• Demons (Synapse Films)

    Released by: Synapse Films
    Released on: November 11th, 2014.
    Directors: Lamberto Bava
    Cast: Urbano Barberini, Natasha Hovey, Karl Zinny, Paolo Cozzo, Geretta Geretta
    Year: 1985
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    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 (Michael 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 class 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 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.

    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 screen wielding a sword with a hot chick hanging onto his back.


    Note: Last year Synapse previously released Demons and Demons 2 as limited edition steelbook releases stacked with extra features. You can read a review of the steelbook release of the first film here if you want to know more about that. When the steelbook releases were announced, lots of people squawked and bickered about the price, and they weren’t cheap – but they were really nice releases. This new release is a low cost alternative to that earlier offering.

    Demons arrives reissued on Blu-ray from Synapse Films as a mass market release using the same “ new HD scan of the original 35mm negative, in 1080p/23.98fps 1.66:1 aspect ratio” that was used for that steelbook release. 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.

    Audio options on this disc include 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 both 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. That steelbook release included the Italian audio track as well, but that’s not been ported over to this disc.

    Extras on the disc are limited to a theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Goofy gory fun, this new Blu-ray release of Lamberto Bava’s Demons from Synapse Films is great. If you’re looking for extras, get yourself a copy of the steelbook release while you still can. Otherwise, the audio and video presentation top notch here and this is a really nice (and much more affordable) barebones alternative for those who want it.

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

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      I've got the Arrow two-discer but I've ordered a copy of Synapse's release of the first film, just for the 'international' stereo sound mix, which is the one I grew up with. (I wonder why the Italian track has been removed - is it because this standalone release is on a single-layer disc, do you know, Ian?)

      I'm on the fence about getting Synapse's DEMONS 2 disc - not a great film, but a fun one and also a nostalgic picture for me (and I guess, most of us here). I'd like the stereo mix and the richer palette seems attractive, but I'm not so sure about the harsher contrast - at least, in the grabs I've seen. (That's not a criticism, btw: I'm sure the disc looks great in motion.) Plus I think this one works better in Italian, and Synapse' standalone release doesn't contain the Italian track. I'll probably end up getting it after Christmas, when cash is less 'tight'; but it's not an 'essential' purchase for me, at least for the time being. The first film's where my money's at, thanks to the inclusion of the 'international' sound mix.
    1. Lalala76's Avatar
      Lalala76 -
      Never bought the Arrow or the Synapse steelbooks. Have this and Demons 2 on the way.