DVD Review: Demons

I first saw Demons a few years ago and fell in love with it. I was very excited for the opportunity to review this remastered re-release by Synapse Films. Released in 1985, Demons was produced and co-written by Dario Agrento and directed by Lamberto Bava, son of the great Mario Bava.

The premise of the film is very simple: a bunch of people are invited to a mysterious film screening. In the lobby of the theater a woman tries on a mysterious mask and it cuts her cheek. As movie begins, everyone learns it is a horror film. In the film a man tries on a similar looking mask and it cuts his face. Soon he turns into a demon and starts killing everyone in the film. Soon after life starts to imitate art as the woman who cut her face turns into a demon.

While this is a demon film, it plays out very much like a zombie film, as every person who is attacked by the demon soon turns into a demon. It doesn’t take long before there are more demons than humans left as the remaining humans, who are trapped in the theater try their best to survive. Meanwhile a group of four punks who are being chased by police find away into the theater, while there is a brief opening, one of the demons escapes.

Demons does a very impressive job of telling a suspenseful, scary story in very tight limited space. A majority takes place inside the theater making it very claustrophobic.

The other thing that really elevates this film are the special effects. This is obviously long before the days of CGI and all the effects are practical. While there is certainly tons of great flesh ripping, where the effects really shine is when one of the early demons is transforming and she grows claws out from under her fingernails and fangs grow out knocking her teeth loose. These and many other scenes will easily make even the most avid horror film viewer wince and cover their eyes.

Then there is the amazing moment when a demon rips its way out of a woman’s back. It’s obvious the filmmakers were having a hell of a lot of fun with the gore effects while making this film and the viewer certainly benefits.

All of this is backed by a fantastic ’80s synth score and some fantastic ’80s metal that really helps set the mood. I suppose some might look at the music in this film as dated, but I am by no means one of those.

The acting isn’t all that great, but it’s not bad for this caliber film. It feels like more time and money was spent on getting the effects right than getting good performances, however, the acting is good enough for the kind of movie this is, and as it stands it adds to the over all enjoyment of the film. The strongest performance in the film is Tony, the pimp played by Bobby Rhodes. As the horror begins he is the strongest character and becomes sort of a leader to the chaotic group. Sadly, he doesn’t last that long.

As I said earlier, Demons feels very much like a zombie film, without being a zombie film. Even the way the film ends. Without giving too much away, the ending feels very much like a classic zombie film ending. However, Demons isn’t a zombie film, it’s a unique horror film tons of gore. If that’s the sort of thing you like, you’re sure to love this film.

The film is presented in a 1.66:1 widescreen format and 2.0 stereo or mono sound. The movie has never looked this good. Like I said, I watched this on DVD a few years ago and the remaster here is much better. There are two audio options: the International English stereo track and the U.S. mono track. Between the two I found the U.S. Mono track louder and clearer.

The only extra is a Trailer.

If you like gory horror films, this one is a must see. It is absolutely a classic of the genre. If you’re a fan of zombies films then this is also a must see, while it’s not technically a zombie films, it has many of the elements of what makes a good zombie film.

Synapse presents Demons. Written by Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava, Dardano Sacchetti ad Franco Ferrini. Directed by Lamberto Bava. Starring: Urbano Barberini, Natasha Hovey and Bobby Rhodes. Running time: 89 minutes. Rating: Not Rated (contains extreme gore, vulgar language and brief nudity). Released: November 11, 2014.

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