Lamberto Bava’s insane fevered nightmare horror films Demons and Demons 2 come back to Blu-Ray (and also 4K UHD) in a stacked new edition from Synapse Films.
There are those that love Italian Genre. There are those that do not love Italian Genre. This review falls into the former and not the latter. That is important when I say that director Lamberto Bava’s insane nightmare Demons isn’t just a good horror movie it’s secretly one of the best Zombie-not-a-Zombie Movies made.
Various people attend the premiere of a new movie at the newly restored Metropol theater in Berlin (which is dubbing for some American cities … or maybe not maybe it is Berlin?). Each is given a golden ticket. That golden ticket is straight to Hell as the movie has an effect on the various patrons of the theatre turning them into demons. The theatergoers attempt to try to escape this theater and the various nightmarish imps. Heads and other various body parts are literally bitten and torn from torsos with demonic glee.
Most Bava films are never about the plot. Demons does really make a damn bit of sense but no matter because it makes sense “cinematically”. Mood, music, visuals, sex, violence, and drugs all mix together in the way only an Italian genre film can. Bava directs the film like he was directing a perfume-style ad for the gateways to hell. Everything is designed to be beautiful and a sheen of artifice that by the time the movie screen in the theater and the movie itself sync up you don’t question anything that’s happening … it just does.
Demons is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Most people will not understand what the allure is of watching in extreme closeup the mangling and ripping out of throats or the transformation of humans into demons. It doesn’t mean that Demons is bad. It just means it isn’t your cup of tea. For those who do love that kind of horror and have never experienced the Bava classic: Take the ticket and enjoy the ride.
It’s blood and fun as the hell they’re depicting.
Let just say it. George Romero and Die Hard stole from this film. George, we expect. His relationship with producer Dario Argento and how they worked together to make the sort of cross-pollination inevitable. Argento probably laughed his ass off when he saw Land of the Dead (a great film you should see if you haven’t) which this film takes liberally from.
Basic non-plot, residents of a hi-tech high-rise apartment structure are attacked by a Television signal while watching a Demon/Zombie Movie (which is the sequel to the Demon/Zombie movie from the first film) only to become Demons themselves. The various residents fighting for their lives include a husband and pregnant wife, a businessman, a group of gym rats in a gym, and a girl (though she’s played by a thirty-year-old actress) having a birthday party and all of the attendees of said birthday party. All hell breaks loose as Videodrome… I mean the signal unleashes all manner of imps and demons. It all culminates in a Demons vs Humans standoff. Oh, yeah, and a demon baby whose screams are so blood-curdling you will have to turn down your home theater if you don’t have soundproofing.
Demons 2 has director Bava wanting to go further than he had in the last film but adding a huge dollop of humor to the gore. There’s a boldness to the FX and Make-up Work here that makes one feel like the intent was always to go big and grand. By default, making it more comedic. Either intentional or unintentional, one can never surmise with Italian Genre Films, the comedy is the difference needed in the sequel.
One only needs to witness the Gym Rats fend themselves against the demons is something that is both hilarious and frightening. Hilarious because these Gym Rats are Let’s Get Physical – inspired cast is in leotards, short shorts, lycra, and the united colors of neon Exercise fashion of the era. Frightening because these Let’s Get Physical – inspired cast are asked to do all their stunt work in leotards, short shorts, lycra, and the united colors of neon Exercise fashion of the era.
Like any good sequel Demons II manages to outdo its predecessor in just how loud, gory, funny, demented, and ultimately fun it can be. If you’re a new convert to Demons then Demons II will only reaffirm and deepen that love.
Note: The transfers for both films in this edition comes from a new 4K Transfer done of the original camera negative in 2020. There is a 4K UHD release with all the bells and whistles you come to expect on UHD discs (e.g. Dolby Vision, HDR10+).
Wow. Even on previous editions of Demons the transfer was good but never this good. The neon-soaked locations of Berlin shimmer off the screen. The image itself is a beautiful representation of the 35mm image shot by cinematographer Gianlorenzo Battaglia. Having the honor of seeing this film projected this (and its 4K UHD counterpart) are as close as one will get as to having the perfect repertory screening of a freshly minted 35mm print. The contrast and black levels have been upgraded by this new edition and give you a better definition of this film which primarily plays out at night in a darkened theater.
