DVD Review: Demons 1 & 2 0 91

Demons 1 and 2 DVD

After more than a quarter of a century since the release of both Demons and its sequel Demons 2 (or Demoni and Demoni 2 to use the original Italian-language names) they have finally been released on special edition DVD and Blu-ray. Fully restored and remastered straight from the original prints the releases are available via Arrow Video, who make it their mission to highlight and celebrate cult films by giving them special home releases.

MOVIES

For those who are fans of the films already then this is your chance to experience them in a far superior format – with dramatically improved picture and sound. By nature of the time and budget of when they were made then they didn’t look pristine to begin with, but you’ll be glad to hear the restoration is very good, or as good as you can get from such movies.

The first Demons is the superior of the two mainly because of its killer premise: A group of people are invited by a mysterious masked stranger to a special movie screening. They think they are safe sitting in their seats because, after all, it’s just movie, right? Wrong. Suddenly all hell breaks loose when the world of the demons on-screen becomes a reality within the cinema when one of the patron gets infected and transforms into one of the monsters. The survivors of the initial onslaught then have to battle the demons and try to escape to the building which unbeknownst to them has been barricaded.

I smell a remake…

Demons screenshot

Demons definitely sits as part of the schlocky horror movies the ’80s was famous for, with all the hammy acting and ridiculousness that goes along with that. But where Demons stands head and shoulders above a lot of other similar movies is in the make-up effects and the sheer sense of “hyper-terror” it conveys. Created by Sergio Stivaletti, the make-up effects – with the exception of a few details here and there – are truly fantastic in their goriness and absolutely stand the test of time. They’re the kind of effects that are horrifying but at the same time you can’t help but stare at them – whether it be a man getting his throat ripped open or one of the demons grotesquely transforming, it’s hard not to be mesmerized by the craftsmanship on display.

The plot of Demons 2 switches from the cinema to a simple apartment building (much less of a hook), and this time the world of the demons transcends out of a regular TV screen and into the normal lives of an unsuspecting group of residents and party-goers.

Demons 2 isn’t quite at the level of the first one, suffering from a more generic storyline, and if anything the ridiculousness hurts the film where it didn’t the first time around. However, the impressive make-up effects are still to be found here and this time around things are stepped up a notch in that department. One sequence in particular involves a demon climbing out of the TV as a mesmerized woman stares on and it’s quite a sight to behold, let me tell you. Apparently it was done with practical effects and if that’s true then it’s even more impressive because of how much it emulates CGI.

demons 2

EXTRAS

The main attraction for fans of the movies with this release, out with actually watching the movies themselves, is the fact that you get a comic book entitled Demons 3, a different format sequel/prequel to the first two movies.

It is the 16th Century, the time of the plague in Southern France. Amid the carnage, a new evil is starting to take form and only Nostradamus can see it. Are his horrifying visions of the future signs of what will come to pass? Can he stop the demons from taking over the world? Demons 3 is an all-new epic tale of demonic decapitation written by Stefan Hutchinson and Barry Keating, with artwork by Jeff Zornow and Peter Fielding.

As an extra bonus on top of the Demons 3 comic you also get interchangeable cover artwork for both movies which is a nice touch for the avid collectors out there.

Demons DVD Extra Features

  • Audio recollections of director Lamberto Bava, Special Make-Up Creations Artist Sergio Stivaletti and Journalist Loris Curci
  • Audio recollections of the cast and crew, a brand new commentary [2011]
  • Dario’s Demon Days: Producer Dario Argento discusses the inception of Demons
  • Defining an Era in Music: Composer Claudio Simonetti on the Demons Soundtrack
  • Luigi Cozzi’s Top Italian Terrors: Cozzi discusses the highpoints of Spaghetti Splatter

Demons 2 DVD Extra Features

  • The audio recollections of director Lamberto Bava, Mechanical Creations & Transformation Artist Sergio Stivaletti and Journalist Loris Curci
  • Creating Creature Carnage: Extensive Interview with makeup man Sergio Stivaletti
  • Bava to Bava: Luigi Cozzi tracks the history of the Italian horror film; from Riccardo Freda and Mario Bava to the end of the golden age with Michele Soavi and Lamberto Bava as well as considering recent Italian horror films.

The interviews are mainly your generic talking heads style with footage spliced in between. While the various related folks discussing the movies in retrospect is interesting, it nonetheless would have been nice to get some more in-depth making of stuff, particular in relation to the special make-up effects. To be fair such footage may not even exist but something more than just talking heads interviews would have added a bit more to an otherwise great double release.

Demons 1 and 2 DVD

As a double-bill of over-the-top ’80s horror you’d be hard pressed to find a more fun schlocky ride. Whether you’re a long-time fan looking to revisit or you’re a newcomer looking to experience them for the first time, this re-release offers the best possible opportunity while adding some solid extras to back it up.

Demons & Demons 2 are available now separately on DVD and Blu-ray as well as part of a Steelbook combo pack. Order from Amazon.

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I’m a freelance film reviewer and blogger with over 10 years of experience writing for various different reputable online and print publications. In addition to my running, editing and writing for Thoughts On Film, I am also the film critic for The National, the newspaper that supports an independent Scotland, covering the weekly film releases, film festivals and film-related features.

I have a passion for all types of cinema, and have a particular love for foreign language film, especially South Korean and Japanese cinema. Favourite films include The Big Lebowski, Pulp Fiction and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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Movie Review: Home Again 0 420

This review was previously published at The National.

