Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Importantly, the director approaches the fantastic elements of the story with complete conviction throughout, making it easier for the viewer to accept them and focus on the action."

Ever since the Blob oozed out of a cinema screen in 1958, horror audiences have had a special awareness that what they see on celluloid may not be safely contained there. Lamberto Bava's Demons revived this tradition in the mid-Eighties with a gory flourish and sense of fun that quickly endeared it to fans. Though not among the best horror films of its era, it remains one of the most popular, and its simple plot makes it no less entertaining.

The film opens with Cheryl (Natasha Hovey) on the Berlin subway, looking rather prim and uncomfortable in her sensible sweater, surrounded by glamorous young punks and New Romantics looking forward to a great night out. When she gets off, she's followed by a masked stranger, inviting us to believe that, as in many a contemporary thriller, we're going to kick off with murder, but instead the stranger gives her a ticket to a special film screening - a ticket, so it would seem, to a more exciting life.

Copy picture

Together with a friend, Cheryl takes up the stranger's offer. They meet two young men in the lobby; she instantly connects with Goerge (Urbano Barberini). The crowd there is very mixed, from all ages and backgrounds. There are what appear to be props from the film on display. A sex worker tries one on for size but it scratches her face. Later, in the toilets, the scratch begins to ooze, and she transforms into a demon. Each person she attacks undergoes the same transformation, attacking others in turn. Discovering that all the exits from the cinema have been blocked, Cheryl and George must spend the rest of the night fighting them off.

Bava grew up with horror, his father Mario taking him to film sets when he was a child. By 1985 he had already made several moderately successful films, but Demons was his big breakthrough, making his name in English-language markets and introducing him to new audiences. Its ketchup-like blood effects may look rough today but they made a big impression in their time. Importantly, the director approaches the fantastic elements of the story with complete conviction throughout, making it easier for the viewer to accept them and focus on the action. The limited locations offered by the setting seems to inspire rather than limit him and, given the thin premise, he holds the viewer's attention well throughout.

There are numerous hidden references in this film which make it a treat for giallo fans. What really marks it out, though, is its sense of fun, with dark humour and even slapstick livening up what might otherwise be a depressing scenario. The tension grows towards the end and is gradually broadened by a sense of existential horror which recalls the best of George Romero's work. Meanwhile, Bava has great fun with the fashion and fripperies of the era, playing with the expectations set by American films.

Demons is a great ride, ostensibly silly but with a lot more darkness underneath the surface.

Reviewed on: 04 Nov 2017
Share this with others on...
Demons packshot
A group of people are trapped in a large West Berlin movie theater infected by ravenous demons whom proceed to kill and posses the humans one-by-one thereby multiplying their numbers.
Amazon link

Director: Lamberto Bava

Writer: Dardano Sacchetti, Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava, Franco Ferrini

Starring: Urbano Barberini, Natasha Hovey, Karl Zinny, Fiore Argento, Paola Cozzo, Fabiola Toledo, Nicoletta Elmi, Stelio Candelli, Nicole Tessier, Geretta Geretta, Bobby Rhodes, Guido Baldi, Bettina Ciampolini, Giuseppe Mauro Cruciano, Sally Day

Year: 1985

Runtime: 88 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Italy


Abertoir 2017

Search database:

Related Articles:

An evening with Lamberto Bava