Another Nine Nights of Argento #1 – “Demons” (1985)

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Here we go again! For my third annual Halloween trek through horror master Dario Argento‘s frightful filmography, I’m glopping through a gory grab bag of the Giallo madman’s screenplays, TV work, and other obscure treats.

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Having covered every single theatrical film directed by Dario Argento (excluding his 1971 “comedy” The Five Days) and still at least a year away from the release of his crowd-funded Iggy Pop vehicle The Sandman, I find myself digging deep to find nine whole films to cover for this year’s Argento feature. As Filmbalaya co-founder Adam Cuttler pointed out, this is kind of the last year I’ll be able to do this, as I’ve now seen nearly everything in the robust Argento canon, which is a notion far scarier than any of the films I’ll be covering this year.

Which brings us to 1985’s Demons, directed by Lamberto Bava, son of the great Mario Bava. The last time I saw Demons, I was a freshman in college, seizing those 86-minute spans when my roommate was away to indulge in my latest sicko procurement from my Netflix DVD queue without question. All I really remember about it was that it was essentially Evil Dead in a movie theater and (SPOILER) a helicopter unexpectedly crashes through the roof at one point.

Now that I’m able to watch Demons within the greater context of co-writer Argento’s body of work, I can finally appreciate it for the Giallo trash-masterpiece that it is.

After a quick setup that locks a bunch of punk misfits and hilarious stereotypes into a musty old movie theater playing an uncanny horror flick about demonic possession that becomes a horrifying reality, it’s pretty much balls-to-the-wall 80’s splatter horror from there until the end credits. Eyeballs are gouged, throats are slashed, and a dude drives his motorcycle up and down the aisles while slicing up demons with a samurai sword. Did I mention a helicopter crashes through the roof?

While Demons essentially runs on the same “strangers stuck in a house” plot engine as Night of the Living Dead, this film has little to do with George A. Romero‘s high-minded brand of satirical horror and everything to do with Argento’s on-the-nose style. This is not a movie about the “demons” inside us. It’s about flesh-eating DEMONS ripping people’s asses in two. It’s also about a motherfucking helicopter crashing through a motherfucking roof.

It goes without saying that this doesn’t feel much like the work of Argento, but more like Bava, that is to say a wild and crazy pre-cursor to the splatter epics of young Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson. Add to the mix a perfect 80’s soundtrack featuring a synthy score by Claudio Simonetti and the musical stylings of Billy Idol, Rick Springfield, Saxon, and Mötley Crue, Demons is the perfect start to this year’s Argento adventure.

Also: a helicopter crashes through the roof in this movie and it’s awesome.

Next Up: DEMONS 2 (1986)

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Categories: Dario Argento, Director Spotlight, Features

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