When I’m asked about horror movies that actually scared me when I was growing up Demons is almost always one of the movies I’m quick to point at. Even watching it now I still find it has a certain power over me even if I can enjoy it for the 80’s cheese it piles on high.
The story goes like this…Cheryl (a young student) is chased through a deserted subway station by a strange masked man. She escapes & meets her friend only for them both to run into the man, he hands them a ticket to a free screening at a newly renovated cinema down-town.
Later they attend the screening amongst a wide range of characters from all walks of life including a pimp & his working-girls. Before they take their seats one of the prostitutes tries on a demonic mask that’s part of a display, the inside of which makes a small cut on her face.
The movie begins inside & showcases a group of teens exploring an old graveyard, finding & digging up the supposed coffin of Nostradamus. Inside there is no body but there is a book & the same mask that was in the lobby display. One of the teens tries on the mask & gets a scratch exactly like the prostitute earlier. It causes him to turn into a demonic creature & start attacking his friends. The prostitute feeling unwell goes to the bathroom where-upon her cut spews out pus & she transforms into a demon. She then sets about killing the cinema-goers & transforming them into demons as well.
A handful of survivors that include Cheryl & her friend band together to try & escape the infested cinema.
Sounds great right? It is all that & more so long as you’re willing to look beyond some glaringly bad acting, terrible effects & cheesy dialogue. Make no mistake this is an Italian 80’s horror movie that needed a lot of dubbing (badly done & obvious) & may never have made it across the shores if it wasn’t for a small time distributor.
One of the best things about Demons is just how terrifying the Demons are…the transformation scenes are outstanding as finger nails break off to be replaced by claws & teeth fall out in extremely gory up close camera shots. Certain more visible Demons get the better end of the make-up bargain but they all suffer from the obvious contact lenses issue. It’s easy to over-look especially thanks to one of the most iconic scenes ever…
How scary is that shit?
Plot wise the film really doesn’t make a lot of sense & it doesn’t really try to explain itself much. A sub-plot occurring outside confuses things more (and may leave you feeling a wee bit disturbed by the look of one actor – she seems young!) & by time we reach the finale who knows what the hell is going on anymore.
…but it doesn’t matter because it’s been such a thrill ride up to this point!
Incredibly gory at times, Demons is not for those who can’t stomach the sight of blood…and pus…and teeth falling out…and ripped skin….and eye-gouging…and more blood.
All of this is backed up with an absolutely killer soundtrack full of classic 80’s rock, metal & punk. It fits the movie perfectly & rarely feels out of place.
When people say they don’t make horror movies like this anymore they mean it. In some ways its a relic of a time when horror was more about gore while in another its a reminder of just how good horror can be when it stops trying to be so pretentious. Demons is a classic in every sense of the word & still manages to look great almost 30 years later.