I’m not sure what’s scarier: the fact that Demons is often hailed as Lamberto Bava‘s masterpiece or the fact that Lamberto Bava has a masterpiece at all.
Lamberto is the son of Italian legend Mario Bava and if nothing else, he should be recognized for not letting a lack of talent get in the way of his drive to make movies. Once his dad died, Lamberto was free to begin cranking out awful movies in earnest. So it was that we were witnesses to Monster Shark, A Blade In The Dark, and Delirium, all films that serve only to make us appreciate the relatively painless experience that Demons is.
Thankfully, Bava doesn’t waste a bunch of time setting the story up. It’s a frigging demon invasion! What more do I need to know? There’s no reason to suffer through much in the way of character development or dialogue that gives us pointless backstory for people that are just going to have their heads ripped off by demons in twenty-five minutes!
The set up merely consists of a strange guy in a half-mask of metal who gives some chick free passes to a movie theater in town and she and her friend go to the movie that night. What passes for bickering takes all of about thirty seconds and involves her friend whining that she hopes it isn’t a horror movie. She obviously didn’t realize that her free ticket was handed to her by Michele Soavi who made Dellamort Dellamore, The Church, and Stage Fright!
In one of those surreal moments that you only get in bad Italian horror movies, the free movie that everyone is watching turns out to be a bad Italian horror movie! We’ve sort of seen this gimmick at least once before in Andrea Bianchi’s Massacre, but that was a case of a giallo taking place on the movie set of a bad Italian horror movie. It’s even more absurd in this case because the movie they’re watching is something that you could have sworn that Bava or Lucio Fulci would have made for Italian TV late in their careers!
It involves a group of young people messing around in some tombs looking for Nostradamus’ resting place, finding it, breaking a seal, and locating a book and a silver mask. This would be the same silver mask that was on display in the front of the movie theater! And the same silver mask that one of the hoochies puts on and cuts herself with!
In the movie that is being watched in our movie, one of the characters puts the mask on, cuts himself, and turns into a bloodthirsty demon. Needless to say, the same thing happens to the hoochie and once she turns into a full blown demon with claws and gooey face, it doesn’t take some genius long to announce breathlessly that what’s happening in the movie theater is what’s happening in the movie!
Once the demon takes over the body of the first hoochie, the movie wastes little time in infecting everyone else the same way. The movie follows a few people as they attempt to escape the onslaught, but the theater isn’t letting anyone out and the doors disappear and even escaping into the air conditioning ducts doesn’t help.
Ultimately it comes down to our original gal and her new boyfriend against the rest of the moviegoers. There’s a sequence that comes off much sillier than Bava surely intended as the guy hops on a motorcycle and grabs a samurai sword (both were being used as part of the theater decor for some reason) and starts motoring up and down the seats hacking and slashing his way through the demons that are running amok. He even manages to pick up his gal pal for some riding action before finally laying his bike down in a heap.
It doesn’t really work, mainly because Bava just doesn’t seem to know how to stage and photograph action like that effectively. Bava’s efforts at using lighting (mainly red here) gives things a cheap and muddy look while the way he edits all the motorcycle action is so haphazard that you don’t get the sort of rush you should from it. This guy is cruising around on a motorcycle with a sword and whacking monsters with it! This should be the coolest part of the movie! It just comes off as disjointed.
Bava knows though that before he loses you completely with his botched motorcycle scene, he can redeem himself by dropping a helicopter through the theater roof!
The people inside the helicopter have been slaughtered and now we know that the demon invasion has spread to the outside world threatening civilization itself! And all because of a bad horror movie! The demons give that movie two big thumbs up your human ass!
The first rule of making watchable bad movies is followed pretty well by Bava in this one: keep things moving. The musical score with various heavy metal songs as well as some pulsating numbers by Claudio Simonetti, keep the viewer from dozing off and Bava wisely doesn’t skimp on the splatter, providing a few eyebrow raising moments as liquid spews here and there and teeth and fingernails fall out now and again.
Nothing makes any sense, but since when did all hell breaking loose need to be logical? As long as you’ve got icky-looking monsters trying to tear up and eat people and you’ve got people trying to stab and shoot the monsters, I’m willing to substantially suspend my disbelief.
© 2014 MonsterHunter