The wow can be doubled for the transfer done for Demons II. The upgrade/new 4K transfer from the original elements has benefited the sequel more than the original. Again, here as with the original, the image itself is a beautiful representation of the 35mm image shot by returning cinematographer Gianlorenzo Battaglia. The benefit and consequence are that because of the better contrast and black levels the “seams” can be seen on some of the puppet work and makeup work that “murkier” degeneration (of film prints) helped hide. Though one will gladly pay this price (it adds to the charm) to finally have the infamous “screaming baby demon” scene in pretty much perfect clarity.
They include the following;
DEMONS / Disc 1
- Two versions of the film: the full-length original cut in English and Italian, and the shorter U.S. version featuring alternate dubbing and sound effects
- New audio commentary by critics Kat Ellinger and Heather Drain, co-hosts of the Hell’s Belles podcast
- Audio commentary with director Lamberto Bava, SPFX artist Sergio Stivaletti, composer Claudio Simonetti and actress Geretta Geretta
- Produced by Dario Argento
- Dario’s Demon Days
- Defining an Era in Music
- Dario and Demons: Producing Monster Mayhem
- Splatter Stunt Rock
- Original theatrical trailer
- English international theatrical trailer
- U.S. theatrical trailer
DEMONS 2 / Disc 2
- Two versions of the film: the Italian version and the English Language Version
- New audio commentary by film critic Travis Crawford
- Together and Apart
- Creating Creature Carnage
- The ‘Demons’ Generation
- Screaming for a Sequel: The Delirious Legacy of DEMONS 2
- A Soundtrack for Splatter
- Original theatrical trailer
- English international theatrical trailer
DEMONS / Disc 1
The all-new commentary by Kat Ellinger and Heather Drain that begins with the fact that they’ve recorded the commentary 2-weeks into COVID lockdown. Some of the details include the state of Italian Genre Production when Demons is made and how the success helped the entire industry, the work and career of Lamberto Bava, the various visual movie ephemera, the film within a film that plays and details around the production of that, the production of the film in Berlin, Bava’s want to homage German Expressionism (the grandmother of Horror), the 80s hair metal band soundtrack, the self-awareness in the film and in horror in general, a discussion about heavy metal and how it related to Demons, the effective use of the heavy metal needle drops which shows care and understanding by Bava, the use of “splatstick” (aka the same sort of Horror/Gore/Comedy of the likes Dead Alive, The Evil Dead, and more), the intended trilogy for Demons and how that changed, how The Church is the official Demons 3 not Demons 3 or the multiple Demons 3 around the world, the use of color of the film, the difference between the Italian horror vs English language horror, the dream logic in most of the Italian horror, the subgenres Demons belongs to and how it was a response to Zombies in Italian horror, and much more. Ellinger and Drain have recorded a highly entertaining and thoroughly researched commentary track.
The second track is an archival track introduced by Mike Rose, Art Ettinger, and Mark Murray to the group track from director Lamberto Bava, SPFX artist Sergio Stivaletti, composer Claudio Simonetti and actress Geretta Geretta. Some of the details include how the project came together, the multiple hats worn by Michele Sovani (the masked man at the theater who was also the 2nd Unit Director), why the theatre was chosen in Germany and how they achieved the look, the casting of the film, the production of the film within the film, how the heavy metal soundtrack came to be, how they achieved some of the more striking FX work, how Bava constructed the screenplay, the success of Demons in Italy and abroad, how the film was the first film released in Dolby Stereo in Italy, the possibility of a remake, how Demons 2 isn’t a sequel but a different story, Dario Argento as a producer, and more. The primary commentators are the filmmakers and have a nice conversation about the production itself. In English and in Italian with English Subtitles.
Produced by Dario Argento (27:13) – is an all-new visual essay by author and critic Michael Mackenzie examining Dario Argento’s career as a producer. Starting with his origins as a critic, then screenwriter, director, and his iconic filmography then transitioning to his produced films and working in a TV series Door into Darkness as its host ala Hitchcock, his rise as a directing superstar and personality, producing Dawn of the Dead with George Romero, his separation from his father and brother (who produced his films), how this unleashed Argento to go wherever his fetishes wanted, also how this freed him up to be a producer on Demons and others, details about the production of both Demons film, the way this affected the films, the commercial consideration brought on his projects, the various directors he helped as producer, and more. This essay has some great behind-the-scenes photos, scenes from the various films Mackenzie discusses.
