Thursday, October 9, 2014

Demons (1985)

"Sit here and shut up" and let's learn all about Demons, one of the leading lights of mid-80s horror history.  Don't skip school to attend mysterious movie screenings, but especially don't go if they're held in creepy grey-black theaters with almost no windows.

"This had better not be a horror movie!" wails one girl to another, but it inevitably is.  And Demons, in these early scenes, is pretty much a doctoral thesis in effective use of film-in-a-film.  The picture being screened at the Metropol concerns the prophecies and crypt of Nostradamus.  We cut back and forth between the film they're watching and the film we're watching.  On their screen, some dumb kids unearth a demon mask and one of them wears it, scratching himself in the process.  "Because of that scratch, [he] becomes a demon, an instrument of evil!"

This also happens in the real-life theater where our characters are sitting.  A lady named Rosemary (Geretta Geretta) slips on a similar demon mask and gets scratched.  Her friend Tony the Pimp (Bobby Rhodes) says, "That'll teach you to touch things!"  So there!  Unfortunately, everybody will have to learn a lesson, as they're mutilated and become demon-possessed shortly thereafter.

The first third or so of Demons is just incredible.  It's so deftly handled and quickly-paced that it's impossible to avert your eyes from it.  Despite the screenshot above, most of the makeup and effects are pretty convincing, and it seems that the rougher ones are filmed in the darkness of the theater.  Good work, Demons!

Plus we have tons of Tony the Pimp, with Bobby Rhodes growling out lines like "Son of a bitch! Shit!" and "Smash everything! Smash everything! Smash everything!"  One performance building a reputation isn't really that rare in these kinds of movies, but Rhodes cements his legacy with basically like 20 minutes of early screen time.  Wowie zowie.

The second trimester of Demons bogs down a little and sheds some of the manic energy.  We spend time with coke-snuffling Eurotrash outside the theater while chase scenes happen inside the Metropol.  The punker characters seem pretty incidental to the script and feel almost like a last-minute addition because the producers decided they needed more victims or something.

Thankfully, things get back on track with an insane finale complete with motorcycle defenestrations, helicopters, little albino kids with giant rifles, and more.  I loved the surreal touches here.  The layout of the theater, like the Overlook in The Shining, makes no sort of sense if you think about it.  Things happen for no reason, like the helicopter or the blind guy who goes to the movies only to constantly ask what's happening (dude, I would kill).  If that's not enough, Demons is scored with some of the 80s finest second-tier metal bands, so you will get to enjoy Saxon, Pretty Maids, and more! 

I'd call Demons a classic of its kind.  It can't compete with better Italian horror-fare like Suspiria or The Beyond, but it's perhaps the greatest film-in-a-film horror movie and certainly one of the better horror flicks with demons and the best one with a pimp named Tony.  Glorious fun.


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