Demons 2 Review
After 1985’s monumentally silly gore-avalanche, Demons, proved a surprising success, accessing an unpredictably wide global audience, producer Dario Argento and director Lamberto Bava wasted no time in following up the original hit with an equally silly and gory sequel just one year later in 1986. Whilst many may cite the duo’s desire to follow up on the fun but ultimately vacuous original as being driven by the tortuous pangs of artistic creativity, the more cynical of us may propose that Mr Argento and Mr Bava were actually driven by the prospect of a lucrative return in exchange for further splattercore shenanigans.
And we don’t have to invest much time in Demons 2 to realise that our more cynical sentiments are justified as the film rapidly reveals itself as little more than a loose remake of the original. Sure, there are new characters, new locations, and some new ideas, but there’s also rigid continuity in terms of the confinement scenario (albeit transposed to a new location), the presence of some generic carefree punks, the token mythology of the discovery of the Demons on screen, and some scenes showcasing special effects which are essentially lifted directly from the first movie. You can also expect continuity in terms of some of the actors (although they are playing different characters here), and whilst they are equally flat and vacuous when compared to the characters of the original, they are marginally less irritating, and one is also permitted the opportunity to meet a young Asia Argento, who performs well enough in this early role.
Whilst Demons 2 is barely an iota more cerebral than its predecessor, it’s certainly a more compelling viewing experience, and benefits from a more composed and imaginative approach in its technical delivery. It’s somewhat ironic, though, that much of its elevated intrigue stems from its elevated use of imitation. Bava and Argento were happy for Demons to shamelessly adopt the same techniques as other recent horror successes, but their sequel ramps up the flattery to a new level of shamelessness, outputting a colourful yet less garish pastiche whose sources are starkly easy to identify.
The location itself highlights one such key ‘influence’. The cinema-based location of the primary movie is replaced by a sprawling and not entirely convincing residential tower block a la Cronenberg’s disturbing Shivers, lending numerous opportunities for confined horror peril, yet with none of Cronenberg’s unsettling suggestion and murky threat. Other checkpoints are numerous and blatant, whether it’s the continuation of the American Werewolf… theme (realised in even purer form this time with the not unimpressive transformation of a pet dog), the admittedly well done scene where the demon pushes out of the television set towards spoilt teenager Sally (see Cronenberg’s 1983 mindbender, Videodrome), the stomach-popping Alien-esque moment (itself a second-hand rip-off of the original Demons), the frankly ridiculous Gremlin which torments the pregnant resident, or the numerous Dawn of the Dead scenes.
For all of the lack of inventiveness, the quality here is a step up from the original movie. Yes, Bava’s film maintains an inevitable bruise from the hefty whack of the eighties stick, with the requisite big hair, big suits, colourful clothing, and silly punk outfits, yet the lighting has thankfully been toned down from the retinal-threatening kaleidoscope of the original, and the filming is greatly improved in comparison to the sometimes distant and frustrating perspectives captured by the camera of the original. Stivaletti’s effects also demonstrate a distinct evolution; gone is the ridiculously colourful green goo, and the eponymous Demons become more odious and unsettling creatures, even managing to give us the odd shock here and there (Sally’s first direct encounter is especially effective).
The combined result of these improvements, and of some other effective scenes (check the tense and well-executed lift shaft sequence), is an experience which whilst no more intellectually stimulating than the original, proves substantially more enjoyable, and flows with far greater ease. The most important element of Demons 2 is its focus on full-on gory fun, and to this end – and in the context of its eighties placement – it fulfills this objective satisfactorily; the gym sequence alone is funny enough to justify a viewing.
If you enjoyed the first Demons outing, you won’t be disappointed with this mildly improved second feature. The characters are still largely vacuous, although perhaps slightly less irritating, the offensively garish lighting has been toned down a little, and the special effects are executed in such a way that the end result is one of shameless gory fun.
Arrow release Demons 2 on a region B encoded Blu-ray, and as per the original film (released at the same time), they have given special attention to the quality of the transfer. Presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and looking sharp for its age - relatively speaking - at 1080p resolution, the film has been restored in high definition by L'Immagine Ritrovata using the film's original negatives.
Arrow have positioned a short message at the opening of the film to note that there are four points in the film during which the image becomes 'highly unstable', and point out that this is due to a camera fault during the making of the film. These incidents are clearly identifiable, and can be described as a rapid shaking of the image. It's a sensible move of Arrow to point this out from the start, and is much appreciated by the viewer.
In terms of the image quality, it's very similar to the original Demons film release on Arrow, looking remarkably solid (the four scenes noted above aside) for its age, and the high definition format not exposing too much in terms of poor quality image. The only difference to note is that the grain seems to amplify at certain times to a noticeable degree, especially in the darker moments, and can almost speckle the image with brighter dots.
Overall though, this is a good quality transfer.
As with the primary Demons release, there are English subtitles on offer, both for the hard of hearing, and for the Italian audio, if you so choose.
Audio is available in either English 2.0 stereo, or Italian 2.0 stereo. The former soundtrack is preferable, as most of the actors appear to be performing in English.
Dialogue is clear throughout, and the dramatic music is presented well bearing in mind the age of the film and the budget involved.
It's worth mentioning that the dreaded 'hair metal' of the original film has been replaced by new wave eighties music, and it's a genuine surprise - though not an unwelcome one - to hear The Smiths pop up at Sally's party. In fact, all musical accompaniments fit the film surprisingly well, with big name artists including The Cult, Fields of the Nephilim, Dead Can Dance, and The Art of Noise. There's something about the murky, dreamy, synth/guitar mix of many of the tracks which blends into the misty visuals well.
Extras are a little thinner than on the associated release of the first film, but still worth checking out. Creating Creature Carnage is a low key 20 minute interview with Sergio Stivaletti, and his gentle, modest approach makes this a very watchable piece. Stivaletti discusses the effects in both films, the influence that American cinema had on his work, the influence of American Werewolf..., the influence of artist Hieronymus Bosch, and Stivaletti's working relationships with Argento and Bava.
Luigi Cozzi charms us once again with Bava to Bava: Luigi Cozzi on the History of Italian Horror, and demonstrates his encyclopaedic knowledge of Italian filmmaking, discussing the cream of Italian horror including Argento himself (the Bird with the Crystal Plumage footage never fails to stimulate), Mario Bava, and Riccardo Freda.
Finally, we have a Director's Commentary, featuring Lamberto Bava and Sergio Stivaletti (special effects) discussing the film. As with the first commentary piece on the release of the original film by Arrow, Bava is fairly muted for some periods, trying his hand at English, but reverting to Italian at certain points. This isn't an issue per se, as a translator presents Bava's meanings for an English audience, but it does feel as if this dissuades Bava from commenting as much as he would like, and he often shrinks away from the microphone when he discusses items in Italian.
Rather like the first Demons film released by Arrow on Blu-ray, this is a good quality transfer of a film which is showing its age. If you enjoy the silly brand of horror showcased in Bava's first installment, Demons 2 will be, to you, gore-soaked horror fun cranked all the way up to 11.