Dario’s Demon Days (10:30) – is an archival interview with writer/producer Dario Argento discussing how he came onto Demons as producer and his involvement. In Italian with English Subtitles.
Defining an Era in Music (9:34) – is an archival interview with composer Claudio Simonetti of Goblin fame. The composer discusses his contribution and how he produced the score with multiple synthesizers, working with Lamberto Bava and his working style, the style of the score and having to find that style, and more. In English.
Dario and his Demons Producing Monster Mayhem (15:52) – an archival interview with Dario Argento producing Demons and Demons 2, his collaboration with Lamberto Bava (who was second unit director a few Argento films), the makeup FX work, and much more. In Italian with English Subtitles.
Splatter Stunt Rock (9:13) – an archival interview with star Ottaviano Dell’Acqua. The actor discusses beginning his work in Italy with Fellini moving to Poliziotteschi and finally working with Bava on Demons, why he was cast in the film, the stunt work (a lot of which he did, crazily), his work in Germany as a stunt double, and more. In Italian with English Subtitles.
Original Italian theatrical trailer (2:09)
English international theatrical trailer (2:09)
U.S. theatrical trailer (1:32)
DEMONS 2 / Disc 2
The all-new commentary track by journalist and programmer Travis Crawford begins with his admission that it is one of the “strangest” Italian Horror Sequels which makes it one of the strangest films ever. Some of the details include the fact this isn’t really a direct sequel but a thematic one, the initial reception, the critical reappraisal, influences as wide as Dante’s Gremlins, Cronenberg and other films, an account of the productions of both films, the box office reception of both films, the stylistic changes made, the use of New Wave music, the score by Simon Boswell (taking over from Claudio Simonetti), an account director Lamberto Bava’s career and where he was during the production of both Demons and Demons 2, an account of Dario Argento’s produced films, a discussion of the 7 various Demons “sequels” including 3 part 3’s, the original setup for Bava’s Demons 3, and much more. Crawford brings a vast knowledge about Demons 2 but the entire series and Italian horror in general.
Together and Apart (26:36) – is an all-new visual essay on the space and technology in DEMONS and DEMONS 2 by author and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas. Heller-Nicolas does a great job of discussing the legacy and thematic of the first two of this legendary series, how the public and private space effects the first film, how this changes in Demons 2 with the use of TV, the similarities and differences between the two sequels, modern concerns that move in with the themes of these two films and much more.
Creating Creature Carnage (20:29) – is an archival interview with Makeup FX supervisor Sergio Stivaletti which opens with just how he got the job. Some of the details include how the FX work was achieved, the various aspects of what was required of him, the inspirations of other FX-heavy films at the time, and much more. In Italian with English Subtitles.
The ‘Demons’ Generation (34:50) – is an archival interview with the second Trainee Assistant Director/Second Assistant Director Roy Bava. Some of the details include that though uncredited he was working on Demons, this happened literally after high school, his interest in post-production, his love of the music, what he did on set, the different Bava directors, and how they approached direction and production, the various talents that both Mario and Lamberto had and worked on with on other Argento productions, learning about the filmmaking process early in life, working in Berlin, and much more.
Screaming for a Sequel: The Delirious Legacy of DEMONS 2 (15:59) – is an archival interview with director Lamberto Bava. Some of the details include his father preparing him for a future as a director, working with Dario Argento, working on Demons and Demons 2, how his script was developed and the idea he had, and more. In Italian with English Subtitles.
A Soundtrack for Splatter (27:08) – is an archival interview with composer Simon Boswell opens with how he got involved with Italian Popstars which lead to a chance encounter with Dario Argento which lead to his work on various projects including Demons 2. Some of the other details include Bava not being involved with the scoring, his work as music supervisor on the project changing the needle drops from Metal to New Wave, a specific now found out to be a racist popstar, and how they got his band’s song on the soundtrack, his only work in Rome being for Argento’s Phenomenon, the freedom both Bava and Argento afforded him, how his work brought him to the attention of Danny Boyle, Quentin Tarantino and others, and much more.
Original Italian theatrical trailer (2:56)
English international theatrical trailer (2:55)
The Final Thought
Demons and Demons 2 is a can’t miss release. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATIONS!!!