Horror Movie Review: DEMONS (1985)

Allow me to share a cherished Halloween memory with you. When I was in high school, every October I would have some friends over to watch a double feature of horror DVDs I had picked out. By my senior year this little gathering had expanded to include quite a few friends indeed, which was cool except for the fact that the amount of attention paid to a horror movie is inversely proportional to the amount of people in the room. Demons, which I had never seen before, was the second film on the program that year (after An American Werewolf in London), and by the time it came on several guests (including, shamefully, myself) had migrated downstairs to play ping-pong. But we weren’t down there long before we heard a sudden outburst of yelling and general commotion upstairs.

When we went up to see what was going on we found several people in the living room staring at the TV in shock, while one of my friends was laughing his ass off and begging me to rewind the DVD to replay the scene they had just watched. That scene turned out to be the one in which a young woman in the middle of being transformed into a demon opens her lips to reveal a worm-like, slime-dripping, absolutely repulsive foot-long demon tongue that slithers around in front of her face for a moment before retracting back into her mouth.

More interesting than ping-pong

From that point on everyone’s attention was once again fixed on the movie, all of us hoping that the tongue scene would be an indicator of even more craziness to come. And Demons surely did not disappoint.

You see, the thing about Demons is that, much like life, it’s a series of moments–completely over-the-top, batshit insane moments. There is a plot, sort of: A diverse group of strangers is invited to a mysterious movie theater for a screening of a horror movie about demons, but the BIG TWIST is that some of the audience members soon start becoming demons themselves, and the remaining humans have to try to fight off the flesh-eating monsters.

Why does this happen? Why did the mute guy handing out the tickets to the screening have metal covering half his face? And why would he bring these people to the theater just to let them all get slaughtered, instead of perhaps enticing them into joining the theater’s membership program? None of these questions even come close to being answered, nor do they really need to be. The film’s creators (including Italian horror legend Dario Argento, who co-wrote the screenplay, and director Lamberto Bava, son of Italian horror legend Mario Bava) clearly have absolutely no interest in sketching a coherent plot and absolutely lots of interest in taking the most ridiculous ideas their twisted minds could come up with and putting them onscreen.

Like the tongue scene, for example. Or, also: A street punk uses a razor blade to scrape cocaine off his girlfriend’s bare breast! A helicopter crashes through the theater’s roof for no reason whatsoever! The climax of the film, which involves the hero riding around on a motorcycle decapitating demons with a samurai sword! And the beautifully bizarre ending, which proves conclusively that, regardless of what the credits say, this movie must have been written by a perverted, attention-deficient 10-year-old.

And then there’s Tony the Pimp. All of the characters and (dubbed) dialogue in this movie are pretty silly, but Tony, as played by Italian exploitation veteran Bobby Rhodes, really takes things to the next level. He just couldn’t be any more stereotypical: He’s got the white polyester suit, the well-groomed Fu Manchu, the growling ‘hood patois. (Tony’s reaction upon realizing that one of his hos is turning into a demon: “Son of a bitch! Shee-it!”) His demonification was one of the saddest movie deaths I’ve ever seen, simply because it meant he wouldn’t be around anymore to bark orders at the less masculine members of the cast.

Marry me, Tony the Pimp.

From what I’ve written so far you might get the impression that I’m making fun of this movie, but, again, it’s not like the filmmakers didn’t know what they were doing. Demons is pure schlock, but it’s well-made schlock that never gets boring, and sometimes even manages to be downright scary. Some movies never get your attention at all; some movies engage you slowly, letting your interest build as the storyline unfolds; and some movies kick in your door, shove a foot-long tongue in your face and glue your eyes to the screen. Thank you, Demons, for being the latter.

But seriously, where’d that helicopter come from?


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