I’m sure director Eric Powers is tired of hearing it, but the style of his new animated horror flick ATTACK OF THE DEMONS is most easily compared to the pilot episode of South Park. Its environments and characters are cut from cardboard and shot in stop-motion, capturing a colorful and distinctive homemade style that is both charming and meticulous in its attention to detail. The patience it must take to put together a feature of this magnitude using such a laborious technique has to be commended. I can only imagine the late nights and chronic lower back pain!
Like South Park, ATTACK OF THE DEMONS takes place in a Colorado town, and the story opens strong with chanting Satanists, blood-spilling and a ritual to bring about the apocalypse. From the start, it’s clear this is a love letter to cheesy 70’s and 80’s cinema, and the main character, Kevin, is a horror tragic who lives in an apartment adorned with VHS tapes and genre posters lining the walls. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be able to identify.
It’s Halloween 1994, and on the way to a screening of an Italian gore flick, Kevin meets up with video game obsessive Jeff, who has been out of town for a while, and music buff/journalist Natalie, who is there with her boyfriend to hit up the music festival that’s taking place in town.
Later at the festival, much to the delight of the crowd, a robed cultist takes to the stage to perform a creepy spoken-word act. Before the audience can decipher what they assume is deep, hipstery metaphor, demons are summoned and all hell breaks loose.
The demons are a weird and wonderful mix of Lovecraftian grotesquerie, with oozing slime and limbs spouting from places they definitely shouldn’t. If there’s any clear influence, Lamberto Bava’s Demons comes to mind. That film saw a cinema full of hapless patrons battling the possessed, and there are a lot of parallels with the way creatures look and behave in ATTACK OF THE DEMONS. It’s obvious Powers was a fan.
There’s also a suitably authentic soundtrack in the form of John Dixon’s synth-heavy score. The music gives off a legitimate 80’s horror vibe. The voice-acting is admittedly stiff, but let’s remember the performances in the movies that ATTACK OF THE DEMONS is lovingly referencing. It’s obvious that Powers enlisted friends to provide the characters with their voices, and it works.
While there’s not a great deal of depth to Kevin, Jeff, or Natalie, it’s clear that Eric Powers has put a lot of himself into ATTACK OF THE DEMONS. He uses the characters as vessels to communicate his feelings about cinema, video games, and music, and what each of them means to him. There’s a lengthy scene where the three discuss the strengths of each medium in terms of storytelling. I would have liked to have seen this discussion get more use as a theme than it ultimately did, but as it is, the scene adds a tangible personal dimension to the film.
While it will probably only appeal to the “Kevins” of the world, ATTACK OF THE DEMONS is a cool little passion project with a lot of charm. It doesn’t outstay its welcome, is blessed with a simple but arresting visual style, and for the most part, successfully captures the 80’s atmosphere it’s shooting for. While I would have liked to see Powers go a little more insane with the blood and gore, what he managed to pull off is very fun and impressive. Honestly, I’d love to see some of the creatures and cartoon mayhem rendered in live action with rubber and prosthetics! Maybe one of these days.