• Demons (Synapse Films)

    Released by: Synapse Films
    Released on: November, 2013.
    Director: Lamberto Bava
    Cast: Urbano Barberini, Natasha Hovey, Karl Zinny, Paolo Cozzo, Geretta Geretta
    Year: 1985
    Purchase From Synapse Films

    The Movie:

    Directed by Lamberto Bava in 1985, Demons is set in Berlin where a beautiful young woman named Cheryl (Natasha Hovey) is approached by a strange man (Michele Soavi) with a metal mask covering half of his face. He hands her a free ticket to a show happening at the new Metropol Theater, a massive building with a neon sign that lights up like a beacon in the night. She takes the flyer and goes on her way and then meets up with her friend, Kathy (Paolo Cozzo). Since they don’t have anything else going on, they decide they’ll skip their night calss and take in that show. Innocently enough, they head off to the theater for an evening’s entertainment.

    As the two girls and the rest of the attendees enter the theater, it becomes apparent that there’s a weird mix of people out for this mystery movie. An old man named Werner (Alex Serra) and his young wife Liz (Sally Day) are here as is a surly pimp (Bobby Rhodes) and two of his prostitutes. Some teenagers are in the audience, as are a few older couples, and then there are George (Urbano Barberini) and Ken (Karl Zinny), two college guys who see Cheryl and Kathy as prospects for a good time.

    On her way into the theater, one of the prostitutes, Rosemary (Geretta Geretta), walks up to a display where he sees a silver mask. She puts it on and cuts herself, but it’s just a little nick, surely nothing to worry about. As everyone gets seated in the auditorium the movie begins and wouldn’t you know, it’s a movie about a horde of bloodthirsty demons. As our cut victim gets up and heads to the restroom, noticing that her wound is still bleeding, it bursts into a nasty boil as she transforms into a demon that looks an awful lot like the monsters the audience is seeing up there on the screen. Her friend comes looking for her but gets bit and she too turns. From here on out, the two demons head into the theater and begin slowly but surely slaughtering their way through the crowd. The action in the theater mixes with the action on the screen and those who soon realize what’s actually happening find themselves locked inside the theater in a fight to survive. Meanwhile, a quartet of punks are driving around in a car doing coke. When the cops stop them, they split and head for the nearest hiding spot... which just so happens to be the Metropol.

    Demons takes about twenty to twenty-five minutes to get going, pretty much using everything up to Rosemary’s trip to the bathroom is setup and once her boil lets loose a shower of disgusting yellow goop? Game on. This is not a deep movie nor is it particularly thought provoking. It’s not even really all that scary – but it is gory and it is gross and it is a lot of fun. To the picture’s credit, it’s quite nicely shot. There are some moments of decent atmosphere and the makeup effects on display, courtesy of Sergio Stivaletti, are top notch. As Rosemary infects her friend and they in turn infect a whole bunch of other attendees, what happens in the theater more and more mimics the ‘movie within a movie’ showing on the screen.

    Everything happens very quickly here. There’s little in the way of character development as most of the cast are introduced quickly enough really just to serve as cannon fodder but the cast are fun here. Logic is thrown out the window in favor of splatter but if you go into this one with the right expectations, it’s fun. Very much a product of its time, the score (composed by Goblin’s Claudio Simonetti) suits the insanity well and there are some impressive moments that show off great stunt choreography. The fancy theater makes for a great setting for a horror movie so architecture buffs will appreciate the little details in the décor used as the backdrop for the carnage. At times it feels a little bit like Night Of The Living Dead, what with a group of survivors stuck in a singular location and surrounded by hordes of monsters, but where Romero goes for tension and smart scares, Bava opts for splatter. It’s a fine approach, just not as clever an approach. At the same time, you never get the impression that Bava’s trying to do much more than take us on the tried and true ‘cinematic roller coaster ride’ and if you approach the movie on that level, it works. This is, after all, a movie where a man rides a motorcycle through a movie theater, up stairs and over chairs, wielding a sword with a hot chick hanging onto his back. And that's a very good thing indeed.


    Note: In the interests of full disclosure, this review is based on a check disc of a 50GB Blu-ray disc sent from Synapse Films. By all accounts, it should represent finished product. Note that the finished version will include a steelbook package and a DVD version as well.

    Demons arrives on Blu-ray from Synapse Films in “a new HD scan of the original 35mm negative, in 1080p/23.98fps 1.66:1 aspect ratio.” How does this transfer shape up? In a word, it’s outstanding. The color reproduction here is gorgeous. Demons is a ridiculously colorful film heavy with imposing primary shades bathing much of the action in red and yellow. It’s also a fairly dark film, given its primary location. These types of visual characteristics are the type of thing that can prove to be tricky on home video but Synapse got this right. Shadow detail is very strong even in the darker scenes, there’s no obvious crush here nor are there any compression artifacts to note. The colors look gorgeous, the reds are warm and almost sickly but they don’t really dominate the other shades that are worked into the image. The detail here is also great, just check out the close up shots showing the faces of the possessed characters, you can really get a feel for the slimy feel that Bava was going for here. This transfer is fantastic.

    Audio options on this disc include the original Italian Language Stereo mix, the ‘International’ stereo alternate dub mix and the original U.S. English language mono mix, each presented in DTS-HD format. There are removable subtitles provided in English only for all three language tracks that are specific to those tracks.

