Anyhow, on with the show...
The Butler's Viewpoint
All right, just this once when I nip off for a pint I am going to sneak a very certain film I spied on the collection of the Dark Mistress here. As I must confess it brought back a certain nostalgia to when I was a wee lad just growing up in the flats.
This time I am going to take a look at a classic, the Dario Argento film Demons.
Many will never have heard of this priceless gem of a horror movie, others I can imagine are almost giddy in delight just thinking of this long sought import. For me this was my first exposure to just what could come out of a horror film, and what innovation and imagination could come from outside of the colonies here. I was a mere teenager before my time in the Forces, enjoying a Good Friends and Bad Films night of Samhain delights, and on the VCR came this surprise.
We start our film by meeting our first heroine, who is a student heading home on the subway when she starts to get nervous flashes of a man we'll call Destro. Pursued through the station she runs into Destro only to find he is giving out free passes to a new theatre, the Metropol. She accepts and even gets another ticket for a friend from the silent man in the half mask, and makes her way later that night for free entertainment. Many others make their way to the theatre, with a mysterious motorcycle and sword armed rider holding a silver demon mask. It is a strange display which will come into effect later. The multitude of theatre goers include a wide demographic of people, including potential male interests for the two heroines. Meanwhile one of the theatre goers decides to try on the demon mask and is cut by a small edge. This will get important later.
Our theatre goers settle down and begin to watch our movie within a movie, a horror mystery movie that stars our motor bike as two young couples explore an old cemetery. One of the couples we see is a blind man and his female companion, having her describe what is going on. Later she meets her lover in the theatre while keeping her blind companion distracted by the movie. Is short there is a lot of the typical nonsense of such a diverse group seeing a movie.
In the movie within the movie the young couple open up a crypt and find an old book and an ancient mask...which oddly looks a lot like the one in the lobby. Noting that the mask also causes a cut and in the book is supposed to spread demons and death. Nervous, the young woman who tried the mask on in the lobby of the theatre has noticed her cut has started again and flees to the washroom. And here the film begins to get very interesting, with the woman in the washroom beginning to have corruption and fluid leak out of the cut...while in the movie in the movie the mask begins it possession as the couple begins to have the first violent episodes.
In true horror fashion our first theatre going leaves to check on what has happened to the woman who cut herself on the mask...leading a green drooling and foaming demon attacking and injuring our next contestant. Her cries for help are drowned out by the violence of the movie in a movie, and so our first victim finds herself fleeing from her former demonic companion. Meanwhile our guide for the blind man has left with her lover, leaving the blind man stumbling around looking for her. Meanwhile our wounded victim soon finds her wounds also corrupting, and her screams can be heard in the theatre. Finally she falls through the screen leading to the first hint to the entire public that something is wrong. The first demon however has found the blind man's guide and her lover and brutally has them strangled. Back in the original theatre the transformation of the victim continues and our heroines and their male protectors quickly note what is happening in the film is happening here. And then the dead lovers plummet from the ceiling hanging from the rafters.
To say the “ick” level is getting pretty high, and our demonic victim ends her transformation and tears the neck apart of one of the viewers. And our blind man finds the remains of his guide...only to have his eyes gored out by the first demon. Panic ensues!
This is where the film takes on new levels, and the attendees as a mob flee for their lives to the main doors, and find out they have been literally bricked in! More panic ensues but our Pimp Daddy takes charge to lead a search for the emergency exits. People who foolishly split off from the group are killed gruesomely, and our male love interests and the pimp daddy start to form the first effective fighting unit of the theatre goers. At this point having slain their first demon and looking for an options the fearless heroes decide the movie is to blame and thus must stop it. They smash their way in to find automated projectors, so the clear conclusion is to completely destroy them. Victory!
