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Demoni: A Review of Lamberto Bava’s Film

Demoni poster

Demons (Demoni), which was released in 1985, is a rip-roaring good horror movie for those of us who like blood, gore and not a whole lot more. Lamberto Bava, the son of famed horror film director, Mario Bava, directed co-wrote this film along with Dario Argento, another giallo superstar. Dario also produced Demoni. In the film, Hannah, played by Dario’s daughter, Fiore – who is a shoe designer these days – receives a free pass to a film. She gets the pass from a weird guy dressed in black and wearing some sort of metallic mask.

Hannah persuades her friend, Cheryl (Natasha Hovey), to skip a class – they’re students in West Berlin – and go to the film with her. Cheryl says she hopes it’s not a horror film. Poor Cheryl.

The girls head over to the Metropol, a huge black theater house. The ticket taker (Nicolletta Elmi) seems to know something that no one else does. She has an almost sinister feel to her. Once they get into the lobby, you see other people there. There’s a blind man and his wife or daughter. The relationship’s not entirely clear – although it is clear that she serves as his eyes. We also have a pimp named Tony (Bobby Rhodes) and two of his ‘girls’. Rounding out the group are a young teenage couple, a husband and wife – the husband tells his wife that this ‘free’ film is their anniversary present – and two attractive young men, George (Urbano Barberini) and Ken (Karl Zinny). Ken and George gravitate towards Hannah and Cheryl – naturally.

Before the movie starts, one of the pimp’s girls, an African-American with Rick-James hair and complete 80s gear, grabs a mask from a display in the lobby and puts it on her face. The display also has a motorcycle and a sword. These pieces of information are obviously going to be important later.

The film starts. It is definitely a horror movie. Cheryl is not happy. Hannah apologizes to her friend. It’s about a group of youngsters who are searching for Nostradamus’ grave. They find a mask. The mask makes one young man start to bleed. Almost immediately, the hooker who put the mask on her face touches her skin. She’s still bleeding. She goes to the ladies’ room to fix her face. Then, she turns into a demon. It’s a grotesque transformation.

At the same time, the film shows the transformation of one of its own into a demon. The film and real life are parallel. This is one of the conventions which may seem pretty stock or cliche to some; but, to me, it worked very well. It was a nice touch. A film within a film almost.

The other hooker tells the pimp she’s going off to check on her friend. She goes into the ladies’ room and discovers that her friend is now a demon. The pretty, dark-haired hooker gets her throat and neck slashed by her former friend. She runs into the theater; but, ends up behind the screen. She’s watching the film and freaking out because it seems so similar to real life.

Cheryl, who hates horror films, swears she hears something coming from behind the screen. No one pays her much mind until the bleeding prostitute falls out from behind the screen. There is some major fear in the room at this time.

People take off and start running. There’s another demon on the loose. She kills the blind man’s eyes and her lover. They took off to make out in the back of the theater, behind some curtains. Another woman gets offed in a side room that may have been used as a dressing room at some point.

The pimp, Tony, leads a crew to the projection room. They are being aided by the usherette, who I thought was a part of the conspiracy. Unfortunately, there seems to be no conspiracy. If there is – she doesn’t know about it. She’s scared too.

They find that there is no projectionist. They wanted to stop the film. It’s all mechanical so Tony destroys the machines. However, this doesn’t stop the demons. Oh Tony – you silly pimp. Once the demons are out, there’s no stopping them – or is there?

At around this time, we are led outside to the streets of West Berlin where a group of 4 coke-addicted youngsters are driving around aimlessly. I thought these were the saviors of the people in the Metropol. Alas, it was not meant to be. They do enter the theater – as they’re running away from the cops. They let a demon loose into the streets of West Berlin. She takes another victim – one of the cops, right outside the theater. Uh-oh! A demon is on the loose in Berlin. This can’t end well, can it?

Meanwhile, inside – the four cokeheads meet their ends and become demoni too. More people die. At one point, the women who was the eyes for the blind man has a demon pop out of her back. She was dead by then, of course. This demon gouges out the eyes of the blind man. Very symbolic!

This film does not lack for gore. At one point, another demon vomits all over a young girl. There’s blood, guts and all sorts of really cool stuff.

There’s even the formulaic stupidity of the soon-to-be victims. First, they run all over the movie theater. They try to get out but can’t break down the walls or find an alternate exit. Then, they get the brilliant idea to block themselves in by breaking apart the seats in the balcony area. Yeah – everyone knows that demons can’t cut through wood!

At some point, there are more demons than people. George and Hannah remain the last two. After watching their friends Ken and Cheryl turn, they realize they have to do something; or, they’ll be next. Okay! Ken helps them before he dies. He brings them back to the display with the motorcycle, mask and sword. He tells George to kill him with the sword so as to save him from becoming a demon.

Uh-huh. Light dawns on marble head.

George named after the Germanic saint who slayed dragons is now going to save the day – well, at least, Hannah, right? He takes on hundreds of demons with just a sword and motorcycle. Then, there is help from above. Somehow a helicopter crashes and lands in the middle of the movie theater.

Oh yes, folks. I didn’t make this stuff up – Lamberto Bava and Dario Argento did.

Hannah and George try to get the helicopter to work. They can’t. Instead, they climb through the roof and to freedom. At the top, they see the full moon and the man who started it all – the one who gave them their free passes. Yes, he reappears mysteriously. George kills him too – and it’s gory.

They’re not done yet, folks. George and Hannah must get to safety while being chased by demons. Oh yes! There are demons in West Berlin. All over now.

Somehow they make it to a jeep with people. A father and his two children. We think that everything is okay, right? George and Hannah are going to freedom, to the countryside. No. Hannah must not have wanted to do Demons 2. She turns into a demon too and is thrown from the jeep. The end.

I have to say that this film is rip-roaring good fun. Its plot is thin at best; but, it is very enjoyable. It’s a lark. Sort of like junk food for the mind. It has an impressive soundtrack full of 80s New Wave and metal. It’s certainly worth at least a rental if not the purchase.

If you’re a horror film lover, you’ve got to see this film. If not, skip it! You won’t get the point.

By Deanna Couras Goodson

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