Demons and Demons 2 Blu-ray Review
Written by Ilan Sheady
Blu-ray released by Arrow Video
Written and directed by Lamberto Bava
1985, Region B (PAL), 88 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
Blu-ray released on 21st May 2012
Urbano Barberini as George
Natasha Hovey as Cheryl
Karl Zinny as Ken
Fiore Argento as Hannah
Paola Cozzo as Kathy
Fabiola Toledo as Carmen
Bobby Rhodes as Tony
Directed by Lamberto Bava
Written by Lamberto Bava and Dario Argento
Demons 2 1986, Region B (PAL), 91 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
David Edwin Knight as George
Nancy Brilli as Hannah
Cataldi-Tassoni as Sally Day
Bobby Rhodes as Hank
Asia Argento as Ingrid Haller
Virginia Bryant as Mary the Prostitute
Anita Bartolucci as Woman with Dog
This is by far the hardest review I’ve ever had to do. I think it’s really easy to slate a film that nobody knows about. In equal measures I think it’s really easy to say nice things about a film you think people may or may not consider watching. But to write about a film that you have a deep love for and want to give it all the credit it deserves is extremely difficult. Like writing a love letter to someone you have a crush on, it’s going to be my only chance to put my feelings into words, and only one chance to do it right. I can’t wait for the NEXT time this film is re-released to do it again. So deep breath, here goes.
(2 weeks have passed since I wrote that last paragraph)
“They Will Make Cemeteries Their Cathedrals And The Cities Will Be Your Tombs.” promises the inscription on the final resting place of Nostradamus who prophesied the coming of the Demons. Centuries later a theatre invites a handful of people to an exclusive showing of an un-named horror movie. As the events inside the theatre begin to mirror the terrifying revelations of the film, the trapped cinema goers must fight for both their lives and their souls.
So begins the first tale in Lamberto Bava’s incredible Demons franchise. Initially released in 1985 with the support of Italian horror maestro Dario Argento (Suspiria, Profondo Rosso, Tenebrae).
Within a year of its release the demons returned again, this time tearing their way into our world through a TV screen at the top of an electronically controlled tower block in Demons 2. Once the power is down there is no escape for the hapless tenants, who one by one succumb to the rapidly spreading demon infection.
Both these movies can be proud to have some extremely violent death scenes, memorable cinematography and elaborate special effects all encased in a simple but captivating storyline.
However, fans of the series were greeted with much confusion when the following year Bava’s The Ogre claimed to be Demons 3, despite having very little to connect it with the originals. Later in 1989 Michele Soavi’s The Church was intended to be the finalé but became increasingly more independent from the original mythos. Then, in 1991, another movie promised to take up the mantle of the final part of the trilogy, this time directed by Umberto Lenzi and entitled Black Demon, but had more in common with his exploitation movies like Cannibal Ferox and Eaten Alive by incorporating voodoo and zombies (a complete contradiction considering the initial intentions of the series franchise).
But now, in 2012, we can finally lay to rest our anxieties as Stefan Hutchinson reveals the irrefutable conclusion to the infernal legacy with the officially entitled Demons 3 in the form of a comic book. The two part graphic novel is available exclusively with the purchase of the individual Demons DVDs and promises to not only answer questions on the origins of the prophecy but poetically bridge the gap between the original two movies.
Stefan took some time out to talk about his work on the Demons 3 comic book:
Stefan Huchinson: I didn’t ‘get’ Italian films. I didn’t grasp it until I was older. The two things I was ‘in to’ growing up were: films and comic books and the reason I liked comic books was for the ‘to be continued’ factor. Modern television is full of that but you think back 25 years ago every episode was a stand-alone episode. You watch The [Incredible] Hulk and at the end of it it’s him walking off but by the next episode it disregards what happened before but comics had that ‘to be continued’ thing I loved that as a kid that was the bit that hooked me on comics more than anything else.
But I sat down and watched the films and I really enjoyed Demons especially Bobby Rhodes, incredible character and the biggest mistake Demons made was killing off Tony the Pimp half way through the film.
Ilan Sheady: (laughing) Didn’t really matter in the sequel though, did it?
SH: Well it’s great that they brought him back because they knew that he was awesome, and every single line he has. Since we watched these films now, very rarely a week goes by when I don’t get a picture of his head sent to me with a line randomly in the mail from someone.
IS: So hang on, does that mean there’s a possibility we’ll see Bobby appear in Demons 3 (comic) in keeping with the tradition?
SH: You… will see him in a couple of panels
IS: Brilliant. So what about the story itself? What can you tell us?
SH: I get quite obsessive with research, I was reading more and more and more and I started finding things like that Nostradamus used to write what is called Quatrain verses and it’s understood that 46 of them are missing so I started thinking maybe those are the ones that are in that book (in Demons).
IS: Wow, That’s deep. That’s REALLY deep for a Demons story.
