Lamberto Bava’s Demons – one of those movies I knew only the logo and the VHS cover art – is potentially this Summer of Horror’s most delightful discovery. I don’t know how this has evaded becoming a horror classic on the level of Return of the Living Dead, but it’s a fantastic 80’s schlockfest that I’ll certainly be rewatching in the future.
The version currently streaming on Shudder is dubbed in English, with no option for the original Italian audio, but honestly I’m banking on it being better this way, because the stilted, over-acted line deliveries only enhance the cheese factor. Not that this movie is one of those “so bad it’s good” endeavors – it’s actually GOOD-good, but it has so much of that mid-80’s grit and grime and rubbery, splattery practical effects that horror fans cherish.
A strange man in a chrome skull mask is seen handing out flyers for a mysterious movie screening at a local theater. Two young women with nothing better to do reluctantly decide to attend, along with dozens of other eclectic characters from old yuppies to horny teens to punk rockers to a blind guy (!) and an actual pimp (!!!). While the movie-within-the-movie plays out – a horror film involving an accidentally released demonic entity – the same kind of demonic activity starts spreading among the moviegoers, ultimately descending into an orgy of zombie-like chaos within the theater as the dwindling group of survivors tries to stay alive.
I immediately dubbed this the Italian Return of the Living Dead. These are technically demons of course, but the recruitment mechanism is the same. By bite or by scratch, they turn the living into undead ghouls, oozing pus and sprouting pointy teeth and claws, much like similar 80’s cult classic Night of the Demons. But the punk rock fun factor is closer to Return. It’s kinetic and funny and irreverent with a soundtrack featuring the likes of Billy Idol and Motley Crüe. Actually, now that I think about it, I’d revise my elevator pitch description to “The Italian Return of the Living Dead meets Night of the Demons”.
Welcome to the Halloween season annual watch list, Demons. It’s good to have you.