Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Review: Demons (1985) and Demons II (1986)

A couple of older films for the blog today, and the lovely people at Arrow video are releasing the two Lamberto Bava horror films from the eighties, Demons (1985) and Demons II (1986) on limited edition UHD 4K blu-ray. The films are notable as being produced by Dario Argento, and with music by Claudio Simonette (keyboardist from the band Goblin, who scored Argento's masterpiece Suspiria and Dawn of the Dead among others, and Simonette has also scored many other films under his own name). 

Of the two films, Demons is the better - not surprising as this tends to mostly be the case where sequels of diminishing effectiveness are produced following a successful initial movie.

There's a lot to like about Demons. It starts with something of a nod to films like Deathline and, indeed, Suspiria to an extent, where a lone woman, Cheryl (Natasha Hovey), finds herself in an underground station in Berlin. She makes her way out of the deserted place, seemingly hunted by a creep in a mask (Michele Soavi) ... but said creep turns out to be promoting a new movie theatre, the Metropol, in town and is handing out free tickets.

Thus Cheryl, along with her friend Kathy (Paola Cozzo), and two boys they meet, George (Urbano Barberini) and Ken (Karl Zinny), attend the film. A mask is hanging on a motorcycle display in the foyer and one of the other attendees, a prostitute called Rosemary (Geretta Giancarlo), scratches her face on it before going in to watch the film.

The film they watch tells the tale of a group of kids who discover a coffin belonging to Nostradamus, one of them scratches himself on an identical mask found in the coffin, and he then transforms into a bloodthirsty demon and slaughters all his friends.

Meanwhile in the theatre, Rosemary feels ill and heads to the bathroom, where she transforms into a bloodthirsty demon and starts slaughtering those at the film show, transforming them into demons as she does so. There then follows action and gore and transformations galore as George and Cheryl try to escape unscathed ...

It's a fun film, and certainly superior to much of the comparable fare at the time - indeed many of them have also been released by Arrow over the years! This new print is clear and looks as good as new, and it's eye-opening how much watching a decent print improves the viewing experience.

Demons II follows a similar path, but makes much less sense. It's set in a tower block where some kids are trying to have a party. The party girl, Sally (Coralina Cataldi Tassoni), locks herself away as she doesn't want to meet someone called Jacob who has arrived unexpectedly, and ends up watching a film on television where a group of kids are investigating a ruined city - or perhaps the destroyed movie theatre from the first film. One of the movie kids revives one of the dead demons by dripping blood into its mouth, and before you know it, all the demons are coming back to life and attacking the kids. One comes through the TV screen at Sally and infects her, and soon the whole tower block is infested with demons killing and transforming everyone else. Their blood seems to be like acid as well, and burns holes through the floors and ceilings! Shades of Alien!

In what seems to be a completely different and better film entirely, another group from the tower's gym manage to escape down into the underground car park where they barricade themselves in and try to escape while all around them the demons rage and attack. There's also something about a demon baby which appears, and also a couple (George (David Knight) and Hannah (Nancy Brilli)) who are expecting a child - she eventually gives birth in a television studio nearby ...

As mentioned, the sequel makes little sense. With the first film there's a tenuous logic that the mask scratches Rosemary which causes her to transform and kill/convert everyone into demons. But the film they are watching (apart from featuring the same mask) has nothing to do with the real life events. In the second, the cause of the demonic uprising seems to be the movie on television - and no explanation is given as to how or why one of the things can come out of the TV to infect Sally. Likewise there's a lot of running about and screaming and demon effects which take up screen time but don't really achieve much with regards to the plot. 

I liked the stuff with the gym people - very eighties with muscle men and girls in hi-cut leotards and leg warmers - as they at least seemed to have a plan and a plot progression about them. But the whole thing ends with a whimper ... a shame as the original film concluded somewhat differently.

Perhaps it would have been better if they had made Demons II as a carry-on sequel from the first film ... but this was not to be. And see if you can spot Asia Argento (Dario's daughter) playing Ingrid Haller somewhere in the second film ... I'm not sure I knew which girl she was!

