Monday, April 25, 2011


(1986; d- Lamberto Bava)
Given the infinite subjectivity of nightmares, there are countless moments throughout the history of the horror film which effectively evoke them. And sometimes it’s the movies themselves that strike a chord and, in essence, become our nightmares. When I think about my own bad dreams, I remember some of the worst of them had come at a very young age, when feelings of vulnerability were as pervasive as masked bogymen and flying monkeys.
My earliest recurring nightmare (which I still remember bits of to this day) was inspired by Cesar Romero’s “The Joker”, who’d mysteriously evolved into my own personal tormentor, the fiendish, dastardly Tickle Monster. There were many a dark night in which he’d creep into my room and hover above, toying with me at first, then getting down to the real business at hand--the wholesale brutalization of my tender belly and armpits.  Though I still get my share of real doozies, at least these days I'm able to catch a few winks without the fear of unsolicited groping from excitable clown-types.
There is a moment in DEMONS 2 in which the worst nightmares of childhood are not only effectively evoked, they’re essentially supplanted with a worse case scenario of kiddie-slumber dystopia.
Up to this point in the movie, the inhabitants of a modern high-rise apartment building in Berlin had already experienced enough untold terror to encompass half a dozen such gruesome Euro-horror oddities. But then again, DEMONS and it‘s sequel -- both of which were produced and co-scripted by Dario Argento and directed by Lamberto Bava -- are all about excess to the ‘nth, partly why they’re so well remembered and beloved to this day, despite their considerable indifference to coherence. As far as face-ripping monsters from Hell go, they’ve always occupied a special place in my heart of hearts.
The lovely Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, before and after the demon scourge.

As much as can be surmised by the action thus far, the preposterous, horrific phenomenon of the "demon" has once again taken hold, this time emerging from a TV set(!) during a teenage birthday party and wreaking unholy havoc on the conspicuously olive-toned residents of a downtown Berlin high-rise. And as for what we know of these ferocious humanoid creatures:
1. Demons multiply in number by spreading their “contagion” through their claws.  They also have very bad skin and display a certain proclivity for drooling.
2. They snarl and howl like vicious jungle beasts, thrash about wildly, and boy, do they fight dirty! So don’t mess with them…they’ll rip your nuts off clean through the drawstring sweats and tighty-whities you hide them in.
3. Wherever they turn up, the exits suddenly, inexplicably disappear, become bricked in and/or lock so that escape becomes all but impossible (except for the rooftop, as dictated by section 6c of the escape clause entitled, “There Is No Escape”, in both movies).
4. For reasons unbeknownst to anyone, both movies randomly deploy an impish mini-demon, though in DEMONS 2 they really amp it up with a gratuitous squeaking rascally puppet-demon, a rather flagrant grab at a younger demographic (milking the then-current “Gremlins” craze). I’m guessing the producers deliberated about ten seconds on this one. Hmmm....between all the throat-ripping gore and that elective castration, we’ll be needing something cute to keep all the small children occupied.
The nightmare “moment” mentioned earlier occurs soon after the demons begin their descent down the stairwell. By this point, they’ve overtaken most of the building’s occupants and are now heading to the basement parking garage, where a group of survivors have barricaded themselves in and are awaiting the final onslaught.
Realistically, the best they can hope for is a quick death. But as DEMONS fans know full well, it’s almost never that simple. In the bizarro parallel universe in which the demons reside, life is a bitch…and death is a motherfucker -- often accompanied by a litany of barbarous offenses.

And so the descent begins…

"They're coming!"

Crude barricades...check.

"Everybody behind the cars!  Defend youselves!  Defend yourselves!"

"Daddy, I'm so scared."  "Don't worry..."

Oh shit.

When your best man goes slack-jawed, hit the deck and pray for rain.

Young Asia Argento, mortified as Pops battles the odds.

But odds are...


And all hope is lost, an unavoidable truth we’re momentarily forced to wallow in.

As was still often the case in the mid-1980’s -- especially in the horror genre -- tongue-wagging bravado would trump any notion of nuance, restraint or idealism. And of course it was this excess, with slasher films in particular, that would work to ridicule and degrade the genre before the end of the decade, reducing horror for some time to an embarrassing niche market for adolescent boys. But for those kids who came of age during this time, it was all about conditioning and demand, and for some of us, very few horrors encapsulated the frenetic possibilities of that demand quite like the DEMONS.