demons | lamberto bava | dario argento | dardano sacchetti | franco ferrini | urbano barberini | natasha hovey | karl zinny | italy | possession | demon | possessed | infection | zombie | zombies | fiore argento | paola cozzo | fabiola toledo | nicoletta elmi
Film: Demons (Dèmoni)
Director: Lamberto Bava
Writer: Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava, Dardano Sacchetti and Franco Ferrini
Starring: Urbano Barberini, Natasha Hovey and Karl Zinny
This film is one I have a lot of nostalgia for. My father told my sister and I that he saw a trailer for it and wanted to see so he picked up a VHS randomly somewhere in Toledo. He then gave it to us as we would watch this regularly growing up. I’ll be honest, this one both grossed me out and terrified me back then. It had been a while since I saw it with a critical eye and I gave it another viewing as part of a horror movie challenge, needing a movie with a movie theater in it. Jaime also braved this movie with me. I’ve also given it another viewing on the 4K that I got for Christmas. The synopsis here is a group of random people are invited to a screening of a mysterious movie, only to find themselves trapped in the theater with ravenous demons.
We start with a young woman on a train in West Berlin. Her name is Cheryl (Natasha Hovey). She seems nervous of those around her. She also thinks that she sees someone with a disfigured face in a reflection of the window behind her. The train comes into a station and she hears someone following her. She runs and we see a pair of boots. She goes up an escalator to come face-to-face with this man, played by Michele Soavi. Half of his face is metal and seems almost like a mask that is attached. He hands her a ticket for entry into a film later that day. He gives them to others and she comes up to him, asking for another for her friend who is waiting. Her friend is Kathy (Paola Cozzo). Cheryl suggests they ditch class and go to the movie to which Kathy agrees.
They arrive and other people are filing into the theater. Ingrid (Nicoletta Elmi) is the usher taking their tickets for admittance. There are two guys who show up of George (Urbano Barberini) and Ken (Karl Zinny). They take notice of the two young women. There is a couple in attendance of Hannah (Fiore Argento) and Tommy (Guido Baldi). There is an old married couple that doesn’t get along anymore of Frank (Stelio Candelli) and Ruth (Nicole Tessier). There’s also a pimp named Tony (Bobby Rhodes) along with two of his ladies Carmen (Fabiola Toledo) and Rosemary (Geretta Geretta). There is also a blind man of Werner (Alex Serra), who is there with what I’m assuming his daughter of Liz (Sally Day).
In the lobby of the theater there is a mannequin wearing armor, holding a katana on the top of a dirt bike. It is also holding a mask that looks like a demon. Rosemary puts it on and when she is yelled at, she removes it. It scratches her cheek. Everyone then files into the theater for the start of the film. Cheryl and Kathy are sitting together where George and Ken join them.
The film they are watching is a horror film where two couples search a set of ruins at night. It turns out to be the crypt for Nostradamus. There is a cryptic message there that states ‘Their cemeteries will be their cathedrals and your cities their tombs’. They find a demon mask like one at the theater and one of the men put on. According to a book found with it, whoever puts it on will become a demon. This makes Rosemary nervous when in the film it cut the man’s cheek too.
She goes to the bathroom when her cut starts to bleed more and then a bubble from it bursts, spewing puss. She screams in terror and pain. Tony asks Carmen to go check on her. When she does, she finds Rosemary has become a demon and she scratches Carmen’s neck deeply. She flees from her. This attack turns her into a demon as well and the night of terror is just beginning as everyone flees the theater to find they’re trapped inside the building.
To preface my analysis, I was nervous to see how this would hold up and how Jaime would take it. She had her issues as there are some inconsistencies and logic problems. That is something I agree and I’ll break it down a bit, but there is still a lot I like about this movie.
The first thing that I like about this movie is what director and co-writer Lamberto Bava is doing here. We have a bit of earlier meta-aspects where the movie is mimicking things that are happening in the film they’re watching. That is an interesting idea. I also even like the idea of combining the persona of Nostradamus with things that he did predict and the idea this mask is what spread the demonic presence.
It is interesting that while watching this, I was thinking this movie seems like a precursor to something like REC or 28 Days Later or even some of those faster zombie movies. A scratch can transmit this ‘virus’ of possession. That is terrifying for sure. These creatures are vile and will use whatever they can to kill someone which is also quite terrifying as it shows intelligence.
I do need to bring up an issue here with inconsistencies though. I’m pretty George gets scratched and nothing happens to him. Ken and Carmen get scratched and they change soon after. Someone like Werner gets violently attacked, but it takes him a while to finally change. I’m on board that some people handle infections differently, I just think they don’t have a complete understanding of their infection. They have people change as it benefits here. That does become an issue for me. It doesn’t ruin this though as I chalk this up to nightmare logic in Italian horror movies.
What I don’t have a problem with though is the look of the demons. I love that for the most part they have long, nasty fingernails. They have fangs. There are some cool practical things done with the eyes and then blacking out teeth if need be. Their skin also takes on a greenish hue and we can see their veins which are darkened. This is unnerving. The gore looks good aside from some slight issues. There are times when more blood needed to be used for realism. Aside from that, the cinematography is well done. They do some cool things with lights and I also like the practical effect for making the demons’ eyes glowing.
To move back to the story for something else, there are some things introduced that doesn’t make sense. In their panic, Cheryl and others blame the movie. I’m not sure why they would come to this conclusion, but I can allow it in a panic. It feels like something from The Mist so I get the stress of the situation. I don’t buy that the building could be bricked up as fast as it does. There is a bit of a supernatural element at times that feels convenient. It is also brought up that the theater could be cursed. It was one in the past but was refurbished. With the supernatural aspects, we get an exit door opening for someone, but our characters cannot escape. This doesn’t ruin things, but I wanted to bring it up.
Going back to things not making sense, there’s the helicopter thing that doesn’t make a lot of sense either. Or why there’s the samurai/ninja on the dirt bike in the lobby aside from a cool action sequence later. I’ve seen enough Italian films to know that the logic takes a backseat to cool shots or sequences, but I had to bring it up.
Going from there to the acting, I thought it was fine for what was needed. Barberini has a good look as our hero here. Hovey doesn’t add a lot to the role, but she’s fine. Zinny, Argento, Cozzo, Toledo, Elmi, Candelli, Tessier, Geretta, Rhodes and Baldi are all fine to give us an array of different types of characters. They’re all distinct, but I’m also not saying they would win awards. Most of them do better once they become possessed, which I appreciate. The rest of the cast also rounded this out for what was needed.
The last thing to go over would be the soundtrack. I love the opening theme and think what Claudio Simonetti does some great things with the score throughout. I also dig that this movie got some popular rock groups featured at different places throughout. This is a soundtrack that I remember throughout the years of seeing it and one that I still will listen to when writing for the vibe it gives. It carries a metal feel for sure.
So now with that said, this movie is one that I can see the flaws and yet still enjoy it. It is a fun movie that takes a scary concept of possession and does something a little bit differently with it. This is a take on the infection/zombie film where we are featuring possessed people that can move around fast. It doesn’t necessarily look at the religious angle which is interesting. I think there are some slight issues with the logic of the movie, story elements and some of the effects. Overall, they make an entertaining movie. To be fair I rate this as a good movie despite the issues.
My Rating: 8.5 out of 10