to make a film where a helicopter crashes through a ceiling and chops everyone’s heads off. Don’t question their logic people! They have none!
There is one little moment which is actually great in this film. As in legitimately great rather than daft great. When Carmen get scratched and starts to become a demon, she looks around confused and then asks “where am I? Who are you?” It’s a demon waking up into another world and for a moment it doesn’t know where it is or what it’s doing there. It’s a strangely serious and haunting moment in amongst the madness. Then it realises who it is and tears out of Carman’s back in a wave of green goo and we are back to crazy land.
More stuff happens, things don’t work out too well for most people but we really don’t mind. It’s eighty minutes of rare stupidity in amongst the serious world of Italian Giallo and splatter, and we should be grateful for that. Now someone pass me that can of coke would you…