This double set of horror films directed by Lamberto Bava has been released on Bu-Ray by Arrow. Produced by Dario Argento, who was also a co-screenwriter on the project, they are both basically the same movie. The first one is better film; the second is a not-quite-as-good retread. In Demons I, a group of people have been invited to a cinema. Once they are in the movie theatre, there’s a film within a film and then demons appear from whom they have to escape. Any film set in a movie theatre is one that I have a certain soft spot for. It predates Scream 2, which uses a similar conceit in it’s opening scene but with a masked killer.
In Demons II, it’s the same scenario but set in an apartment complex, with the demons entering the world through a TV show. In that one, there are soon bloody things happening in various different apartments as the demons get loose and turn the residents into demons, who then attack others.
It’s low on plot but high on gore, with some fun visual gags. Probably the best bit is a group of new wavers riding along in a car, snorting coke from a can of Coke (which I thought was quite inspired) while listening to Go West and Billy Idol’s “White Wedding.” The first was shot in Berlin, the second in Hamburg, and both have a cool neon ‘80s look. Being Italian movies, they are both dubbed (including the Italian version). Asia Argento made her screen debut in the second film.
Both have a goofy ‘80s soundtrack (the second one is slightly hipper, with the Smiths, Dead Can Dance, Peter Murphy and Love and Rockets) and offer up a fun gorefest—I prefer movies with a bit more plot, but if gore films are your thing, they are enjoyable. As with Italian horror films in general, just forget about logic for the 90 minutes or so that they last.
The films were made quick and cheap, but they were so successful that numerous sequels appeared after the first two. Of these, Black Demons was the third, and an official sequel. Cemetery Man was sold in territories as Demons ’95 despite having nothing whatsoever to do with the franchise and is actually a brilliant existential blackly comedic zombie film starring Rupert Everett in career best form.
The set serves up 4K restorations of both films in high-def Blu-Ray with improved soundtracks. Extras include various cuts, new English subtitles to go with the Italian version, new commentaries (for Demons I, with critics Kat Ellinger and Heather Drain of Hell’s Bells; for Demons II, with critic Travis Crawford), archival commentaries, a visual essay on Argento’s careers, an archival interview with Argento about making the films, an archival interview with Claudio Simonetti about the soundtrack, an archival interview with Argento collaborator Luigi Cozzi, Italian and English theatrical trailers, an essay on both films by critic Alexandra Heller Nicholas, an archival interview with Sergio Stivaletti on the special effects, and an archival interview about Bava and the history of Italian horror, again with Luigi Cozzi.