Overall these two films have a firm place in horror history, they are entertaining and, for the most part, watchable examples of eighties horror fare coming out of the Italian Giallo scene.


  • Brand new 4K restoration of both films by Arrow Films from the original camera negatives
  • 4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray™ presentations of both films in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible)
  • Limited edition packaging featuring newly commissioned artwork by Adam Rabalais
  • Limited edition 60-page booklet featuring new writing by Roberto Curti, Rachael Nisbet and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
  • Double-sided fold-out poster
  • Exclusive mystery sneak preview movie ticket (admits one to the Metropol Theatre)


  • Two versions of the film: the full-length original cut in Italian and English, and the slightly trimmed US cut, featuring alternate dubbing and sound effects
  • Brand new lossless English and Italian 5.1 audio tracks on the original cut
  • Original lossless English and Italian 2.0 stereo audio tracks on the original cut
  • Original lossless English 1.0 mono audio track on the US cut
  • Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for both English soundtracks
  • New audio commentary by critics Kat Ellinger and Heather Drain, co-hosts of the Hell’s Bells podcast
  • Archival audio commentary by director Lamberto Bava and special makeup effects artist Sergio Stivaletti, moderated by journalist Loris Curci
  • Archival audio commentary by Lamberto Bava, Sergio Stivaletti, composer Claudio Simonetti and actress Geretta Geretta
  • Produced by Dario Argento, a new visual essay by author and critic Michael Mackenzie exploring the legendary filmmaker’s career as a producer
  • 'Dario’s Demon Days', an archival interview with writer/producer Dario Argento
  • 'Defining an Era in Music', an archival interview with Claudio Simonetti
  • 'Splatter Spaghetti Style', an archival interview with long-time Argento collaborator Luigi Cozzi
  • Italian theatrical trailer
  • International English theatrical trailer
  • US theatrical trailer


  • Brand new lossless English and Italian 5.1 audio tracks
  • Original lossless English and Italian 2.0 stereo audio tracks
  • Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
  • New audio commentary by critic Travis Crawford
  • Archival audio commentary by director Lamberto Bava and special makeup effects artist Sergio Stivaletti, moderated by journalist Loris Curci
  • 'Together and Apart', a new visual essay on space and technology in Demons and Demons 2 by author and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
  • 'Creating Creature Carnage', an archival interview with Sergio Stivaletti
  • 'Bava to Bava', an archival interview with Luigi Cozzi on the history of Italian horror
  • Italian theatrical trailer
  • English theatrical trailer

Friday, January 01, 2021

Review: The Vigil (2019)

It's an interesting sign of a good film, that even a couple of weeks after seeing it (Christmas got in the way of writing this review!) I still have good memories of it ... but saying that, it's hard to recall any specific details of the plot - except the final scene which I appreciated the subtlety of ...

The film's basic concept is simple: a young Jewish man is persuaded by a friend to watch over the body of one of the community who has died. This is a tradition and the 'watcher' is called 'Shomer' ... in this case, there's a very real need for this watch as the dead man was possessed by a mazik - a malevolent entity - and it's next target is Yakov unless he can avoid it.

The film is a standout role for Dave Davis as Yakov, and he brings a vulnerability to the part as he sits and watches and remembers his own life, as the mazik postures and tricks to try and unseat him. There's some good jump scares too, and the overall soundtrack and sound design is excellent. But perhaps the film relies too much on these, rather than developing it's own set of scares.

As mentioned, one of my favourite elements is the very last shot ... and it's hard to discuss it without giving things away ... but when it comes, apart from wondering why we're holding on an out of focus image, concentrate on the doorway to the house ... it's a nicely creepy coda to the preceding film!

There's an element of Grudge-like retribution too as Yakov's girlfriend (Malky Goldman) gets 'taken' by the demon and it seems to infest the lives of the dead Mr Litvak (Ronald Cohen) and his wife (Lynn Cohen).

Certainly one to seek out and watch, and a very promising debut from the director Keith Thomas.