Student Cheryl (Natasha Hovey) is spooked in a Berlin train station by a man wearing a metal mask, but her fears are allayed when he hands her a ticket for a free movie screening that night. She takes a ticket for her friend Kathy (Paola Cozzo) as well, and they arrive at the cinema, which previously has been closed for some time, along with other patrons to enjoy the film on offer. It turns out to be a horror film where a group of teenagers find the grave of Nostradamus, and an ancient tome that predicts the imminent end of the world. What the audience doesn't realise is how true that prophecy will be...
You know how films are screened in front of test audiences before they are released? And you know how you always hear stories about how the film was so much better before the studio executives decided to give those films a happy ending, bring back a character from the dead, or add an equally inappropriate element that those audiences thought would be just the thing the professional film makers overlooked? Well, Demons is the professionals' revenge. Produced by horror maestro Dario Argento and directed by Lamberto Bava, they wrote the script with the help of Franco Ferrini and Dardano Sarchetti, creating a ridiculous but energetic roller coaster ride.
If you're one of those spoilsports who think that horror movies turn their impressionable viewers into bloodthirsty maniacs, then you'll find your worst fears confirmed by the reaction of the cinemagoers in this shocker. Sticking closely to the zombie movie template, the terror begins when one cocky woman takes a mask from a display in the lobby and puts it on for a joke. Unfortunately it gives her a little cut on her face, but she thinks little of it. However, this isn't a zombie movie, it's a demons movie - yes, there's a subtle difference.
It's not long before the mask-wearing woman has retired to the bathroom to inspect the damage, only to transform against her will into a red-eyed thing possessed by an unnamed evil. She then begins to attack the rest of the cast, who in turn are possessed themselves. Just as in a zombie movie, if you're wounded by one of the demons, then you're infected and therefore doomed. But as I say, this isn't a zombie movie - I can't stress that strongly enough.
Throwing any sense of logic out of the window, the film piles lunacy upon lunacy, with a cumulative effect; there's no real reason for the mayhem, it's simply there to keep Sergio Stivaletti's special effects team in business. The audience try to escape but fail when the doors have been bricked up while they have been watching the movie. They decide that the movie is at the heart of the trouble, but by the time they smash up the projector it's too late and the gougings and slashings continue. The sketchy characters are merely present to be killed off, there's no pretension other than the apocalyptic rumblings that come to a head for the finale.
That finale features one of the most absurd plot conveniences you'll ever see, involving a helicopter, but before we arrive at that it's worth pointing out the most bizarre example of product placement ever. Outwith the panicked building a group of punks drive around in a stolen car listening to the heavy sounds of Go West and Billy Idol, all the while passing around a Coke can that enjoys gratuitous closeups. Then they start snorting the Coke! It's not the soft drink in the can - it's cocaine! Madness!
Anyway, Demons manages to be fairly exciting and consistently amusing, purely because of its unabashed preposterousness. Want to see a man ride a motorbike around a cinema chopping up demons (not zombies) with a samurai sword? You've come to the right place. Music by Claudio Simonetti. Followed by one straight sequel, Demons 2, and after that it gets complicated.
Italian director/producer and son of legendary horror auteur Mario Bava. Began working as an assistant to his father on productions such as Planet of the Vampires and Baron Blood, and co-wrote Mario's final film Shock. Made his directing debut in 1980 with the effective chiller Macabre, which were followed by exploitation favourites A Blade in the Dark, Blastfighter, Delirium and two gore-laden Demons movies, both produced by Dario Argento. Bava's subsequent work has largely been for Italian TV, his last theatrical film being 1991's duff Body Puzzle.