The Test of Time: Demons (1985)

We all have movies we love. Movies we respect without question because of either tradition, childhood love, or because they’ve always been classics. However, as time keeps ticking, do those classics still hold up? So…the point of this here column is whether or not a film stands the test of time. I’m not gonna question whether it’s still a good flick, but if the thing holds up for a modern audience.

Director: Lamberto Bava
Starring: Urbano Barberini, Natasha Hovey, and Karl Zinny

I don’t know what it is about 1980’s horror, but damn if it isn’t unique. To me, it’s really the end of the Golden Age of horror. It has a look and style that just never translated to the 90’s and beyond. Maybe it’s the hair. Maybe it’s the music. Maybe it’s the practical special effects. Whatever it is, today's horror can't recapture it. Sure, plenty of movies were still shitty back then but somehow a balance between shit and great shit was found, especially with the release of The Evil Dead back in ’81. A lot of filmmakers attempted to repeat that combination of gore and humor. A lot failed. However, one movie from Italy managed to come pretty close. But does it still hold up?

Under the examination: Demons

They're coming for you.

THE STORY: In Berlin (via Italy even though they speak English), simple college girl Cheryl is a bore. However, she can’t pass up something free so she talks her friend into attending a free movie at a mysterious theater that no one has seen before. Of course, they're catching a horror movie and of course things don’t go right as art starts to imitate life. Whether it’s the theater or it’s the movie we don't know, but the demons they see on-screen start to happen in real life. This starts when one of the patrons tries on a mask and it cuts herself. From here things get nutty as it becomes a battle for survival. That sucks.

Every movie needs a motorcycle and a sword.

WHAT STILL HOLDS UP: I had never seen Demons before it was screened right before Halloween, but I was sold to see it on three simple counts: 1) A dude rides around on a motorcycle with a sword and slices off demon heads. 2) It sports a pretty good 1980’s soundtrack with Billy Idol, Motley Crue, and Scorpions. 3) It was billed as the Italian Evil Dead, which is an easy sell.

Demons works best as a piece of pure gore entertainment, which clearly is the purpose of the thing. The story is stupid and the characters are even dumber but damn it if this isn’t just a great viewing. It’s all so over the top in every aspect that even when your brain knows things are ridiculous, you still have to roll with it. It’s hard not to love. Gore is ever present as are the demons as it plays like a cross between Evil Dead (obviously) and Night of the Living Dead, especially when it comes to the very small amount of social commentary it contains at the end.

The best thing about it comes from exactly what I was sold on. It’s a short scene, but any time a hero gets thrown on a motorcycle with a sword to lob off the head of evil doers, a movie can do little wrong. Then there's the cast which is basically every stereotype imaginable. They're stuck inside the theater together without a solid idea of what to do, which helps underline the duality of the what’s on their screen and what’s on ours. A great idea as we watch third person removed as terrible things happen to the movie audience. If you think about it that's a hellva scary thing to have happen. It's like having those dreaded nightmares become reality. If this ever screens at your local theater, it's the only place to watch it.

That's a gore-a. 

WHAT BLOWS NOW: The thing that blows most about Demons is that if more that .005% of your brain is engaged, there’s too many unanswered questions left. Too much stupidly. And most of the time, I can live with it. Evil Dead remains one of my favorite films, and there's plenty of dumb within it, but not as many unanswered questions.

But Demons has wayyyy too many of them. Like what's the purpose of the punks? It's the most annoying element as punk rock characters are teased throughout. While the chaos erupts inside the theater, we cut away to a four-some of junkies riding around and stiffing coke out of a Coke can. Go figure. What sucks (minor spoiler) is that they don’t do shit once they get inside. Like they all get dead. It’s pointless and perhaps one of the best examples of a movie that probably 15 minutes short and decided to shoe in new footage in the middle of it. Once they’re inside, they have zero impact on the story or the characters. At least let one of them live or almost become the hero. It annoyed the shit out of me. Or what about the mysterious red headed theater usher. Was she in on it? Or why the hell was the motorcycle there? Or how did everyone get bricked inside? Worst of all was the man in the metal mask. He sure looked cool, but what the hell was the point? Did I miss something beyond him looking like the Phantom of the Opera? If so, yell at me with capital words below!

THE VERDICT: Whatever issues I have with the little things, it doesn't take away from Demons. This remains one badass horror flick that deserves a much bigger audience. If you've never seen it, treat yourself to some Italian chaos. 



What the hell is this dude's problem? 




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