Demons – Italy, 1985 – overview and reviews

 
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Demons – original title: Dèmoni – is a 1985 Italian supernatural horror film directed by Lamberto Bava and produced by Dario Argento, starring Urbano Barberini and Natasha Hovey. The screenplay was written by Bava, Argento, Franco Ferrini and Dardano Sacchetti, from a story by the latter.

A group of young people are trapped in a large movie theatre in West Berlin that is infected by ravenous demons who proceed to kill and posses the humans one-by-one, thereby multiplying their numbers…

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Dario Argento had an important influence on Demons. In addition to co-writing the script, he also produced the film. Argento’s daughter, Fiore, plays the character of Hannah.

Future director Michele Soavi (Dellamore, Dellamorte), a devotee of Argento’s work and his assistant director on several films, also served as an assistant director on Demons and has two starring roles, as the man wearing the silver mask and as Jerry, one of the characters in the film playing at the Metropol.

Nicoletta Elmi, who plays the usherette, appeared in Argento’s 1975 classic giallo Deep Red, and she also had a small role in the 1971 horror film A Bay of Blood (directed by Mario Bava, the father of Demons director Lamberto Bava).

Most of the interior cinema scenes were shot in an actual closed down movie theatre. The building still exists but is now a bank. At the same time, the building used for the exterior shots of the movie theatre still exists; it’s a club called “Goya”, whose appearance in the film has brought it fame and now regularly hosts horror conventions today.

Filming took place in Germany and Italy, and as a reference to these countries’ cinema, posters for Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre and Argento’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet can be seen hanging in the Metropol’s lobby. The film features metal rock and pop songs, and there is also an AC/DC poster in one scene.

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On the Berlin subway, university student Cheryl gets off at her stop in the deserted subway station and is pursued by a mysterious, masked man. Rather than attacking her, the man offers her tickets to a free screening at the Metropol, an isolated and recently renovated local cinema.

Cheryl talks to her friend Kathy into going with her. At the crowded theatre, they meet two preppy college boys, George and Ken, who take an immediate liking to the girls. The four sit together in the auditorium.

The film being shown is a violent, disturbing horror film which features a look-alike of the mask from the lobby; it is about four teenagers who discover an old tomb and dig up the grave of a sixteenth-century fortune-teller called Nostradamus. When the teenagers dig up Nostradamus’s coffin, they instead find an old book and a mask identical to the strange mask in the foyer. When one of the movie’s characters puts the mask and is scratched by it just like Rosemary was by its doppelganger, he then turns evil and slaughters his friends with a kitchen knife.

Rosemary feels ill and goes to the bathroom, where the scratch on her face bursts open and spews out pus; she then transforms into a bloodthirsty, red-eyed demon like the one in the film…

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Reviews [click links to read more]:

“Though the classic tag line “they will make cemeteries their cathedrals and the cities will be your tombs” has a nice, malicious resonance to it, it’s the furthest the film takes the whole inherently evil element. Luckily, the overabundance of offal really renders such criticisms moot. This is one hyperbolic hoot of a splatterfest…” DVD Talk

“What makes Demons so much fun? Well, how about: a total lack of logic, bad acting, horrendous dubbing, total predictability, extremely excessive blood and guts, hilarious plot and character development (when either is even present), bad 80s music and styles, sporadically intentional black humor and a wonderfully futureless ending all served up at a relatively breakneck speed with some occasional visual verve.” A Wasted Life

“It lacks the gleeful artistry of Dario Argento’s films, and it doesn’t come close to George Romero’s mythic transcendence of the genre. After all, when you get right down to it, the story of Demons makes it simply a zombie film, but with faster monsters that use claws as well as teeth.” DVD Verdict

Evil Dead-ish fun, with a particularly squeamy bit which will put you off spot-squeezing for life, and some outrageous business with a helicopter.” Anne Billson, Time Out Film Guide

Cast and characters:

  • Urbano Barberini as George
  • Natasha Hovey as Cheryl
  • Karl Zinny as Ken
  • Paola Cozzo as Kathy
  • Fiore Argento as Hannah
  • Geretta Giancarlo as Rosemary
  • Michele Soavi as Man in Mask / Jerry (Horror Film)
  • Bobby Rhodes as Tony
  • Fabiola Toledo as Carmen
  • Guido Baldi as Tommy
  • Nicoletta Elmi as Ingrid the usherette
  • Stelio Candelli as Frank
  • Nicole Tessier as Ruth
  • Lino Salemme as Ripper (as Pasqualino Salemme)
  • Bettina Ciampolini as Nina
  • Giuseppe Mauro Cruciano as Hot Dog (as Giuseppe Cruciano)
  • Peter Pitsch as Baby Pig
  • Eliana Miglio as Edith (Horror Film)
  • Jasmine Maimone as Nancy (Horror Film)
  • Marcello Modugno as Bob (Horror Film)
  • Sally Day as Liz
  • Alex Serra as Werner
  • Claudio Spadaro as Liz’s lover
  • Enrica Maria Scrivano as Blonde Victim
  • Liam Riley as Black Zombie
  • Ambrose Burton as Homeless Zombie

Soundtrack:

  • Billy Idol – White Wedding
  • Accept – Fast as a Shark
  • Mötley Crüe – Save Our Souls
  • Claudio Simonetti – Demon
  • Claudio Simonetti – Killing
  • Claudio Simonetti – Out of Time
  • Rick Springfield – Walking on the Edge
  • Pretty Maids – Night Danger
  • Go West – We Close Our Eyes
  • The Adventures – Send My Heart
  • Saxon – Everybody Up

NB. Three of these acts – Billy Idol, Go West and The Adventures – were signed to Chrysalis Records at the time so their inclusion was presumably contractual rather than based on musical merit.

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2 Comments on “Demons – Italy, 1985 – overview and reviews”

  1. Totally awesome demonic gorefest in a great location! Imagine watching this on the pictures back then while the possessions take hold and demons start peeling domes in the same environ you’re sat in! Wish more would have been made of the motorbike and duel samurai swords scene but other than that this is impeccable. Wild effects.

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