SH: The logical thing to do would be to stay present day but nobody would expect us to go back and do a 16th century plague story, it’s insane in a certain way to do that. So from there it was just formulating a story that was surprising and that had a bit more plot to it while maintaining the complete insanity of the [previous] two films. If it works how I think it will, you will look at these films in a different way. It adds to it rather than demystifies it. It has the Italian style dream quality and it’s just as chaotic as the films.
If you are going to watch Demons for the first time I should warn you that being an Italian horror, made in the 80’s, there are some idiosyncrasies you have to expect. Firstly there’s the script which is humorously surreal at best and pointlessly self explanatory at its worst. Consequently there’s the acting, of which a great deal is lost in translation once the film was dubbed over into English. Then there’s the special effects that are insanely ambitious even by today’s standards. Even now we can’t do half the concepts that they littered throughout the films without the audience shouting ‘fake’ every time CGI heads morph into monstrosities.
But if you can be open-minded when watching Italian horrors you will find a horde of little gems throughout each film. Actresses Geretta Giancarlo (Rosemary - Demons) the gorgeous Fabiola Toledo (Carmen - Demons) and the beautiful Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni (Sally - Demons 2, Argento’s Opera) still manage to haunt my nightmares with their horrifying transformations. You will be introduced to a young ‘Scream Queen’ Asia Argento in her first film role (Ingrid - Demons 2) and discover the legendary cult icon Bobby Rhodes ‘the man so whack they brought him back’ (Tony the Pimp – Demons, Hank the Instructor - Demons 2). Add to that a truly epic rock soundtrack that includes Billy Idol of all people, and you have everything you need for a truly memorable slice of Italian ‘cheese pie’.
Video and Audio:
As far as I’m concerned Arrow sets the standard in DVD/Blu-ray quality. I can’t imagine this getting any clearer and likewise the sound quality. I could probably ‘cut and paste’ this paragraph for any future reviews but I won’t for my professional integrity (besides, you’ll probably watch out for it now). The film is in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio and the audio is in is Dolby Stereo (2.0 ?)
But one tiny, nagging issue I felt was that the flawlessly breathtaking restoration and pixel perfect treatment of the neon green demon drool backfired in places when they pulled back the darkness from some of the effects. I wonder if Bava intended for the tongue-lashing transformation sequence in Demons to be THAT clear or whether it was INTENTIONALLY concealed in shadows. If only there was an audio commentary on the film to give me more of an insight. Oh yeah, there is, and no such luck.
I can’t deny that being a huge fan of Demons I was more excited for this release than I will be for the birth of my future children. Knowing that it was going to be under Arrow’s careful gaze meant it was definitely going to be in good hands. This however resulted in a figurative ‘pedestal’ scenario of Arrow’s own making. Since their introduction of the White Box editions, Arrow Films has firmly established itself as the greatest supplier of collector’s edition cult movies. The quality of the digital re-mastering, the sound, and presentation have always been nothing short of a work of art and Demons is no exception. The multiple delays to the release of these titles are purely down to Arrow’s integrity in the quality of its restorations and while the special features have always been the pinnacle of generosity I felt that there was a lot of scraping of barrels here. Truth be told I was more pleased with the features made available in previous DVD boxsets.
Between the two films you get featurettes on the music, Luigi Cozzi’s top Italian horrors and history of Italian horror, followed by Sergio Stivaletti’s Creating Creature Carnage where he discusses the effects of both films. Unfortunately the audio commentaries on both discs are uncomfortable to sit through, not just because of a language barrier but because of drawn out uncomfortable silence and a general lack of information. Is it too much to ask to have confirmation whether that kid at the end of Demons is Giovanni Frezza from House by the Cemetery and not to be confused with Luca Venantini the remarkably identical kid from City of the Living Dead (thank you IMDB)?
One final complaint. Not only has Arrow released the 2 films in their usual format but have also offered a deluxe collectors tin. An excellent opportunity like hard core fans like myself to show their admiration for the title. However I think It is very unfair of Arrow to make this special double film edition without the Demons 3 graphic novel. This is the first time in my life I’m overlooking a metal tin in favor of what is effectively a standard release of the film. Not only is it cheating me out of the full experience (unless I pay for all versions) but it’s overlooking the value of such a great, well written, well illustrated and impeccably researched comic book.
My disappointments aside this is still an excellent pair of movies receiving some respectfully handled treatment. Instantly, from the opening scenes, there are moments with such beautiful clarity that you didn’t even realize those colours existed in the 80s. The only issues with Demons 2’s restoration is humbly apologized for at the start of the film as the original footage was ruined during recording but beyond that Arrow deserve a medal for their contribution to the lasting legacy of some of the greatest films in horror history. At least I know, if a demon does crawl out from an Arrow Blu-ray, I can admire its impeccably clear complexion before it mauls me.
*Note: The screenshots on this page are not a reflection of the Blu-ray image. They were captured using the standard DVD.*