Two teenage girls skip their music lesson to go to a free screening at a new movie theater. At the movies, they meet a couple of cute guys who they later team up with to try to survive when the movie being shown causes the audience to start turning into demons. There’s a mask, a la Black Sunday, in the lobby, and a similar mask in the movie showing in the theater. In both cases, someone getting cut by the mask causes the demon infection to begin. At first the evil is contained within the theater, as the doors have been mysteriously bricked over. But a group of joyriding cokeheads hide in the theater while running from the cops, and in doing so they open a side door and let one of the creatures out. This causes the demons to spread, and the entire world, or at least Germany where this is set, is soon in complete anarchy.
Good news for fans of gore: Demons soaks your senses in buckets of blood. There is stabbing, eye gouging, throat ripping, face bubbling, spine cracking, neon green puke, swordplay, and at least one impalement. Not that gore is what I’m necessarily looking for in a movie every time, but almost any horror fan will appreciate gore that is really well done and believable. It’s easy to become completely mesmerized by Demons and believe on some level that these people are actually being injured because the makeup is so good. This is especially true if you get a chance to watch this in a theater, which I luckily have. Of all the disgusting moments, I think what bothers me most is when the second person to transform loses her fingernails. I do hate to see any injury that has to do with nails.
One mark of a good movie in my opinion is that you continue to notice new things upon repeat viewings. Tonight I just noticed that the film itself begins with a shot of train headlights coming towards the viewer, and the film within the film begins with two motorcycle headlights coming towards the viewer. I believe this represents the unstoppable nature of the evil. The lights could also represent eyes, which are a universal theme in Italian horror; every Italian horror movie has some closeup shot of eyes and eye trauma. There’s a even a movie called Eyeball!
The best thing to come out of Demons in recent years is that it was used as a device in the documentary that criticizes post modern film criticism of The Shining, Room 237. Shots of the audience in the theater at the beginning of Demons are presented without comment all through the documentary.
Demons might be the most well-scripted Italian horror movie of them all. I know it doesn’t sound that way from my synopsis, but believe me, it is. I’ve seen every single spaghetti horror movie I could get my hands on in the last 25 years, and most of them are completely nonsensical, beautiful trash. Here you get an explanation for what is going on, and the plot is linear. And if you like Demons, good news! They made a sequel in 1986 that is basically the same story, but the film that ends the world is being broadcast on TV this time. The first movie uses a rock/metal soundtrack, and the second employs alternative/post punk, with the best use of The Smiths music I’ve ever seen in a film. Typical to the subgenre, all the other movies included in the Demons series have nothing to do with the plots of the first two. But Demons and Demons 2 are both worth seeing at least once if you like infected people flicks. Maybe skip the popcorn, though, because they’re really gross.