Demons (1985)

They will make cemeteries their cathedrals and the cities will be your tombs. With that line, you know that what you’re about to watch better be the most mind-blowing horror film possible. Good news — Demons is all of that and then some, the kind of movie that has everything that I watch movies for.

I can’t be silent or still while it runs, growing more excited by every moment. It is the perfect synthesis of 1980’s gore and heavy metal, presented with no characterization or character growth whatsoever. It’s always the most awesome movie you will ever watch.

This is an all-star film, if you consider Italian 80’s horror creators to be all-stars. There’s Lamberto Bava directing and doing special effects, Dario Argento producing, a script written by Bava, Argento, Franco Ferrini (Once Upon a Time in AmericaPhenomena) and Dardano Sacchetti (every single Italian horror film that was ever awesome…a short list includes A Bay of BloodShockThe Beyond1990: The Bronx WarriorsBlastfighterHands of Steel and so many more), and assistant director and acting from Michele Soavi.

The movie starts on the Berlin subway, where Cheryl is pursued by a silver masked man (Soavi) who hands her tickets to see a movie at the Metropol. She brings along her friend Kathy (Paola Cozzo from A Cat in the Brain and Demonia) and they soon meet two boys, George (Urbano Barberini, Gor, Opera) and Ken.

The masked man has brought all manner of folks to the theater: a blind man and his daughter and some interesting couples, including a boyfriend and girlfriend, an older married one and Tony the pimp and his girls, one of whom is Shocking Dark‘s Geretta Giancarlo. As they wait for the movie to begin, a steel mask in the lobby scratches her.

The movie that unspools — a slasher about teenagers who disturb the final resting place of Nostradamus — also has that very same steel mask. When it touches anyone in the movie, they turn murderous. At the very same time, one of the prostitutes scratches herself in the bathroom and her face erupts into pus and reveals a demon. From here on out, the movie becomes one long action sequence, as the other prostitute transforms into a demon in front of the entire audience.

Meanwhile, four punks do cocaine in a Coke can and break in, releasing a demon into the city as the rest of the movie audience attempt to escape and are killed one by one. Only George and Cheryl survive, as our hero uses a sword and motorcycle to attack the demons before a helicopter crashes through the roof. But then the masked man attacks them!

I’m not going to ruin the rest of the movie, only to say that even the credits offer no safety in the world of Demons. And oh yeah — Giovanni Frezza (Bob from House by the Cemetery) shows up!

Look for Argento’s daughter Fiore as Angela and Ingrid the usherette is played by Nicoletta Elmi, who was the baron’s daughter in Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein, as well as appearing in  Baron BloodA Bay of Blood and Who Saw Her Die?

This is but the first of a series of movies with the title Demons. I can’t do justice to the twists and turns of how that all works. Instead, I turn to the master, Joe Bob Briggs.

Demons is ridiculous. Pure goop and gore mixed with power chords, samurai swords, punk rockers and even a Billy Idol song which had to blow the budget. It also looks gorgeous — filled with practical effects, gorgeous film stock and amazing colors, no doubt the influence of Bava’s father. The scene where the yellow-eyed demons emerge from the blue blackness is everything horror movies should be.

This doesn’t just have my highest recommendation. It earns my scorn if you haven’t seen it yet!

You can grab the Synapse blu ray or DVD at Diabolik DVD or watch it on Shudder, which offers versions with and without Joe Bob Briggs commentary.

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