I don’t really know anyone who fancies themselves to be a horror fan who doesn’t love the 1985 Italian horror masterpiece DEMONS. When I say masterpiece, I don’t mean in the vein of other more artful pieces such as Suspiria or Black Sabbath, although both of those films could be considered predecessors of this one, I mean more like Return of the Living Dead or Zombi.
DEMONS is an 80’s gore-fest from Lamberto Bava (son of Mario) and Dario Argento with a shitload of laugh-out-loud action (a bunch of movie punks snorting coke…from a Coke can, for example) and inexplicable set pieces (how in the hell did that helicopter just APPEAR). I’ve seen this film quite a few times, mostly with friends on VHS or DVD, but never in a theater. This kind of film is absolutely intended to see theatrically, as most good horror films are. It’s too big to be fully appreciated on (for example) a shitty 90’s cathode ray tv that you may have owned since you were eleven (that tv was lost to a fire, RIP).
Even more exciting for this particular screening of DEMONS was our host, Ted Geoghegan, director of one of my favorite horror films of recent years, We Are Still Here. His newest film Mohawk is coming to Netflix, and I’ll be watching that as soon as it does because I feel guilty for not seeing it in the theater as well. Anyway, Ted Geoghegan hosted this screening of DEMONSand has been one of the most entertaining hosts for one of these events so far. So, for the sake of putting you there in the theater with us, and also because I couldn’t do a better job than he did talking about this movie, I’m going to transcribe what Ted told all us lucky viewers before the film. If you haven’t seen the movie, first of all, who are you, some kind of unwashed heathen? Watch it NOW!! Secondly, you might not want to read this part if you do intend on seeing the movie and don’t want spoilers.
Okay, now, take it away, Ted!
Ted Geoghegan: Thank you for coming to this screening of DEMONS, one of my favorite Italian horror movies. I ultimately made a movie called Mohawk which I’m sure very few of you saw but it’s going to be on Netflix the 30th of this month so everybody watch it for free then, okay? But enough about me, I’m here to tell you about one of the greatest fucking movies of all time. I usually try not to have notes but I’m gonna try to spit out so much information tonight that I feel like I need this, otherwise I’m just going to be googling while talking to you guys.
Okay, so we’re starting out with the director of this film. The movie’s directed by Lamberto Bava. Lamberto is actually the son of Italian horror legend, Mario Bava. Mario had worked with Dario Argento toward the end of his (Bava’s) career, but the two had become very close friends and Dario Argento was like “Oh, your kid seems to like horror, what’s his deal?” and Mario Bava’s like “yeah, yeah Lamberto’s cool, you guys should work on something!” So, Dario had him (Lamberto) be the assistant director on ugh, it’s Tenebre, I was going to say Phenomena. So, he had him work on Tenebre with him and they totally hit it off and two years later, Tenebre was ’82, in ’84, Argento came to the younger Bava and was like “Yo, I got a really weird idea for a movie and I’m wondering if you want to work on it with me” and Lamberto’s like “yeah sure, that’s cool”. He (Bava) had just come off a super weird movie about a head in a refrigerator which I don’t know if any of you’ve seen, but it’s a beautiful, beautiful film about a head in a refrigerator and he (Argento) was like “It’s totally not a head in a refrigerator movie, it’s a movie about a bunch of badass crazy fucking people who end up in a movie theater that gets attacked by demons and all sorts of crazy shit happens” and Lamberto Bava was like “yeah, that sounds pretty cool. The plot sounds really, really simple” and Argento’s like “It’s absolutely not”. This movie is not complex, but it’s a movie about pimps and hookers and college kids and a blind guy who goes to a movie for some reason and one of my favorite little bits about this is there is a group of punk rock kids who actually do coke out of a coke can (told ya) which is the most 80’s thing that could possibly ever fucking happen in a movie.
So Lamberto’s like “Yeah, let’s write this thing up”. So Argento and he powered through a draft, it totally doesn’t work and he says “You know what, let’s just bring in another writer”. So they bring in another writer (and they say) “You know it’s almost there, our demons in a movie theater script is almost ready, let’s bring in a fourth writer on this fuckin movie”. So they brought in Dardano Sacchetti, Dardano Sacchetti had previously written a ton of Italian horror. He’s best remembered for writing House by the Cemetery for Lucio Fulci. There’ll be a Lucio Fulci House by the Cemetery call back in just a second when I get to that part.
So after they had the four writers, they think we finally got our weird everybody-trapped-in-a-movie-theater script ready. Let’s fuckin shoot this thing. They were like “Oh I’ve got a great idea, instead of making it in Italy like we do because we’re all Italians and we make Italian horror movies, let’s shoot this in Berlin” and they were like “WOW, what a terrible idea! And on top of that, let’s shoot the whole thing in English, even though most of the actors can’t speak English and if they can’t speak English that well, we’ll just dub them with American or British actors later, but you know, their lips will mostly match up” and for the most part they do.
All the exteriors of this film were shot in Berlin. The movie’s “set” in Berlin, I guess you could say. It uses the Berlin Metro station; the opening of the film is on the subways. The giant movie theater called The Metropol, it was actually a movie theater when they shot this in 1984. It’s now a gigantic nightclub that does a bunch of DEMONS-sponsored nights, which I’m like, determined to like give my left nut to go to one day. They’re apparently totally insane and they show the movie on all the walls there. But as soon as the characters step inside the theater, it becomes an abandoned movie theater in Rome, so they didn’t have to actually drag all the actors to Berlin, they actually just brought along four or five of them. You’ll be able to spot how few people actually go outside in this movie because those were the ones that were lucky enough to actually get the plane trip to Berlin. So, they shoot this thing in two different countries, there are a bunch of nods to the fact that they shot in both Italy and Germany. In the lobby of the movie theater, you’ll notice there’s two posters. One is for Argento’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet, which is an Italian horror film, the other one is for the remake of Nosferatu (directed by Werner Herzog), a German film so there’s a little Germany/Italy in the lobby.
