The original Demons is an all-star film of Italian horror, combining talents of director Lamberto Bava, writer Dardano Sacchetti and producer Dario Argento to create an anarchic blast of heavy metal, cocaine inside Coca-Cola cans, samurai swords, motorcycles, falling helicopters, steel masked killers and demons popping out of peoples’ backs. It was so successful that it outgrossed Cat’s Eye, Silver Bullet and A Nightmare on Elm Street in its native Italy.
However, over the next ten years, there would be so many sequels — like multiple third installments — that it makes it difficult to know what’s going on. This is my attempt at telling you about these films and clearing up their connections or lack thereof.
Demons: The original film, directed by Lamberto Bava with an assist by Michele Soavi, produced by Dario Argento, with a script by Bava, Argento, Franco Ferrini and Dardano Sacchetti, takes place in a movie theater that slowly transforms into a tomb as the undead begin to take over the Earth.
This film is packed with not just music from genre favorite Claudio Simonetti, but also Billy Idol, Accept, Motley Crue, Saxon and, perhaps more surprisingly, Rick Springfield and Go West. It feels like a punch in the face, as if it’s saying, “Are you upset about how gory horror films have gotten? You haven’t seen anything yet!”
Geretta Geretta’s turn as Rosemary pretty much cemented her as an Italian horror star. Plus, Bobby Rhodes makes one hell of a pimp, Paola Cozzo from A Cat in the Brain and Demonia shows up and Nicoletta Elmi from Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein, Baron Blood, A Bay of Blood and Who Saw Her Die? plays Ingrid the usherette.
Demons 2: This sequel, from pretty much the same team and with most of the same actors, takes place in a high rise. It was released seven months later and really toned down the amount of violence that the original shoved in your face.
The demons from the original, this time to invade the real world through a television broadcast, transforming the inhabitants of an apartment building into bloodthirsty monsters. It’s also the debut film of Asia Argento.
The music in this one moves away from the heavy metal of its predecessor, with Simon Boswell creating the soundtrack and populating it with bands like The Smiths, Gene Loves Jezebel, The Cult, Fields of the Nephilim, Art of Noise, Peter Murphy, Love and Rockets and Dead Can Dance.
Demons 3: The Ogre: A 1989 made-for-TV horror film directed by Bava and written by Dardano Sacchetti as part of a four-movie series called Brivido Giallo (Yellow Thrill), the story for this movie is incredibly similar to another Sacchetti script, The House by the Cemetery. To be fair, Fulci did alter that script and Bava was originally considered to direct it. The writer would explain that the story was “part of [his] poetics regarding home and children: a recurring theme which I have explored several times with different shades, but also with assonances.”
To make things even more confounding, this movie was also released as Ghosthouse II, with the original Ghosthouse known in Italy as La Casa 3. Man, who knew I’d end up explaining how Evil Dead and House are tied in to the Demons universe. What magical copyright laws Italian filmmakers enjoy.
What the hell — here’s a quick break down on the La Casa films:
- La Casa: This is the Italian name for Evil Dead.
- La Casa 2: Evil Dead 2
- La Casa 3: Ghosthouse
- La Casa 4: Witchery
- La Casa 5: Beyond Darkness
- La Casa 6: House II: The Second Story (which is unrelated to the original, so if you’re confused, you’re not the only one!)
- La Casa 7: The Horror Show (which was sold as House II in some markets and House III and The Horror Show in the U.S.!)
So wait…what is House called in Italy? Chi è Sepolto in Quella Casa, which means Who Is Buried In That House? House IV, the only movie in that American series that is tied to the original, is known as House IV – Presenze Impalpabili in Italy, which means impalpable presences.
Co-written by written by Lenzi and his wife Olga Pehar, this film would find the director clash with actor Keith Van Hoven and considering his female star, Sonia Curtis, as too plain for the part, leading to him treating her badly for the entire filming.
