Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Dèmoni (1985)

...aka: Dance of the Demons
...aka: Demons

Directed by:
Lamberto Bava

Random people are chosen off the street to attend an advanced screening of a new horror film at the large Metropol Theater. The film (something about people desecrating Nostradamus' tomb and becoming possessed) and the movie-house itself, end up exerting a strange hold over the audience, turning the midnight crowd into drooling, clawed, fanged demons with sometimes glowing eyes. If people are killed, scratched or bit they too become demons and there's no way to escape the building. Well, until a helicopter happens to just randomly crash through the roof! It's a pretty silly, though popular and somewhat entertaining brainless gore-fest. The grisly and trend-setting make-up FX are great and since the director is the son of Mario Bava and former assistant director to Dario Argento (also the producer and co-scripter of this project), the movie has some visual style. However, the lack of a cohesive (not to mention coherent) plot, mediocre dubbing and an all-over-the-place mess of a finale take it down a few notches. The worst aspect is a completely useless subplot involving four obnoxious punkers who try to break into the building. These scenes, which unwisely move the action away from the movie house, seriously bring the film down and kill whatever momentum that's been build up. And it really took four writers; the director, Argento, Franco Ferrini and Dardano Sacchetti, to come up with this? The soundtrack consists of excellent music by Claudio Simonetti, plus songs by then-popular rock/metal acts, such as Mötley Crüe and Billy Idol. Newer prints (including the well-circulated ones Anchor Bay) restore some missing gore that was cut from the original American release. Watch for cameos by the director and assistant director Michele Soavi in the subway. Soavi also appears in the film being screened at the Metropol, and Dario's daughter, Fiore Argento, has a rather irritating role as a whiny victim who hates horror movies and gets puked on. Urbano Barberini and Natasha Hovey star, though Bobby Rhodes as the pimp seems to be the most popular character. Also with Karl Zinny, Paola Cozzo, Fabiola Toledo, Lino Salemme, Stelio Candelli (from Bava Sr.'s PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES) and former child actress Nicoletta Elmi all grown up as a weird-acting usherette.

It was followed by an official sequel, DEMONS 2 (1986), from the same director, producer and writers. There are also other "Demons" movies that have been re-titled for the American release; DEMONS 3 was the proposed title for Michele Soavi's THE CHURCH (1988), but was used instead for both Bava Jr.'s THE OGRE (1988) and Umberto Lenzi's BLACK DEMONS (1991). DEMONS 4 is Soavi's THE DEVIL'S DAUGHTER (aka THE SECT, 1990), DEMONS 5 (again from Lamberto Bava) was originally planned as a "remake" of his father's classic BLACK SUNDAY (1960) and was released under Sunday's original title LA MASCHERA DEL DEMONIO (1990), DEMONS 6 is Luigi Cozzi's THE BLACK CAT (1989) and DEMONS '96 is Soavi's popular zombie film CEMETERY MAN (1994) starring Rupert Everett. Confusing enough for ya?


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