Lamberto Bava and Dario Argento’s 1986 sequel opens on a TV show about some teenagers finding the remains of the demons from Demons, which then escape the TV to attack people in a tower block – including Sally (Coralina Cataldi Tassoni), who turns into a demon at her birthday party. Who doesn’t?
The year after hordes of movie demons escaped into the cinema, the franchise moves its meta mayhem to TV – where most people would watch the first film on home video, much to the disturbance of paranoid censors. The characters are all glued to the box in a satire of our inability to socialise (just wait until smart phones) when the first demon pushes against Sally’s TV, warping the screen and turning the picture into static. Brilliantly her response is to hit the set to bring it back.
Demons 2 takes the TV warping effect from Videodrome, the tower block setting from Shivers and the transformation sequences from An American Werewolf in London. Other visual reference points include Halloween, Gremlins and The Evil Dead. In spite of all this stuff, the film still feels empty and unfinished. Bava introduces random characters (including the obligatory group of punks) who serve no purpose other than to pad out the running time to 87 minutes.
Logic dictates that sequels get madder, especially in an Evil Dead II-style revamp such as this. But Demons left nowhere for the insanity to grow. Where do you go after a helicopter has crashed through the ceiling of a cinema? The fire escape, presumably. Instead the follow-up tones down the gore, so after the demons catch people we seldom see what happens to them – although there is a tanning bed kill 20 years before Final Destination 3.
The focus is on Sergio Stivaletti’s transformation and make-up effects, which make the movie properly entertaining at best and horribly cheap at worst. The gremlin baby that bursts out of a child demon’s chest leaves a lot to be desired, and its death by umbrella would be better applied to something less obviously a plastic toy. The movie also makes little use of its high-rise setting, with most of the action taking place in the car park. Is this a splatter flick or a Grateful Dead concert?
Musically the film swaps Demons‘ heavy metal for post-punk bands like The Smiths and The Cult. Otherwise it’s more of the same eccentric combination of American characters running round Berlin in an Italian movie, even recasting Bobby Rhodes (the pimp character in the first one) as a shotgun-wielding bodybuilder. Again we get a smidgen of postmodern commentary at the start before descending into chaos, albeit with dull moments where in the original there were none.
The problem with both is that they are as badly written and acted (someone actually shouts “We’re all going to die!” in this one) as their cheesy films-within-films – a pitfall Scream 2 was smart enough to avoid. It seems strange to criticise a feature where a dog births an alien from its jaws as “not weird enough” but compared to the delirious carnage of the original, Demons 2 can’t hold a candle.