There was, however, another movie that was going to be called Demoni 3…
The Church: Although it was originally conceived as the third installment in the Demoni series, director Michele Soavi wanted this movie to be a more sophisticated movie. Referring to the other films in this series as “pizza schlock,” this movie would be the end of Soavi’s professional relationship with Argento (however, they somehow still worked together on 1991’s The Sect).
At one point, this movie was going to be called Ritorno alla Casa Dei Demoni (Return to the House of the Demons), to be written by Franco Ferrini and Dardano Sacchetti. The story would be about an airplane has to make an emergency landing on an island that would be a weird hell, with Sacchetti comparing the film to Alien.
However, Argento would later state that The Church “was never Demons 3. Nobody but Lamberto ever wanted to make Demons 3; I didn’t want it, the studio didn’t want it, nobody wanted it.”
Soavi, who was shocked that Bava had left the project after so much work, came back to it after he finished Stage Fright. The director made some changes to the script, including a new opening scene that was inspired by Conan the Barbarian.
The score for this one comes from Keith Emerson, Philip Glass and Fabio Pignatelli, who is credited as Goblin.
Demons 4 (AKA La Secta / The Sect / The Devil’s Daughter): Produced and co-written by Dario Argento, this Michele Soavi-directed movie was Jamie Lee Curtis’s sister Kelly, Herbert Lom and a rabbit that has somehow learned how to use a remote control. It’s also a bafflingly insane and awesome flick about a cult that has been chasing Curtis’s character for decades and determined to use her to create the Antichrist.
Again — it has nothing at all to do with any of the other Demons films.
Demons 5: The Devil’s Veil (AKA The Mask of the Demon / Mask of Satan): Lamberto finally decides to remake or make a homage to his father’s Black Sunday with skiers. Go figure — Soavi shows up in a cameo here as a doomed winter sports enthusiast. If you like witches who have had masks nailed to their faces with the legs of a chicken — literally, with claws — then allow me to introduce you to this — you guessed it — Demoni movie that has nothing at all to do with the other films in this series.
This is probably the sexiest of the series if by sexy I mean that you enjoy a witch getting naked and making her young breasts suddenly age while the hero watches in fear. It has some great effects in it, however, and it’s the only snowbound movie amongst all of these films.
Demons 6 De Profundis/Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat: Not only does this movie have those titles, it was nearly called De Profundis (From The Deep) and is also sometimes referred to as Demons 6: Armageddon and Dead Eyes.
Even stranger, this Luigi Cozzi movie is a spiritual sequel to Suspiria and Inferno, while taking place in a world where Suspiria is just a movie. There’s also lots of puke, gore, Caroline Munro and a battle between a witch and the film’s heroine that has lasers, because we all know how much Cozzi loves his lasers.
So wait — where does the Black Cat come in? Well, after 21st Century acquired the distribution rights, CEO Menahem Golan — you know, the dude from Cannon — asked Cozzi to add new footage of black cats. That’s because Golan — the creator of The Apple — had already pre-sold the film as one of his many Poe adaptions.
I love everything about this ridiculous movie.
Demons ’95 (AKA Dellamorte Dellamore / Cemetery Man): Michele Soavi to the director’s chair again, this time for a movie that has nothing to do with any of the Demons film universe, other than perhaps the fact that its director was the man in the steel mask in the original.
Soavi’s film portends a new golden age for Italian horror, yet it was made at the very end of its power. It’s sad — it seems like the director has left behind so many frightening and fantastic things that need to be said. However, I’m happy to report that after nursing a sick son and working in television, he has returned to movie directing, most recently with The Legend of Christmas Witch.
There you go. The whole tale of the Demoni films. Just remember — if you get offered a trip to a voodoo plantation or a job offer in a cemetery or tickets to a movie from a man in a steel mask, just say no.
If you’re a TL: DR kind of person, just watch Joe Bob Briggs explain it all.