    Clarity is great across the board for each of the three tracks. Given that previous releases of the film omitted the English stereo mix from the ‘International Version’ having it here is quite a coup for fans. There are some noticeable differences between this track and the English mono track, not the least of which is that certain characters are dubbed by different voice actors. The two mixes are completely different and the English mono mix actually sounds a little better to this writer’s ears than the stereo track does, but both have their merits. The quality of the Italian track is more or less the same in that regardless of which option you choose you’re going to notice that the dialogue is crisp and clear, the score sounds excellent, the effects are appropriately gooey and squishy and that the levels are properly balanced. There aren’t any problems with any hiss or distortion, the movie sounds great.

    If you’re interested in learning more about what went into the technical side of getting this release right, check out this article on the Synapse website here. It’s a lengthy read but it sheds some interesting light on what went into the video and the audio presentation and the attention to detail required when trying to give a film like this the ‘definitive’ presentation.

    The extras on the disc kick off with an audio commentary courtesy of moderators Mike Baronas (of Paura Productions), Art Ettinger (of Ultra Violent Magazine) and Mark Murray (of Cult Collectibles) who lead a chat with director Lamberto Bava, make-up effects artist Sergio Stivaletti, musician/composer Claudio Simonetti and actress Geretta Geretta. This track, presented in Italian with English subtitles, is pretty informative. Bava has a bit more to say than the rest of the participants, no surprise there, as he covers Argento’s involvement in the film, the contributions of his cast and crew and what it was like working on the picture. Stivaletti and Simonetti obviously cover their contributions, effects and music respectively, while Geretta, who stars as Rosemary, is the lone participant to have worked in front of the camera, offering up some insight into what it was like acting in the production. They talk about the use of heavy metal music in the movie and how that came to be and also discuss what was shot in Berlin verus what was shot on a sound stage in Rome. Interestingly enough,
    Geretta notes that her charcter actually doesn't die and could be brought back for a sequel. At one point Bava mentions that the movie could take place in any decade, only the cars featured outside indicating that this is an eighties film. The fashions on display and the music used would probably disagree with him but he makes an interesting point. They also go into some detail about how the helicopter scene towards the end was shot using a real helicopter without any engine equipped with a fake blade. It's a fairly busy track, some good information is here and it's a fun listen.

    Director Lamberto Bava is interviewed in the half hour Carnage At The Cinema: Lamberto Bava And His Splatter Masterpiece featurette. Here the man behind the movie talks about where the inspiration for the story came from, how Argento came onboard as producer, and how an idea that was originally shopped to Luciano Martino wound up turning into this project. He discusses the involvement of Dardano Sachetti, how they tried to give the demons in the movie some humanity, the complexities of shooting a movie in a then divided Berlin, and how sometimes you need to have a certain drive to make a really gruesome horror movie. He also talks about Argento brought Stivaletti on to do the effects, the importance of getting the right lighting and about the reception that the movie got when it played theatrically.

    Additionally, be sure to check out Dario And His Demons: Producing Monster Mayhem, which is an all new never before seen sixteen minute interview with Demons’ producer, Dario Argento. He notes that it was tough getting the screen play right but once he did that Bava worked ‘like he was in a trance.’ He then discusses the importance of giving the directors of the films that he produces their freedom so that their personalities come through, how he started initially working with some of the people involved in this project, his personal passion for horror movies, shooting in Germany, the worldwide success of the movie and the importance of the money that Italian TV companies can offer filmmakers.

    Luigi Cozzi also gets a half an hour in the spotlight here with a segment entitled Monstrous Memories. Here he shares some stories about Dario’s producing style, the costs involved in making films in Italy around this time, the trust that both director and producer had in Sachetti as a screenwriter, and the different sequels that were spun off of the success of the original Demons film (ie. The Black Cat becomes Demons 6 in Japan). He also spends some time sharing his thoughts on the film as well as on Demons 2, formulas in horror films, Soavi’s film The Church and quite a bit more.

    After that, there’s a seventeen minute piece called Profondo Jones: The Critical Perspective, which is an interview with film scholar Alan Jones. Here the author of the book Profondo Argento offers up some basic history of the first two movies, his thoughts on Lamberto Bava as a director, and the influence that Argento had on this picture by being on set the entire time it was being made. From there he offers up some comments on what he likes about the movie and what he feels is successful about the picture, calling out the quality of the effects in the film and more.

    Also quite interesting is the last interview which is a nine minute interview with Stunt Man Ottaviano Dell’Acqua entitled Splatter Stunt Rock. He starts off by talking about how he got into working in films and then goes on to note the importance of the Italian cop/action movies of the seventies and eighties. He then talks about his work on Demons, working with Freddy Unger, and some of the challenges that arose shooting inside an old theater late into the night. He notes his appreciation of Argento but also states that he could be ‘quite demanding’ and he talks about working with Bava and Stivaletti as well before finishing up with some thoughts on the boom years of Italian genre cinema.

    International and U.S. theatrical trailers are included as are animated menus and chapter selection. All of the extras are presented in high definition.

    The Final Word:

    Goofy gory fun, this new Blu-ray release of Lamberto Bava’s Demons from Synapse Films is great. The extras are comprehensive and plentiful and the audio and video presentation top notch. This limited edition steelbook release isn’t cheap, but it’s obvious that a whole lot of work went into making it happen, which should take the sting out of it for those on the fence. A really fantastic package overall.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. VinceP's Avatar
      VinceP -
      Wow, those screenshots look great.
    1. Jimmy Simard's Avatar
      Jimmy Simard -
      Just rewatch my old Anchor Bay DVD of it (and Demons 2 also) today. I sure hope they will release a regular blu-ray when all the limited steelbook will be sold. I love those films and the screen captures are stunning, but the cost is just too high for my budget.