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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Demons (1985) Movie Review

With a dynamic eighties soundtrack, 1985's Italian cult classic Demons hit me over the head with accompanying cartoon bird aftershocks of delight. Demons makes for the perfect Friday night movie! Until last year, I had never seen the film before and I had been wanting to for a really long time. Learning so much about writer/actress Geretta Geretta, who has a role in the film, steered me in the direction of a presence she's so well known for amongst genre film fans. Exactly as I've heard it described before, Demons is visually stimulating but far from perfect. With the right amount of relatively clear direction, the film takes a nuanced approach to wider themes with a story that lets questions linger, surrounded by a creative setting and supernatural elements.

In a super chic theatre, a group of strangers gather to catch an off-beat horror film. Not soon after the film rolls, reality seems to match accurately what's on the screen, crescendo-ing into a cluster of demon possessed patrons and the survivors who try to find a way out and avoid a grisly transformation.

A motorcycle, sword battle, shiny masks, and coke-consumed punks were part of the carnage after the outbreak of anarchy from otherworldly, snarling, once human creatures. Always a sucker for antiquated practical effects, the gore factor is reasonably high without being gratuitous. Where Demons falls short is capturing any truly, well written characters with any depth. The only real standout's consisted of Tony (Bobby Rhodes) for his one-liner's and his direct, no nonsense attitude and Geretta's Rosemary, a fun loving, rebellious type who is responsible for driving most of the action that follows after the first act.

Geretta Geretta as Rosemary (left), Tony (right), Fabiola Toledo as Carmen (right)
There are many films that can put you in a time machine. Demons is one of those films. Co-writer Dario Argento and director Lamberto Bava are visionaries at work and do it well with this ambitious effort, making good use of tension and establishing shots.

In a wider context, Demons manages to engage with the politics of infection and the anxiety around the fact while doing a spellbinding job of capturing the enticing, visual culture of what made the 1980's so stylish. Body horror was massively suggestive and popular during this time (earlier, Videodrome, a year later, The Fly). The biggest difference is that Demons does not focus primarily on one character's transformation but the overall and practically only theme this film is driven by is desecration of the flesh. In droves. It leans towards a communal outbreak that shows no sign of slowing down, having a common approach to the genuine fear surrounding drugs and disease.

Because what is a demon? An entity on the prowl with a need to possess and destroy.

There are layers hidden within this simple story that make for fun talk. In a pinch, Demons is a great pick to alleviate boredom and to feel good about your non-North American horror. And if you really, really have a craving for 80s nostalgia, this is it.

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  1. I first saw this around '86/87 and loved it for the sheer craziness of it all. Haven't seen it since the early 90s and don't remember a whole lot. Thanks for the blast from the past.

  2. "DEMONS" is one of my favorite horror movies. Seeing it in a darkened movie theater with it's pulsating soundtrack in stereosound was a memorable experience. The film is significantly hampered by laughably stilted dialogue and overacting by most of the cast. However, the gore and make-up effects are very effective, the film is well-photographed, you never know what's going to happen next, there are several impressive set-pieces that are hard to forget, and there are not one but two unexpected "stings" by the film's end. Though saddled with the stereotypical role of a Black prostitute, Geretta Geretta gives the only real performance in the film, effectively transforming from sexy, fun-loving Rosemary into a hideous, ferocious, snarling demon. She is truly frightening to watch. Much of "DEMONS" makes no sense, but it works on nightmare logic, and it's bats**t craziness and "throw in everything including the kitchen sink" sensibility make it great fun to watch.


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