"What are you going to write about now you've finished watching the Dario Argento box set?"
"Well, I thought I'd make a start on the Herzog set you bought me for Christmas. But I've got 'Demons' and 'Demons 2' to review first."
"I thought you said they weren't proper Argento films."
"They're not. He co-wrote and produced them. Lamberto Bava directed."
"So why bother writing about them?"
"I kind of intimated I'd review the entire box set."
"But you didn't like them. How was it you described 'Demons'?"
"Piece of shit."
"And what was your opinion of 'Demons 2'?"
"Piece of shit: the next chapter."
"And why did you start the blog?"
"To write about the films you're passionate about. So skip the 'Demons' films and write about Herzog."
What's that line in 'Hamlet' - "to whet thy already blunted purpose"? Thanks, Paula. Wise words.
Still, though ...
Still, though ...
'Demons' concerns a group of stereotypes (uh, sorry, characters) who are invited to a movie preview at a newly renovated cinema. They include a handful of repulsively clean cut teenagers, a pimp and his two girls (the only pimp in history who takes his bee-hatches to the flicks instead of sending them out on the street to make him some money), a bickering middle-aged couple and a blind man (at a cinema ... you work it out). The film they watch is a violent horror with pretentious overtones (the protagonists discover Nostradamus's tomb and unleash a curse which turns them into demons). The events onscreen start happening to the audience and suddenly the cinema is amok with demons (although, to be honest, they just look like bargain-basement zombies). The survivors try to fend them off. Because all of this occupies less than half of the mercifully short 85-minute running time, Bava then throws in a car full of coke-snorting young thugs with names like Ripper, Hot Dog and Baby Pig; chased by the police, they take refuge in the cinema ... and then it's more of the same for the last half hour.
'Demons' is infuriating not for its sheer ineptitude, its horribly dated 80s soundtrack and music-video stylings, or the fact that four people (including Argento) contributed to the screenplay and the best they came out with was lines like (on entering the projection booth and looking at the machinery), "These are automatic - they run by themselves." Like, duh! 'Demons' is frustrating because occasionally - occasionally - it does something that's almost clever. The opening sequence, squeaky clean American student Cheryl (Natasha Hovey) getting all worried because she's convinced herself she's being stalked, climaxes with a man in a mask stepping out of nowhere to block her exit ... only to hand her a complimentary ticket. Bava subverts audience expectations nicely here - likewise, in the closing credits, he savagely turns the 'final girl' convention on its head. More scenes like this and less of the am-dram acting, over-reliance on gross-out effects and utterly inappropriate music, and 'Demons' could have been ... well, significantly less bad.
What of 'Demons 2'? Less a sequel, despite a tenuous plot device wherein a TV movie about the survivors of the original causes the residents of a tower block to become infected, than an act of recycling. At least two prominent cast members return: Bobby Rhodes follows up his wear-bad-suit-and-shout-a-lot performance as Tony the Pimp in the first film with a wear-bad-track-suit-and-shout-a-lot performance as Hank the Gym Instructor. The demons kill him off pretty easily in both. Pasqualino Salemme follows up his frown-and-scowl-a-lot characterisation as Ripper the Teenage Thug in the erstwhile installment with a frown-and-scowl-a-lot characterisation as The Security Guard ... but, see, in this film he's on the side of the establishment. In the hands of a better director this might have passed for irony. Bava also re-uses the wrongfoot-the-audience opening sequence, this time revealing blobs of red falling onto a knife as the result of an upended jam jar in a baker's kitchen.
Here's an example of the awful cheesiness of 'Demons 2': square-jawed hero and heavily pregnant heroine (they had names, they were played by someone or other ... I honestly can't be bothered to go back on IMDB) flee to the top of the tower block, the demons pursuing them. From somewhere (a mountaineering shop tucked between the service lift and the janitor's closet, perhaps?) they acquire a gapple and a few metres of rope. Hero secures the grapple, glances over the parapet. "Remember those safety courses we took last year?" he asks the heroine. She nods, dewy-eyed. Cut to: heroine clinging tightly to hero as they abseil to safety. Some films fall into the so-bad-it's-good category. 'Demons 2' goes one step further: so-bad-it-was-almost-good-then-it-went-all-out-to-prove-it-was-actually-just-bad-in-the-first-place.
I'm going to take a shower, birch myself, say a couple of hundred Hail Marys and watch some proper films before I next post on this blog. Honest.