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Demons

Directed by Lamberto Bava

Written by Dardano Sacchetti, Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava, Franco Ferrini

Starring Urbano Barberini, Natasha Hovey, Karl Zinny, Fiore Argento

Produced by Dario Argento

Not Rated

88 minutes

****

Once again, Anchor Bay salvages the darkest depths of 1980s video store fare to recover a classic. Funny, but they very seldom seem to dredge the turkeys out of the lake, rather sticking to fantastic treasure ships. And this one will be no different—welcome to Lamberto Bava and Dario Argento’s great Italian nightmare, “Demons.”

In a move that displays why the video store is your greatest and safest entertainment value, “Demons” offers a special treat—a free screening of a horror film at the local theatre, the Metropol, courtesy of a guy in a truly freaky metal half-mask. Those expecting a simple night at the movies couldn’t be more wrong, as in short order, people abruptly start turning into insane monstrousities bent on murder and destruction. Okay, the premise is pretty flimsy, but we’re not here for a deep and involved storyline—we’re here to watch people try and survive the theatre of horrors!

And best believe, there will be lots and lots and LOTS of bloodthirsty subhumans tearassing around this old movie house, and a steadily dwindling number of humans trying desperately to survive their monstrous new counterparts.

Perhaps the simplest kind of horror—let’s lock a whole bunch of people in with some cannibalistic nightmares!—and yet one of the most effective, “Demons” proves to be supremely effective. Wavering back and forth, semi-randomly, between balls-out slash-and-burn horror and nail-biting suspense ratchets up the tension to surprising high levels.

I used to watch this every so often back in the dim days of my youth, but I could only get it on VHS. And trust me, watching it on DVD is wildly, WILDLY superior to that raggedy old VHS copy I watched. They really improved the audio AND the picture quality—I used to think the horror movie showing at the Metropol was wreathed in fog. Watching it now, all I can say now is…well…there was no fog involved. A big shock, sure enough, and at the same time, a fantastic testament to the great improvement DVD can offer when it comes to the classics of our era.

Okay, maybe I’m overstating things. Maybe “Demons” isn’t really classic to anybody but horror buffs enjoying the twenty-second anniversary edition. It may not be a classic, but it’s still pretty hair-raising.

The ending involves the best use of motocross I’ve seen to date, and when you see it, you’ll understand how I could say that without looking like a complete loon. The phrase “over the top” is not without merit here. Bonus points for extensive cheese, and killing by helicopter!

The special features include audio options, English closed captions, a commentary track, a behind the scenes featurette, and trailers for “Demons,” “Demons 2,” “Phenomena,” “Tenebre,” “Re-Animator,” and “Phantasm.”

All in all, another magnificently overpowered win for Anchor Bay! I can only wonder what half-forgotten treasure of the horror industry’s dim, dark youth they’ll dredge up next.

Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.


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