I will never forget my first viewing of Lamberto Bava's Demons. I purchased the film on VHS from our local trade in store, and was only just getting in to Italian horror. If I remember rightly, the only Italian films I had seen prior to this were Suspiria, The Beyond, Zombie, The Sect and The Church. Demons was a shock to the system. It's high energy, splatter filled running time and amazing special FX by Sergio Stivaletti certainly made me delve even deeper into Italian cinema.
A young girl is scared by a man with a metal face, who seems to be stalking her through a Berlin train station. She meets him face to face, and he hands her two tickets for a movie screening later that night. Showing is a horror film, which tells of a group of teens who uncover the grave of Nostradamus and words which foretell of the coming of the Demons. The audience of the movie fail to realize just how true those words are. After a prostitute cuts her face on a movie prop in the foyer, she changes into a slathering monster with claws and fangs, and spreads the demonic disease to other people in the theater.
It was impossible for this movie to fail. The collaboration between Lamberto Bava and Dario Argento guaranteed that this movie would impress all but the most miserable of horror fans, and there is not really any surprise when you find out Demons really is something special. The pace is relentless, with blood, body parts and green Demon drool being thrown around everywhere, all with a soundtrack by Claudio Simonetti and various metal bands such as Motley Crue, Saxon and Accept. The movie works in every respect.
Demons is a magnificent feast for the eyes. Some of the shots burn themselves into the mind, such as a horde of demons running towards the camera in slow motion, their bright yellow eyes in stark contrast to their silhouettes. The scene where a prostitute bursts through the cinema screen, and goes through something of a painful metamorphosis is something to behold. The sound that accompanies this change is truly stomach churning.
The movie does fly along, and never allows the viewer to get bored. Barely a minute goes by without someone succumbing to the demonic hordes. Eyes are gouged, flesh is torn and heads certainly roll. There is more than splatter going on though. There are some spine chilling and tension filled moments within the movie, but it really is it's kinetic pace which keeps things so interesting, even if they don't always make sense.
The masks are similar to the masks featured in Lamberto Bava's father's movie, Black Sunday aka. Mask of Satan. In that movie, the mask has spikes, so it can be attached to the victims face. In Demons, the mask causes a cut on a prostitutes face, and causes the outbreak of the demonic disease. Considering Black Sunday is considered to be one of the first 'real' Italian horror films, I personally see this as a tribute to Lamberto's father, Mario Bava.
There can be many criticisms thrown at Demons. "There is no characterization", "the plot is weak" or "things just don't make sense". All of these statements are redundant. These criticisms are part of what make Demons such an awesome ride into cinematic madness. It's a no holds barred ride into diabolical mayhem, and one that I am proud to take again and again.
There is an official sequel to Demons, named Demons 2 surprisingly. The Ogre, which was also directed by Lamberto Bava, and wa named Demons 3 in some places, has nothing to do with the first two movies whatsoever, and was merely a cash in on the previous two films fame. Michele Soavi's The Church (La Chiesa) was apparently written as a sequel to Demons 2, but became something totally different, as you can see when viewing Soavi's horror masterpiece.
I would recommend Demons to anyone with even a passing interest in Italian cinema, or anyone who enjoys the early films of Sam Raimi or Peter Jackson. While Demons contains very little humor, the splatter on display is certainly on par with The Evil Dead and Bad Taste, and the madness of Demons is certainly greater than either of those splatter classics.