• Demons 2 (Synapse Films)



    Released by: Synapse Films
    Released on: November 11th, 2014.
    Directors: Lamberto Bava
    Cast: David Edwin Knight, Nancy Brilli, Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, Asia Argento
    Year: 1986
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    The Movie:

    Once again directed by Lamberto Bava, the second Demons film takes the chaos and carnage out of the theater and into a fancy apartment building just as a TV station airs a film in which a group of intrepid teenagers head into a walled off area. Behind these walls are what’s left of the location that was the basis of the first movie, and while they simply want to poke around and look for remnants and maybe take a few photographs, some spilt blood soon awakens the evil that still haunts the grounds.

    As the movie plays out on TV, the inhabitants of the building are all doing their own thing. In one apartment a young woman named Sally (Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni) is having a birthday party with her friends. They’re eating cake and dancing around to The Smiths and having a great time. Nearby a pregnant woman named Hannah (Nancy Billi) and her husband George (David Edwin Knight) are relaxing and getting ready for their new arrival. A boy named Tommy (Davide Moretta) watches TV while he waits for his parents to come home while in yet another apartment a woman (Anita Bartolucci) just wants to relax with her dog. A prostitute (Virginia Byrant) services her client (Michele Mirabella) after being let in by the security guard (Lino Salemme) while next door a young woman named Ingrid (Asia Argento) watches TV with her mother and father (Luisa Passega and Antonio Cantafora). If that weren’t enough, on the lower level there’s a gym/fitness club where a trainer named Hank (Bobby Rhodes) is whipping his clients into shape.

    It’s safe to say that this building, equipped with bullet proof glass windows that won’t open, is a pretty busy place. So when a demon comes out of the TV and possesses birthday girl Sally and she attacks a bunch of her guests, things start to spread pretty quickly. Before you know it, the various groups of survivors are doing what they can to make it out of the building alive but soon enough all of the exits are barred and a whole lot of people are turning into otherworldly creatures with a penchant for blood, death and mayhem.

    Just as gooey and gory as the first entry, this one takes some sillier turns and, without wanting to head into spoiler territory, in one scene feels more like a Ghoulies movie (the first Ghoulies came out in 1985) or maybe even a Gremlins knock off than a Demons movie but with that said, this one holds up better than its reputation would have you believe. While it’s not as good as the first picture, it’s very well-paced and Bava does a pretty good job of creating some tension in a few scenes, maximizing the claustrophobic environment that the apartment building setting can provide. There are a few decent action and stunt sequences here, highlighted by a sequence in which a series of demons leap through a roaring fire in front of a door they’re trying to enter in order to catch their prey. It may not be realistic or particularly plausible but it makes for fun popcorn movie style entertainment.

    The cast are fun, the standout once again being Bobby Rhodes. He was great as the pimp in the first movie and here he’s just as good as the fitness trainer, belting out orders to his customers and taking charge like a drill sergeant as he and the survivors wind up trapped in the underground parking garage. He might not have a whole lot of range but he sure is fun to watch. Cataldi-Tassoni as Sally is a little irritating at first but once she turns, she’s good in her part, moving in a way that seems appropriately unnatural and doing a good job with the physicality required of her role. Nancy Billi is good as the pregnant woman seemingly in distress throughout pretty much the entire role and it’s fun to see a young Asia Argento make her acting debut here. Even if all she really does is run around and look terrified, at least she does it well. It’s also amusing to see Lino Salemme, who played Ripper in the first movie, return as a security guard this time around.

    This second film eschews the heavy metal that was used on the soundtrack for the first movie in favor of some (at the time) modern British pop music, so expect to hear The Smiths, Love And Rockets, Peter Murphy and a few others throughout the film. The actual score, composed by Simon Boswell, isn’t as good as Claudio Simonetti’s work on the original film but it suits the trashy eighties vibe that Bava has created for this sequel fittingly enough. Though the film goes for a crazier and more humorous approach than the noticeably darker original, Demons 2, while the lesser of the two pictures, is still a lot of fun.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    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 second 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 2arrives reissued on Blu-ray from Synapse Films as a mass market release using the same “a new HD scan of the original 35mm negative, in 1080p/23.98fps 1.66:1 aspect ratio.” Without getting too technical and out of our element here (see the link below to the Synapse site for a detailed explanation), this movie was shot on a film stock made by Kodak that was discontinued shortly after due to the fact that it resulted in a very dark and grainy picture quality. As such, the picture here is definitely grainier than on the first movie, that’s just how the elements are. Adding to that are a few problematic scenes where the picture shudders and vibrates up and down for a few scenes. This happens four times in the movie and this issue also stems back to the negative. In short, restoring Demons 2 was, by all accounts, a real bitch – but the results once again are noticeable. The colors here look much better than previous releases and the detail is also appreciably better. The color correction that has been done here has resulted in a very nice looking picture. Once again Bava plays with a lot of primary colors throughout the movie but detail and texture stay strong throughout. Black levels are great, shadow detail is impressive and there are no obvious issues with crush, compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction. There’s a little more print damage here than is visible on the first movie, but it’s hardly distracting and all in all, fans of Demons 2 should find a lot to like here.

    The only audio option on this disc is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo with removable subtitles available also in English. The quality of the English track sounds quite good here, there’s good depth and impressive range. The growls and grunts of the demons in the movie have some good power behind them, the low end is there but it doesn’t get muddy like it could have. Dialogue stays clean and clear and easy to follow and there aren’t any noticeable issues with any hiss or distortion. The levels are nicely balanced on both tracks and the movie sounds very good here. The Italian language track that was included on the steelbook release has not been ported over to this disc.

    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.

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


    The Final Word:

    Demons 2 isn’t as good as the first movie but it’s still a fair bit of fun and much of what made the original picture makes this one work too – impressive makeup effects, great music, quality gore and some nice camerawork. Bava keeps the pace moving quickly and while this gets more than a little bit silly at times, but don’t let that dissuade you, this is a fun ninety minutes. Synapse once again offers the movie up in an impressive HD transfer and rock solid audio. A nice low cost alternative to the fancier steelbook releases that came out last year.

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