• Demonia (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: June 26th, 2020.
    Director: Lucio Fulci
    Cast: Brett Halsey, Meg Register, Lino Salemme, Christina Engelhardt, Al Cliver
    Year: 1990
    Purchase From Severin Films

    Demonia – Movie Review:

    Picture it… Sicily, 1486. It’s here that Demonia, one of Lucio Fulci’s latest films, opens with a lengthy intro wherein a quintet of nuns are attacked and then crucified underneath their convent in a large cave by the townsfolk that live nearby. Why? Because the villagers suspect the nuns of witchcraft, of course! This opening connects to a dream by Liza (Meg Register), a modern day archeologist in 1990 who, after conducting some sort of odd séance, heads to a dig. Here, along with Professor Evans (Brett Halsey), she and a team begin work at a dig in the very area where the killing of the nuns took place those many years back. A couple of the locals, Turi (Lino Salemme) and Porter (Al Cliver), warn our team to quit it, but of course, they don’t listen.

    As the dig continues, Liza herself is the one to uncover the remains of the nuns, much to the dismay of Evans who had warned her to take it easy with all of this. After their skeletons are removed from their resting place, Liza gets in touch with a medium named Lilla (Carla Cassola) to learn more about what the nuns were really up to all those years ago. Liza splits, and Lilla is promptly eaten by her cats! From there, weird things start to occur and, a short time later, Turi is killed and then a man gets torn in half. Inspector Carter (Fulci himself) starts poking around, suspecting Evans of committing the murders. Liza, meanwhile, becomes increasingly obsessed not just with the history of this place and the dark events that took place there, but with the strange goings on as well, all while the locals in the nearby village let old superstitions overtake them.

    Demonia is never going to go down in history as Fulci’s finest moment but it’s one of the better films from his later period. It starts off quite strong, the opening sequence where the nuns are killed is fairly well done and it segues into the bizarre séance film rather well, setting an interesting mood and grabbing our attention. From there, the movie slows down a bit and does suffer from some pacing issues during the middle stretch, only to pick up again towards the finale. This never quite conjures up the same sort of atmosphere that his better gothic pictures do, but it’s clear that the director was at least trying this time around, and if the film is more than a little inconsistent there are moments where the movie does shine.

    Performances are… dicey. Not great, really, but those who have gorged themselves on European cult and horror pictures over the years won’t be too taken aback by this, the quality of the dubbing being a big part of the issue here. Still, it’s fun to see Fulci regulars like Al Cliver and Bretty Halsey show up in the movie and it’s never a bad thing when Lino Salemme (Ripper from Demons!) shows up in a movie.

    Demonia – Blu-ray Review:

    Severin Films brings Demonia to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen taken from a new 4k scan of the negative that was ‘color corrected and restored during quarantine’ and taking up 24GBs of space on a 50GB disc. This is a bit of a tricky film in that it has a hazy look, often times takes place in dark interiors and has, overall, a soft look to it. Still, detail here rises quite a bit higher than the past DVD edition did, considerably more so in close up shots which can often times look very good. Compression artifacts do appear but the image is in pretty nice shape, showing very little in terms of print damage, dirt or debris and boasting pretty nice color reproduction.

    Audio options are offered up in English and Italian language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 tracks, with optional subtitles provided in English for both options. Both tracks are dubbed but the Italian track sounds a little less goofy than the English track does. Both are balanced well enough and free of any noticeable hiss or distortion.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary from Stephen Thrower, the author of Beyond Terror: The Films Of Lucio Fulci. He talks here about how the director was quite prolific during this later period comeback, where he got the funding for some of these later period films, the history of The Spanish Inquisition and its influence on this particular film, Fulci’s use of Halsey in this and other films as well as biographical details of his life and times, good and bad qualities of the script and the finished product, the light and dark aspects of certain characters in the film, how the film makes use of occasional uses of humor, the locations that were used and how the film was possibly shot without permits in areas that contained real skeletons, money problems that arose during the shoot, how a local priest thought the film blasphemous and asked that the locals not cooperate, inaccuracies in the depiction of archeological practices in the film, what it was like on set and Fulci’s temperament during the shoot, Fulci’s cameo in the film and plenty more.

    Featurettes include an interview with uncredited Assistant Director and co-writer Antonio Tentori entitled Holy Demons that was conducted over Skype. Here, over thirty-three-minutes, Tentori speaks in subtitled Italian about how he became with Fulci’s films in his younger days, seeing many of them theatrically in Italy, and how he came to meet him in 1986 when working on a radio show where Fulci was a guest. He then talks about how he came to work with him on Demonia, what it was like on set, working with the different cast and crew members, collaborating on Cat In The Brain, the film’s use of Satanic nuns, tensions in town during the making of the film, similarities that exist between Demonia and Aenigma, his thoughts on the quality of the film and some of the specific scenes in the picture and how he was able to learn a lot from a man that he looked up to.

    Camera Operator and longtime Fulci collaborator Sandro Grossi is also interviewed here in a piece entitled Of Skulls And Bones. In this fifteen-minute piece he speaks in subtitled Italian about how he's been passionate about cinema since he was a kid, which inspired him to get into the business and start working as a camera operator. He talks about being inspired by Barry Lyndon, the schooling and training that he received, getting to know Fulci when his wife worked on City Of The Living Dead and then himself collaborating with him on Demonia and a few other projects like Sweet House Of Horrors and The House Of Clocks. He details the low budget nature of some of these productions, what it was like working with Fulci and how they developed a friendship (describing him as a 'bulldozer'), what it was like on the set of Demonia, the locations used, the lighting in the picture, some of the camera tricks he employed in the and how Fulci, unlike most directors, was able to tackle pretty much every genre.

    Carried over from the previous DVD release from Shriek Show is Fulci Lives, the on-set interview conducted with the late Lucio Fulci. This four-minute piece, shot on VHS, talking to the interviewers about the films he had been making during this later period in his career.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is a theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection. This release also comes packaged with a slipcover and a Severin Films catalogue included inside the black Blu-ray case.

    Demonia – The Final Word:

    Demonia isn’t going to go down in history as Fulci’s best but it’s a decent enough later-era entry in his filmography. Severin Films has brought the film to Blu-ray in a nice special edition release with a solid presentation and a nice selection of extra features that document the films interesting history.

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