31 Nights of Horror (#7) | 2017
On this episode of The Nightly Chill:
Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we take a look at classic giallo film, Demons!
NOTE: All movies reviewed for “31 Nights of Horror” are currently available to stream in the US via Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service.
When a group of people are invited to a free screening of a mysterious new horror movie, they soon discover themselves in for the fright of their lives when everything that happens in the movie also happens to them in Demons.
Directed by Lamberto Bava and written by horror icon Dario Argento, Demons is yet another Italian giallo film that presents a highly stylized audio-visual experience with very little substance.
Because while the premise of a movie-within-a-movie unleashing a private Hell on our main cast of characters sounds like a lot of fun, like an opportunity to do something different–something a little insightful regarding the movie-going experience, perhaps–there’s simply little done with that premise or these characters.
In fact, all that’s really done with the premise is using it to explain why zombie-like demons are suddenly unleashed on a literal captive audience. Once that finally gets going, that’s all we get for the next hour.
And it really does take some 25 minutes for the movie to get started. The first half-hour is mostly comprised of long, static shots of people in the subway, walking down hallways, and, eventually, gathering in a local movie theater. We meet our core group of would-be victims, yes, but we’re not given much of anything interesting to look out, hear, or experience. It’s framed nice. And the music is that classic, catchy, moody sound you’d expect from these sorts of movies.
But none of that makes up for the fact that there’s no real story to speak of–only this stretched out series of moments that eventually lead to a non-ending. The characters simply prattle on and scream at each other until the next one dies. And then, once the movie finally decides it’s all out of ideas, the credits roll.
ALL SIZZLE, NO STEAK
But while it would be easy to dismiss the movie entirely as one that’s “all sizzle and no steak”, it has to be made clear that the giallo-style is cranked up high. The sheer amount of “sizzle” almost entirely makes up for the distinct lack of “steak” present in Demons. Almost.
Little is done with the premise or the titular demons themselves, yes. But they do have a fascinating look that is brought to life by incredible make-up design. And a number of the violent, stylized death scenes they’re always present for make great use of some creative practical effects.
Even the unnatural acting and line-delivery of the human characters bring to life what could have otherwise been some of the worst dialog ever written.
Of course, all the fantastic and bizarre lighting and violence and monster make-up in the world doesn’t fully make-up for a lack of pacing, purpose, or anything remotely resembling good acting. But, when done right, as Bava does in Demons, it makes for one hell of a viewing experience.
Demons is a definite CHILL.