Despite an obviously talented leading lady in Reese Witherspoon and a family pedigree behind the camera in making this sort of rom-com flutter sweetly off the screen, Home Again struggles to finds its way out of cloying cliché and narrative contrivance.

This is the directorial debut of Hallie Myers-Shyer, daughter of genre stalwart Nancy Meyers (The Holiday, What Women Want). It focuses on the life of Alice Kinney (Witherspoon), a single mum who has just turned 40 and tries her best to raise her two daughters Isabel (Lola Flanery) and Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield) in Los Angeles with her job as an interior decorator.

Freshly separated from her British music mogul husband Austen (Michael Sheen), she embarks on a drunken birthday night celebration that leads to her meeting a trio of 20-something lads – Harry (Pico Alexander), George (Jon Rudnitsky) and Teddy (Nat Wolff) – who are trying their best to break into the Hollywood movie business.

The young men improbably end up staying in Alice’s guest house while they work on finishing the script for their first film. Before long they become an integral part of her life, from Alice embarking on a romantic relationship with Harry to George helping out Isabel with her school play. To quote the title of the director’s mother’s 2009 film – it’s complicated.

Except the film mistakes the kind of enjoyably frothy complexity exemplified by the best of the genre for skin-clawing convolution that renders much of the romantic and comedically-tinged drama of Alice’s life lacking in authenticity. Not that it needs the ring of truth that comes with, say, a Ken Loach picture but you need to be able to invest and believe in these characters’ lives as presented.

The approach to gender and generational relationships is simplistic which, of course, is nothing new to a genre that, at least in its Hollywoodized state, so often throws up films meant to be taken as easy-going fluff. But it’s particularly frustrating here when it squanders the potential thrown up with the initial concept of a woman trying to find herself again once she’s out of a stale relationship by entering into one with a much younger man.

It strangely seems far more interested in the plight of the three young men working as three cogs of one creative machine – director/producer, writer and actor – to get ahead in the movie business.  But even then it smacks of implausibility, like a cheap rom-com version of the bromance found in Entourage but without any of the snarky wit or Hollywood satire. Despite decent chemistry between a likeable assembled cast, Home Again is a tough pill to swallow as it rings false through and through.

3.5 out of 10

Movie Review: Goodbye Christopher Robin 0 452

This review was previously published at The National.

The world of celebrated children’s author A. A. Milne and the creation of his beloved Winnie the Pooh stories are chronicled in this frightfully polite biopic from director Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn) that flirts with dipping its toes into darker waters but steadfastly clings to safe tropes and always with its top button firmly fastened.

We start off in 1941 where we find an ageing Milne (Domhnall Gleeson in questionable make-up and greyed hair) and his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) living on their secluded East Sussex farm. They receive a telegram informing them that their son, C.R. Milne, is missing presumed dead after heading off to fight in World War Two.

We then jump back in time to Milne on the front lines of the First World War. He returns from the fighting a changed man; suffering from PTSD (popped balloons evoking sudden gunfire et al.), becoming increasingly sick of just making people laugh with his West End plays and the general hustle-bustle that comes with big city life.

He convinces his reluctant wife to move to the country for some peace and quiet and where his infant son, Christopher Robin (played by Will Tilston at the younger age, Alex Lawther as he gets older), can go on the childhood adventures he deserves with the support of loving nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald).

Settling into the kind of serene life he craves, he is inspired to create Winnie the Pooh and the rest of his soon-to-be-beloved friends inspired by the stuffed animals with which his young son has become so enamoured. Unfortunately for Christopher – referred to by everyone as “Billy Moon” – his father uses his real name in the stories, turning him into one of the most famous boys in the nation.

Despite the obvious attraction of it exploring the world famous Pooh stories, it’s a film much more interested in the effect it has on a fractured family clinging on to peacefulness, not least the unwanted attention thrust upon a young boy who simply isn’t equipped to handle it and how his parents carry on oblivious.

If anything it takes a curiously bleak outlook on what these stories mean to the world once they’ve been put out there, conveying a somewhat confusing message for a film that ultimately wants us to celebrate these stories as immortally cherished tales; that the Winnie the Pooh embraced immediately by the public and has now stood the test of time for almost a century is in some way missing the point of what it truly means to the author and a son who, inadvertently or not, was used as a tool of innocence to sell the idea of an idyllic childhood in Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood.

It’s bolstered by almost uniformly moving performances; Gleeson plays Milne with a kind of damaged empathy that makes you feel like you get to know the author beyond the public persona. Macdonald is oftentimes heart-breaking as Christopher’s devoted caregiver and Tilston walks away with the film as the adorably sweet-natured young Christopher. It’s only with Robbie that the film makes a misstep; she’s miscast as Milne’s wife and never stepping out of the shadow of cold motherly cliché.

In spite of its darker leanings, the film remains too buttoned up to properly wrestle with those themes in any sort of lasting way, far too polite to ever dive head first into the murky waters into which the drama intermittently peers.

Wrapped in Ben Smithard’s handsomely old-fashioned cinematography and soaked in Carter Burwell’s perpetually swelling score, it’s an aesthetically and emotionally appealing but nevertheless fairly vanilla period biopic best suited to being enjoyed on a rainy Sunday afternoon with tea and biscuits.

6.5 out of 10