The cast is headlined by Urbano Barberini, if there’s any Argento fans, he was the bad guy in Opera, which is one of my absolute favorite Argento films. He’s playing the sexy young college stud who’s unfortunately unaware of the fact that he’s about to fight a bunch of demons. And Natasha Hovey is phenomenal in this movie. She’s the one that the movie’s gonna start out with on the subway train. She retired from acting right after this movie. She was like “Apparently, I can’t make a movie better than this, so I’m just gonna stop” and Dario Argento’s oldest daughter, Fiore Argento’s in the film. She’s a couple of years older than Asia Argento who obviously became quite the big star, as to where Fiore did three or four films and was like “You know what? I’m also cool with retiring”. There is a weird looking man in a metal mask at the beginning of the film who’s handing out spooky tickets to go see a movie about demons, one of the film’s central antagonist, that’s actually Michele Soavi. Michele Soavi had worked with Argento previously on Phenomena and AD’d a bunch of films. He actually AD’d The Adventures of Baron Munchausen which I fucking loved. He had worked on a lot of movies. He very rarely acted so this is one of the few times where he decided to get behind a metal mask and be ridiculous. He later went on to direct one of the sequels to DEMONS, The Church. It’s technically Demons 3. He also went on to direct Dellamorte Dellamore, or Cemetery Man, which is absolutely one of the best Italian films if not one of the best horror films of all time. There’s also a cameo by Giovanni Frezza, to throw back…oh my god that actually got a clap, that’s amazing. Giovannia Frezza was a child actor, DEMONS was his last film, he also retired after DEMONS—God, everybody was like “You know what, this is it, I’m good, I don’t need to do anything else after DEMONS”. Giovanni Frezza, best known as the annoying little kid named Bob in House by the Cemetery (at this point in the regarding you can hear me groan “Oh God, no” because Jesus Christ that kid is annoying as all hell in that movie). If any of you saw House by the Cemetery here a few months ago, he’s like nails on a chalkboard. Thank God he’s only in the movie for like ten seconds at the very, very end of the film. So you get your little bit of Bob and the credits roll, so you’re good there.
You can’t talk about DEMONS without talking about the soundtrack. The film is composed by Claudio Simonetti of the band Goblin (here in the recording you can hear me whisper “yessssss” because Goblin rules). He had worked with Argento previously and he’s obviously a huge icon of Italian horror if not horror in general. When they were making this film, one of the ways they were able to secure the budget, they were like “you know what, we’re going to shoot this thing in English, we want to make sure this is a big hit in the states, we need as many English language bands as possible” and I don’t know what deal with the devil they made but the list of bands that are in this film is absolutely mind-boggling. It’s almost completely top-ten hits from the year 1983. The movie’s from 1985 so they’re like two-years-ago’s top-ten hits but it’s a wildly violent pus-and-blood-filled splatter movie and it has music from Motley Crue, Rick Springfield, Billy Idol—It’s got “White Wedding” in it, like how did they get “White Wedding” for this movie? It’s got Except, it’s got all these huge bands—huge bands at the time—and it’s really, really incredible that they were able to pull this off and because of that, when the film opened in Italy, everybody was like “Ah, you know this movie is fun, it’s silly, it’s everything we’re in the mood for”, but they were like “this thing is gonna slay in The States”.
It had one of the fastest turnarounds ever between opening in Italy and then opening in The U.S. It only opened a few weeks later, which is unheard of. One of the main reasons is because they didn’t have to dub it. So they threw this thing into theaters and it opened in New York, probably not far from here, and it was actually a huge hit in New York, it was a big hit in several other cities. The movie did moderate business. Most people were pretty happy with how it did, so much so that the producers of the film were like “Let’s make another one” and Demons 2 actually came out less than a year after the first one hit theaters. So in less than a year, they shot, edited, and put together this whole film. By then the heavy metal theme of this movie with all the heavy metal music was kind of wearing thin so the sequel was all like synth and new wave so it’s like the hottest synth bands of 1986. There’s like 20 bands in it and I think like 2 of them are moderately memorable. It’s a super-weird ultra-meta sequel. It is a direct sequel to this film. After that, they were like “You know what, these Demons movies are doing business, let’s just keep poppin’ ‘em out”. So they made The Church, which is also Demons 3 and at that point they were like “Does anyone have a movie that has a demon in it, anywhere?” and so people are just like, all these Italian guys are like (Italian accent) “yes, I have a movie right here!” and they’re like “Great! Demons 4! Anyone else got one? Demons 5, Demons 6, Demons 7.” So by the time Demons 7 came about everyone was like “These are fucking awful, what happened? The first two were really dope and then something went horribly wrong”. So everybody remembers this one with lots and lots of love, including myself, that’s why I like to ramble on and on about this amazing film. I’m gonna stop so you guys can watch one of the most amazing horror films of all time.
He then proceeded to ask some trivia questions that I knew the answers to but was not quick enough on the draw to get an awesome vinyl or CD copy of the DEMONS soundtrack. I’m really glad that Ted Geoghegan gave this awesome prelude to the film and I look forward to watching Mohawk on the 30th! I missed Weird Wednesday last week because of a dumb summer cold, but catch me next week at Alamo for George Romero’s Monkey Shines on Terror Tuesdays and Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain for Weird Wednesday.