Made in 1985 from a script by Lamberto Bava and Dario Argento, directed by the former and produced by the latter, Demons is a stone cold cult classic Italian horror which manages to be as enjoyable as it is insightful.
Offering up a killer combination of mass hysteria over a heavy metal soundtrack and a knowing self awareness, it is surprisingly inventive and in many ways on a par with modern day meta cinema such as Scream and The Cabin in the Woods.
The story involves a bunch of characters all drawn one fateful evening to the menacing Metropol cinema for a free screening. Entering the building filled with posters for Terminator, Nosferatu and Argento’s own Four Flies on Grey Velvet they are confronted by a strange statue astride a dirt bike holding a samurai sword. There’s also a demonic mask which one of the punters playfully puts on, realising after removing it that it has somehow cut her face.
As the lights go down and the movie starts the audience realises, much to many of their disappointments, that they are about to watch a horror film. As many of them moan, others make out. Then they, and we, watch the untitled movie showing a bunch of teenage kids uncovering the burial ground of the prophet Nostradamus. In doing so, they find alongside his remains a mask bearing a disturbing resemblance to the one found in the cinema foyer.
In turn, in the cinema the girl with the cut realises its still bleeding before heading for the theatre’s toilets. Soon, she too transforms into a puss faced monster and begins a rampage spreading her demonic possession onto everyone she attacks.
Wonderfully random, Demons offers no reasons as to why or how the demonic outbreak originated, preferring action over explanation and rightly so. From its stalker opening, where a metal faced masked man appears to one of the main girls as she rides the Berlin metro, to the chaotic climax which reveals the true extent of the hellish infection, Demons is a non-stop thrill ride that will keep you entertained from its ominous open to its fantastic finish.
Brilliantly shot by Bava, the cinema setting works wonderfully on every level. Firstly as a labyrinthine prison trapping the unfortunate audience as they are besieged by marauding monsters; and secondly in its contribution to the film’s post modern awareness of the horror genre as a whole, amplified to the enth degree now it is filtered through the fog of nostalgia that fans now have for the horror movies of the 80’s.
The script at the start constantly references not only the cinematic experience, but horror itself. The characters mock the film within the film while also acting out all the responses to it that the viewer themselves will be performing when Demons becomes a flat out horror film.
And become one it does however, with such an innovative and original storyline opening, the movie Demons’ descent into a standard action horror filled with all the clichés – previously acted out in the film within the film – is not only inevitable but welcome. We become caught up in the thrill of the killing and the chaos, helped along by excellent effects and some sensational set pieces.
Re-released recently by Arrow in a wonderful special edition, Demons is a must see horror movie blending together pure, blood-splattered entertainment. It gives a deconstruction of the genre from the inside out, offering an intellectual joy ride which will have you thinking, laughing and screaming all at the same time.