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  Demonia Dig The Archaeology
Year: 1990
Director: Lucio Fulci
Stars: Brett Halsey, Meg Register, Lino Salemme, Christina Engelhart, Pascal Druant, Grady Clarkson, Ettore Comi, Carla Cassola, Michael Aronin, Al Cliver, Isabella Corradini, Paola Cozzo, Bruna Rossi, Paola Calatti
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Over five centuries ago, a group of supposedly blasphemous nuns were dragged to the cellar of their chapel by an angry mob and strung up against large wooden crosses, then crucified. The details of this atrocity have been lost to the mists of time - or have they? For one archaeology student, Liza Harris (Meg Register) has been suffering visions in her dreams of the attack as the location of the chapel, still standing, has become a site for her team to examine, led by her professor Paul Evans (Brett Halsey). He is somewhat jaded by the whole scenario, and doesn't mind telling his students so, but Liza may be onto something...

Italian horror director Lucio Fulci made a late career bid to reclaim his past glories in the late eighties and early nineties before ill health finally took him from the movie scene for good, but even so, we are talking about the passage of time from his golden age to the would-be revival that was under a decade. So why does it feel longer? Probably thanks to the way the cinema world had moved on with some speed, things seemed to flit by faster then, film-wise, and works like Demonia were really preaching to the choir of established horror fans who already worshipped Lucio's gore-packed heyday as they regarded it.

Therefore this was akin to Fulci playing the hits at his last concert tour, though actually distribution was difficult for these pictures internationally: in Britain, in particular, the Video Nasties crazed had seen him persona non grata for the country's censors and they were not about to be hauled over the coals for allowing more dodgy dealings to slip through and into circulation. In America, where that was less of a problem, a different issue arose: the audience for poorly dubbed Italian gore movies was not as wide as it had been, as homegrown product had done so spectacularly well over the course of the eighties that foreign efforts were rarely getting a look in.

So it was a little sad to see Fulci cry out "Hey, remember me?! I'm still here, guys!" with works like this, though the faithful found a way of seeing them, and largely agreed while it was never going to be like what it was in the olden days of, er, eight years ago, there remained entertainment to be had from their hero partying like it was 1982. But while there were special makeup effects sequences in the grungy, latex and stage blood fashion of before, there was a far more lethargic pace to Demonia, leaving it looking like the efforts of an old man having one more try at doing what was expected of him. If you were being generous, you could say there was a dreamlike atmosphere to Demonia where logic mattered little, and that could tip over into nightmare at any time.

Register was not the most expressive actress you would ever see in a horror movie, and though that added to the unreal qualities she was a bit of a nothing to be building the story around, which may be why she disappears for stretches of the plot without really being missed. Meanwhile the other characters were set up to be knocked down by the ghosts of the murdered nuns, including a naked ghost with a speargun (how does that work, then?) and one who gets the local butcher, who has been railing against the archaeologists at every opportunity, by hitting him with sides of meat and nailing his (enormous!) tongue to his block. The other executions made about as much sense, such as the medium set upon by her (stuffed!) cats, or the unfortunate chap who somehow contrives to be tied up in a trap set off by his son like something out of a cannibal flick. Not sensible, then, and there was a sense of amusement about Fulci getting back in the saddle, but it was a bit past it by 1990. Music by Giovanni Cristiani.

[Available on Arrow. Click here to join the Arrow Player website - there's a free trial available.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Lucio Fulci  (1927 - 1996)

Italian director whose long career could best be described as patchy, but who was also capable of turning in striking work in the variety of genres he worked in, most notably horror. After working for several years as a screenwriter, he made his debut in 1959 with the comedy The Thieves. Various westerns, musicals and comedies followed, before Fulci courted controversy in his homeland with Beatrice Cenci, a searing attack on the Catholic church.

The 70s and early 80s were marked by slick, hard-hitting thrillers like A Lizard in a Woman's Skin, Don't Torture a Duckling and The Smuggler, while Fulci scored his biggest international success in 1979 with the gruesome Zombie Flesh Eaters. Manhattan Baby, City of the Living Dead, The Beyond and The House by the Cemetery were atmospheric, bloody slices of Gothic horror, and The New York Ripper set a new standard in misogynistic violence. Fulci's last notable film was the truly unique A Cat in the Brain in 1990, a semi-autobiographical, relentlessly gory comedy in which he also starred. Died in 1996 from a diabetic fit after several years of ill-health.

 
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