At the time of my introduction, I didn’t really know what to expect from Italian horror cinema other than a lot of gore. Demons along with Dario Argento’s Trauma were essentially the first two films I had seen of Italian horror. When you diet strictly on slashers and general American horror, you grow to expect very conventional plot devices and most of all you expect a very logical plot that only deviates from reality in the stupid decisions that the teenagers tend to make. With Demons you get those things but you also get this feeling that no one actually proofread this script! There is a very infamous moment towards the end of the movie that involves a helicopter and shows the clearest and most obvious example of Deus ex Machina as I have ever seen. So much of the idiocy that I lambast the film for comes specifically from what happens during this sequence and the following moments. Everything we have learned throughout the course of the movie is ultimately abandoned as Bava seems to turn his project from a haunted theater story into a post apocalyptic zombie story. During my first viewing I felt angered and betrayed at this sudden switch in logic. What made the filmmakers think that this was a feasible option? You need to establish plot twists! You can’t simply throw curveballs without actually establishing the rules of the game first. Lacking any experience with this, it really put me off from the movie.
During my re-visit, knowing what to expect, I was able to put aside all of the logistic errors and simply enjoy the movie for its ridiculousness in a way that I had never thought I would. I can not say that Demons is a good film by conventional standards and I won’t even consider it Lamberto Bava’s best work. However, it is so entertaining in a mindless sort of way that you can’t help but feel some affection for it. It’s like that mentally slow kid who runs around the neighborhood shooting his neighbors with a stick. Sure, he’s not the brightest lightbulb in the house but he is earnest in his playtime fun and you just can’t help but root for the guy! Demons like watching a glam metal eighties music video only injected with horse steroids! The story establishes just enough for us to get inside of this theater setting and then the drugs, gore and insanity ensues! Many ridiculous characters are introduced and the violence is simply on another level. There’s some tremendous gore throughout that puts this movie on level with some of Lucio Fulci’s best work, which is pretty high honors and is something I find of interest due to Lamberto Bava’s statements in interviews generally disapproving of onscreen violence. The violence is gratuitous, but this is a movie that defies all acts of subtle nuance. Every character is broadly drawn, the heavy metal soundtrack is loud and stupidity is the number one creative quality that Demons delivers on – but that just makes it more fun!
Although it is a bad film in terms of plot development, continuity and general storytelling skills – Demons is certainly a technically beautiful looking achievement. The awesome theater design is actually pretty amazing. There are the marble floors, the red carpets and the strange neon lighting that bathes everything, these are great touches that help give the movie its own personality. Even though it is braindead in many ways, perhaps that simply speaks towards the time and this particular demographic that the film was ultimately trying to speak to? There are other little things that I love about Demons. The movie posters in the theater were a nice touch, I even spotted one for Dario Argento’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet! The costumes are so overtly eighties and I loved how broadly the caricatures were drawn simply based upon their clothes. You’ve got a sweater tied around the neck of our jock character, pearl earrings and conservative clothing on the leading lady, you’ve got your general slut characters, the pimp wearing a white suit and his hookers who look like backup dancers from a Paula Abdul video… How can you not have fun with this one?