This one came highly recommended by io9. On the surface, it has all the elements of a horror classic: Italian, produced by Dario Argento, made in 1985, about a cursed movie and/or mask that brings about Nostradamus’s prediction of “the coming of the demons.”
Now, there are three criteria by which any Italian horror flick must be judged.
- Extreme grossness.
- Oversaturated color.
- Completely nonsensical/batshit insane plot.
How did Demons score?
There’s plenty of grossness. People spewing bile/blood/slime from their suddenly befanged mouths. A creature emerging, Venus-like, from a victim’s rent-open back. A blind man’s eyes gouged out. (Extra points for the total superfluity of that. I only wish they’d also cut off a deaf guy’s ears.)
How about color? Well, it’s no Suspiria, but if you ever feel justifiably weary of modern cinema’s muted blue color palette, Demons will serve to remind you that Crayola offers sixty-four packs of crayons.
So that’s grossness and color. What about the plot?
This is where Demons falls apart. Or rather, doesn’t fall apart. There’s only one plot hole gaping enough to crash a helicopter through, for Dario’s sake! . . . That being why the mysterious instigators of all this death and destruction chose a magical movie theater as the launching point for their demon apocalypse. But really, this is just a zombie-virus-delivered-through-meta-movie-and/or-demon-mask scenario. People are infected, our protagonists fight a mostly doomed defensive battle against the “demons”, and a lucky few survive in a world irrevocably changed for the worse. You know, the plot of every zombie movie ever made. When I watch an Italian horror film, I want to be puzzled as to why anything is happening at all. In that sense, Demons doesn’t deliver. It could have been made by any old American horror director. I’m guessing it was intentionally made that way to try to appeal to the American market. For shame!
What’s even worse, though, is that Demons comes so close to sticking the comedic landing in the form of what I assume is an Italian’s vision of an African-American pimp circa 1985. This guy just dominates the first half of the movie through attitude and force of will. Sure, he’s an ugly stereotype—but he’s an ugly stereotype who gets shit done.
. . . Until he too is infected and we’re left with the boring old boy-girl budding lover protagonist duo, and Demons descends back into predictable banality. And that’s the worst thing that can ever be said about an Italian horror movie: I knew what was coming. Again I say: for shame!
(Bonus points, though, for what I assume was the totally unlicensed insertion of Motley Crue, Scorpions, and Billy Idol songs throughout the movie.)