Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Night of the Demons 2

Ah, this is more like it. From the pre-credits sequence where two impossibly clean cut Jehovah’s Witness types turn up at Hull House to spread the truth, the word and the light only to find Angela (Amelia Kinkade) home and in a decidedly anti-theological frame of mind, it’s clear that writers Joe Augustyn and James Penzi and director Brian Trenchard-Smith are playing the sequel for laughs as much as gore. They also give it some semblance of a plot, as well. These are good decisions.

Moreover, the script – albeit a work that was never going to give David Mamet cause to lose sleep – gives the characters dialogue that almost sounds like the way teenagers actually talk (unlike the first film, where the dialogue put me in mind of Harrison Ford’s verdict on George Lucas’s script for ‘Star Wars’: “you can type this shit, but you can’t speak it”).

Nor is the action confined solely to Hull House. Things get underway at a convent school where Angela’s traumatized sister Melissa (Merle Kennedy) – unaffectionately known as Mouse to the rest of the student body – is sheltered by nice girl Bibi (Cristi Harris), gently teased by not-quite-so-nice-girl Terri (Christine Taylor – yes, she of ‘Brady Bunch Movie’ fame) and out-and-out bullied by dyed-in-the-wool bad girl Shirley (Zoe Trilling). And if Shirley sounds too prosaic a name for a bad girl, believe me this lass has an attitude as prominent as her cleavage.

Elsewhere in this fine establishment we have Rick (Rick Peters) and Kurt (Ladd York) whose studies involve spying on the girls’ dorm (in the fine tradition of shlocky horror movies, the girls wander around the dorm topless and in the kind of lacy white panties that are less a garment than the effect of a silkworm sneezing) and nerdy type Perry (Bobby Jacoby) who is less interested in naked girls than demonology (well, whatever floats your boat, I guess) and is royally pissing off Father Bob (Rod McCary) because of said interest.

Meanwhile, wielding a mean ruler and determined to stop any outbreaks of hormonal activity (“save a little room for the Holy Ghost,” she cautions when her charges get too close), Sister Gloria (Jennifer Rhodes) strides the corridors putting the fear of God into everyone and practices fencing moves in her room.

Come the night of the Halloween dance, Shirley decides she wants more fun than is offered by Sister Gloria’s strictly regimented and alcohol-free “party” and hooks up with bad boys Johnny (Johnny Moran) and Z-Boy (Darin Heames) for a night out at Hull House. She strings Kurt and Rick along, as well as inviting Bibi and Terri as a pretext to getting them to bring Melissa along. Shirley has a nasty little prank lined up at Melissa’s expense.

There’s a couple of make-out sessions, some booze is chugged, and Shirley gets her queen bitch funk on. Then, predictably enough, Angela turns up and the whole thing goes to hell. MINOR SPOILER: Angela quickly infects Shirley by way of a lesbian kiss and a tube of lipstick from which issues a penile growth. (I’m not making this up, I am sober, and no proscribed substances have been ingested at chez Agitation. Tonight, anyway.)

So far so repetitive. Then, unlike the first film in which gates turn into walls just to keep the pathetic, jibbering so-called protagonist trapped in the grounds till the end, the teens escape Hull House and head back to Sister Gloria’s tame-by-comparison school dance. Only they’ve reckoned without two things: Perry’s misguided attempt to summon a demon (Angela, meet Perry; Perry, Angela) and the unintended transportation of an artefact from Hull House.

The evil escapes. Angela crashes the dance. Hell comes to a convent school. At which point Sister Gloria decides she’s had about enough of this shit, arms herself with crucifix, holy water and her trusty ruler, and sets out with the righteous intention of bitch slapping the forces of darkness. It’s Angie vs. Gloria, the gloves are off, and Melissa’s soul is in the balance. Seconds out!

Trenchard-Smith – his prolificity and directorial attention to detail marking him out as the Sidney Lumet of trash cinema – cuts loose as soon as Sister Gloria comes to the fore and has hella fun with it. The gore is monumentally over the top, the humour gutsy and of the darkest hue. I was left wondering how much of an inspiration this movie was on Rodriguez and Tarantino’s ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ – the holy-water pistol is the most obvious touchstone, but the general aesthetic of the gloopy effects work and the broad irreverence with which the material is handled are also highly comparable.

The acting is better than the first movie – Trilling’s deliciously malicious turn as Shirley is a stand-out, while Kennedy conveys Melissa’s wounded innocence without ever overdoing it – and Kinkade reprises Angela like she was born to the role. The low-brow comedy suits the material and the film delivers good unclean fun, gratuitous nudity and OTT gore. I’m all for saying skip the first instalment and get your introduction to Angela right here.


Franco Macabro said...

My favorite part of this movie is the snake creature in the ending...pretty well achieved for such a low budget flick! I agree, this one is mildly better then the original!

"They also give it some semblance of a plot, as well. These are good decisions"

"Moreover, the script – albeit a work that was never going to give David Mamet cause to lose sleep"

"the dialogue put me in mind of Harrison Ford’s verdict on George Lucas’s script for ‘Star Wars’: “you can type this shit, but you can’t speak it”

I guess you were hellbent on being funny with this review werent you, laughed out loud a couple of times while reading it!

Hans A. said...

First, Zoe Trilling is pretty sexy, and the dance sequence in this one is a highlight.

I think NoD2 suffers from moving the film out of Hull House. The original film could use the singular location to create tension and claustrophobia. While this is not a fatal flaw in the sequel, it seriously hampers any attempts at tension. It makes the film disjointed in a bad way.

The sleaze quotient in this one is way upped, and that's a good thing. I wonder how long Christine Taylor got Marcia Brady jokes (I believe one is dropped in here, before her turn in the Brady film.) Good stuff, Neil, again.

Neil Fulwood said...

Franco - you're right, I wrote this review mainly for the laughs. If anything, the sarcasm factor is going to get higher over the next couple of evenings when I review part three and the completely redundant remake.

Hans - I see what you mean about the disjointedness, but the comedy nun more than made up for it for me. Plus the filmmakers had the nous to shunt all the main characters back to Hull House for the grand finale. I'm in complete agreement about Zoe Trilling - striking looks and all the right curves in the all the right pages.

BTW, Hans, I forgot to answer in my reply to your last comment how the novel's going. I've overhauled the structure and decided on a more linear approach to the material. The section I'm writing at the moment seems to be doing quite well - touch wood - and I've decided to write for the sheer love of writing and not get caught in the trap of feeling like I have to compose a certain amount of words per day. I think that's why I backed away from the project earlier; it had started to feel like an obligation.

Thanks for commenting, guys.