At this point we first meet our Coke junkies out for a cruise, which is a disjoint but don't worry, they'll become useful later. Back in the theatre they find the wounded blind man and his dead guide. Pimp daddy insists the the body will reanimate showing a genre savvy outlook, but is resisted by the blind man. They stumble across another demon who gets into a pitched battle with pimp daddy, who using his knife skills manages to spray the demon's ichor everywhere. Eventually our imp daddy is overrun by demons but takes as many as he can with him. Meanwhile the Coke junkies end up outside the theatre having spilled their literal Coke can. Inside the theatre our heroes have gotten the everyone organized as they begin to tear the seats apart to build weapons and barricades. They assign people to even bang on the walls, and keep outlooks out. For once, pretty savvy people.
The wall bangers actually find success and knock a wall down into a new section of building. However all they find are more bricked up walls, and despair kicks in for several of the female members of the group. Back in the theatre the group settles down for what appears to be a long siege. Outside the Coke Junkies have a local run with the police and flee, only to strangely be let in by a door to the theatre. The police search around for a way in and uncover of all things the body of the blind man! Guess that has uses...and he's not quite dead yet. He strikes out at the police who open fire on the demon, and cut away to the Coke junkies making their way into the complex. While the original theatre goers grow despondent, our Coke junkies have now made their way to the lobby, and start to stumble on glowie eyed demons.
Back in the theatre they can hear the gunshots of the cops, leading most of the people to start tearing down the barricades. Meanwhile the Coke Junkies quickly decide to start to fight and flee using an assortment of weapons. And the original theatre is soon overrun while our main heroines and their partners dig a way out and run in the chaos. At this point the four realize that one of the heroines caught a scratch from the demons and is now infected and corrupted too, forcing them to kill her, or at least try. And then there was three. Or rather two as one of the heroes becomes wounded, and knows his fate is to also become corrupted. Staggering off he falls at the lobby display, and urges them to kill him before he turns with the sword from the display.
And now the film takes another twist, as our remaining two decide to keep the sword, and the fully functional motorcycle and off they go on a full out slaying spree! To heavy metal riffing they take the battle to the demons in an all terrain battle for survival! The only thing missing is Reb Brown to make this a perfect over the top moment. Then having successfully cleared the demons from the theatre a rumbling sound from overhead indicates a new twist. Plunging through the roof is a helicopter and it's dead crew.
Now debating their strange luck, and seeing the remaining demons gathering to see what the noise was they start up the crashed chopper blades to slay more demons. Then they start to plan a way out through the roof. A quick search and grappling hooks and guns are found, and they hurry to get their way out using the winch on the helicopter. One last demon and our heroes are out! Of course it can't be that easy and a new appearance by Destro tries to kill the heroes and force them back in. Fortunately our heroine has learned to fight and first impales and then helps finishing him off.
Victory, or at least until they notice the other strange noises and gunfire outside. Looking around, it appears our blind man demon has helped spread things and the city is in chaos! And so the two last heroes try to flee, only to be pursued by the growing hordes of demons. Losing hope at last, they start to lose the urge to keep running when a family fully armed to the teeth shows up. Packing the heat they rescue our heroes and blaze a trail out of the city. A hope spot for our last two...at least until the credits roll...
This film both terrified me and delighted me like no other film did at the time. And now looking at it this is a remarkable piece of work. In an age of CGI effects the amount of detail and effort put into the practical effects both disgust and stir wonder! And the characters forge themselves well, and even get you cheering that the theatre goers aren't just “meat to the slaughter”, but rather just people who can indeed grow and be cheered in their fight to survive. The soundtrack is such classic eighties, and everything is tightly written and even performed.
Looking back I find this is the film that got me to start to look at what else was out there from other countries. Demons for me was like a gateway to a whole new world of cinema on many levels, and not just horror. I think that is why finding this now on DVD it brings back so many wonderful memories of a VCR, Good friends, and in the end a good horror film.
Well time for this old warhorse to put the pint glass away and get back to the business of cleaning the place up. I know they insist the cobwebs are part of the yearly decor, but it's just not proper!