In 1999 Anchor Bay Entertainment released Lamberto Bava's 1989 horror flick "Demons" on DVD and hasn't revisited the movie since. Sadly the original release featured a non-anamorphic transfer and as such I was glad to revisit this film when I just received Anchor Bay's review copy because this one finally comes in full 16x9 enhanced glory.
Invitations are handed out on the streets of Berlin, Germany, for patrons to visit the Metropol theater. No indication what to expect, the visitors arrive to see the Metropol is a newly re-opened movie theater and tonight's presentation is an unknown and untitled horror film. The film shows a group of teenagers digging around the ruins of an old chapel, only to discover the grave of Nostradamus and unleashing an age-old curse. One that allows demons to rise from the underworld and walk the earth.
Incidentally, some of the events of the movie are mirrored by some of the theater patrons and very soon it becomes clear that this movie is more than just a series of flickering pictures. The movie has unleashed the demons which take possession of their victims and turn them into a horde of killing, walking corpses.
"Demons" is a head-on child of the 80s. It is a stereotypical 80s horror flick with a thin almost hair-raising storyline, bad dialogue, overacting ham actors, lots of make-up effects but also some of the coolest music to grace the screen. To the ominous lyrics of Mötley Crüe's "Save Our Souls" the plot foreshadows the imminent arrival of the demons, to the hammering beat of Pretty Maids' "Night Danger," the demons first ravage the interior of the movie theater, only to come to a climax during the thundering double-bass inferno of Accept's "Fast As A Shark." You get it. This film is heavy metal pop culture of the 80s and therefore it is no wonder that I loved this film during its original tenure. While the plot may be weak and illogical, I never cared much because the atmosphere and the breathless pace of the action sequences much of which can be attributed to the music make you forget about everything else. The fact that the film is never pretending to be anything more than a fast-paced splatter flick makes it so much fun to watch and allows viewers to simply sit back and let the movie - and the blood - wash over them.
Director Lamberto Bava is the son of the acclaimed classic horror director maestro one is tempted to say Mario Bava, and it shows. Mario Bava was one of the greatest black-and-white horror masters, conjuring up incredible atmosphere with shades of gray. Lamberto has learned a lot from his father and many of his films ooze atmosphere. "Demons" is no exception. Awash in rich colors red and blue mostly the film is a phantasmagoria that uses colors and music as a canvas to project its story on. It is quite an exciting film and although it may not be as impressive today as it was 20 years ago, I still thoroughly enjoyed the thrill ride for the umpteenth time around.
As mention above, this DVD finally presents the movie with an anamorphic widescreen transfer. The print is clean and clear and absolutely free of defects or blemishes. Occasionally some grain is evident in the picture, especially during the film's opening sequence. Other than that it is a great-looking transfer that vividly reproduces Bava's colorplay and ensures that every drop of green demon blood that mingles with the red of human blood is becoming a feast for the eyes on every possible occasion. Black levels are solid and deep giving the image good visual depth. No edge-enhancement mars the presentation and I was unable to detect any compression artifacts.
The movie features the same 5.1 channel Dolby Digital audio track found on the previous DVD release. It is a remix of the original soundtrack that works very well. Considering the limitations of the original production and the quality of the original elements the track makes surprisingly good use of the surround channels for maximum impact. It also allows the music to do its proper job, giving it good bass response and clear high ends.
The film is dubbed in its entirety remember this is an Italian production - and while the dialogue is very understandable at all times, the dub itself will make you cringe at times, but hey, it's part of the fun.
Anchor Bay has included the same extras from the original release once again here, namely the commentary track featuring director Lamberto Bava, make-up artist Sergio Stivaletti and journalist Loris Curci. The track is interesting as it offers some insight into the production of the movie and the way Italian filmmakers worked during the 80s when Italian gore horror was at its peak.
Also included is a brief 1-minute behind the scenes clip form the movie set, giving viewers a rare glimpse at one of the film's key special effects. Why Anchor Bay entitles this release a "Special Edition" is quite frankly beyond me however, as it doesn't offer anything new from the previous release.
"Demons" is not a great movie by any means but it;s the perfect late-night horror fest or Halloween night movie. It is a guilty pleasure par excellence, though. It is one of the great over-the-top 80s horror flicks that flood over you with images, gore and music. It is by far better than many of its competitors of the period and always deserves a viewing - and after all it's only $14.98.