Awfully Good: Demons

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

Demons (1985)

Director: Lamberto Bava
Stars:Natasha Hovey, Urbano Barberini, Paola Cozzo

A group of people get trapped in a movie theater where the feature presentation turns them in to bloodthirsty monsters.

A movie so bad it almost kills you? I think we’ve seen a few of those in this column.

Produced by Italian horror maestro Dario Argento and directed by Lamberto Bava (son of Mario Bava), DEMONS is a loving tribute to the power of cinema. Just kidding. If there’s some larger metaphor or hidden subtext here about film or humanity, then I must’ve been too blitzed to pick up on it. This is simply an enjoyably gory and goofy flick, complete with outlandish effects, over-the-top acting and a cheesy, bizarre story—a classic turn-off-your-brain flick.

It took years of therapy for Rodney to come to terms with the fact that his mom was Sarah Connor and his dad was a T-1000.

Our heroine Cheryl is on her way to meet her friend Kathy for a night out. After getting off the subway, she gets chased by a creepy guy in a chrome skull mask. When he finally catches up to her, he silently offers her an invitation to the opening of a new movie theater and she’s like “Of course, I’ll go see your movie! You don’t seem ominous at all!” Once Cheryl and Kathy get to the theater, we’re introduced to a great group of victims—er, characters, including:
– Two boys the girls immediately fall in love with
– A blind guy who actually brings his daughter to the theater to narrate the entire film for him. But then after a few minutes her lover shows up and they go at it in front of her visually-impaired father.
– A young couple hopelessly (and annoyingly) in love
– Tony the pimp, who brought his two finest prostitutes for a night at the cinema. When one of his ladies scratches herself on a mask, Tony responds “That will teach you to touch things.”
– And a mysterious redhead who constantly looks suspicious and important to the story, but is completely forgotten about halfway through. Given her fiery locks, I guess this makes her a literal RED HERRING.

Does Black Sean Connery have to slap a bitch?

Everyone sits down to watch the film, a horror flick about some teenagers looking for the grave of Nostradomus. Instead of a body, the kids open the tomb and find a demon mask—the same one that just happens to be in the movie theater lobby. (Cue: DUN, DUN, DUN!) Almost immediately, the horrors onscreen begin happening to the audience, as they slowly change in to the demons onscreen. The scratch on the prostitute’s face turns in to a pulsing pustule of green goo as she goes full-demon. (Which in this movie, is apparently exactly the same as your standard zombie. Maybe with a little more green goo.) One by one, she spreads the sickening disease to the audience as they enjoy the film.

So that’s where Nickelodeon gets their green slime!

And don’t worry, this isn’t an entire movie about people watching a movie. As soon as everyone realizes what’s going on (i.e. being turned in to “an instrument of evil”) they understandably try to high tail it out of the theater. However, all the exits have immediately disappeared and the audience is completely trapped. This leads to some amazing freak-out scenes where clearly amateur actors attempt to convey desperation and despair in the funniest ways possible. (The bizarre English dubbing definitely doesn’t help either.) Around this time, some completely random punk rocker characters—who resemble junkie versions of Sylvester Stallone, Jean Claude Van Damme and a female Billy Idol—are introduced. They drive around getting high by snorting coke out of a Coke can. Eventually they find the theater and go inside… and are pretty much never seen or heard again. They truly have no reason to exist or deserve so much screen time other than to support a later plot point.

You’re doing it wrong, Sly.

What DEMONS is most remembered for (aside from a great soundtrack featuring Motley Crue, Rick Springfield and plenty of bad 80s synth pop) are the super gory kills and transformation scenes. You get to enjoy some necks ripped in half, a blind guy’s non-functioning eyes getting gouged out, quick scalpings and plenty of disgusting green vomit. Things escalate so much, at one point the filmmakers are like “F*ck it!” and a full size demon just claws its way out of some girl’s back. On this level alone, DEMONS is worth watching at least once.

Sandra was the world’s only professional stamp licker.

In the end, the meager male lead turns in to a wannabe Ash from EVIL DEAD. He majestically rides in on a working motorcycle he happened to find in the theater lobby, puts the girl on the back, and drives around slicing up demons with a samurai sword. This sounds really badass, but as executed in the film, it’s just them riding a bike in circles for five minutes. The writers also couldn’t figure a plausible way to get everyone out of the theater, so… Deus Ex Machina time! Literally out of nowhere, a random helicopter comes crashing through the roof (with the blades decapitating many a demon). Now that the protagonists have an opening in which to escape, the helicopter also happens to have a grappling hook in it! They use it to climb to the roof, only to discover the entire city is overrun by demons. They also get randomly attacked by the creepy mask guy from the beginning of the movie. (Though it’s never explained exactly who he is or where the demonic movie came from.) I won’t spoil where it goes from there but suffice to say we will be visiting DEMONS 2 in the future.

“Okay, pretend you’re looking at the demon and you’re terrified of it! …Or just continue to look at the floor in boredom. That’s fine, Terry.”

A few hilarious examples of terrible actors freaking out.

Some gory transformations and motorcycle samurai.

The gross punk girl has cocaine cleaned off her bare chest with a razor. It’s not fun for anyone.

Exorcise your demons! Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • There’s green goo
  • A main cast member turns in to a demon
  • Someone has a great 80s haircut
  • There’s bad 80s music
  • There’s bad product placement

Double shot:

  • Something of convenience happens that makes no sense.

Thanks to Franco for suggesting this week’s movie!

Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.


About the Author