Night of the Demons (1988)

The original Night of the Demons (I have to specify, since as both an 80s movie and a horror movie, it has obviously been remade) starts off very strong. The opening sequence features a rocking but eerie tune from early 80s rock band Bauhaus, letting you know that this is going to be a fun romp with some freaky scares. The title sequence is lengthy and filled with animated drawings of ghosts and ghouls that have a serious nostalgic feel to them, reminiscent of all those Halloween decorations from the era that people would hang on doors and windows. It all really does a great job of getting the viewer amped up to watch the movie.

Why am I spending a paragraph writing about the opening title sequence? Well, it’s not like I really want to think about the movie so much, come on.

More effort went into this than the rest of the movie.

But I suppose that since we’re not here just to discuss opening sequences to movies, I should move on to the mediocrity that is Night of the Demons. The movie opens with some teenagers harassing an old man; this has nothing to do with anything, but we revisit the old man at the end of the movie, and it still has nothing to do with anything. You’d think that it’d be him giving the kids a gypsy curse or something that starts the whole thing off, but no; he’s just there to keep the “razor blade apple” myth alive and provide some last minute gore at the end of the film. Other than showing what assholes some of the kids are, he’s got nothing to do with the rest of the movie… and I realize that I’m digressing from the main film again. This is a very digressable movie.

The audience is next introduced to the main character, Judy (Cathy Podewell), who is in the process of getting dressed for a school Halloween party. There’s a lot of pandering in this movie, in typical horror film fashion, as the director (Kevin Tenney) knows there’s not much else to hold the audience’s attention until the alleged scares start. Normally, I wouldn’t complain, but it’s so blatant as to be insulting in this film.

This is what the director thinks of you.

At any rate, Judy’s boyfriend Jay (Lance Fenton) calls, and lets her know there’s a change in plans. The school’s token goth chick, Angela (Mimi Kinkade) is throwing a small party of her own at the abandoned mansion/funeral home “Hull House” on the outskirts of town. Also joining them at the party are Angela’s friend Suzanne (Linnea Quigley, who played Trash in Return of the Living Dead and stars in a lot of B-movies), obnoxious lout “Stooge” (Hal Havins), Italian stereotype Sal (Billy Gallo), and nervous son of a preacher man Rodger (Alvin Alexis). There are also Helen (Allison Barron), Max (Philip Tanzini), and Franny (Jill Terashita), but they don’t even get enough characterization to be called stereotypes. They’re just here to up the eventual body count.

They meet at the manor, and start off telling each other stories about the place, from how there’s an underground creek that prevents evil spirits from crossing out of the manor grounds to how a member of the family went crazy and hacked everyone to pieces years ago. After a few minutes of dancing and goofing around, they decide to hold a seance. Not a Ouija-board type seance or one around a table and a crystal ball, but a “past lives seance” which apparently involves staring at a mirror until you see something.

Basically the child’s game “Bloody Mary”, only it involves more people looking stupid.

Even though this is a “past lives” seance and not a “raise malevolent spirits” seance, they manage to do just that; unawares, of course, except for Helen, who sees the demon in the mirror after everyone else has turned away. The demon creeps up through the house, taking possession of Suzanne, though not without some suspicions from Angela, who notices the smell of sulfur and the cold draft and draws the conclusion that the house is possessed by demons (with a lengthy discussion on the difference between a possessed house and a ghost-haunted house). Rodger believes her, and decides to bail, along with Helen, though they find that the outer wall of the grounds has suddenly become gate-less. Soon after Suzanne’s possession, she kisses Angela, who is then also possessed by a demon. (It was evidently cheaper to put people in make-up than come up with much in the way of monsters.)

Here’s the special effects budget. No seriously, this is it.

The rest of the gang, unaware that two of their members are now psychotic demons bent on killing and possessing everyone, or that the two who went outside are still searching in vain for the exit, decide to split up for some make-out sessions. Here on out, the usual horror movie mayhem ensues, with our heroes trying to survive, and a twist out of zombie movies that anybody who falls becomes demon-possessed as well. There are a lot of attempts to creep the audience out with weirdness, but mostly it’s just weird, not creepy. Sometimes pathetically so. There’s one scene where Angela is dancing in a manner that’s creeping Sal out, and there’s a strobe light going. I’ll grant that it probably would have looked pretty freaky with the strobe light going at the right frequency to create a staggered effect in her movements. Unfortunately, the director overlooked the fact that this effect does not transition easily to film, and must be handled with exacting precision (and often some fakery). What we’re left with is a goth girl doing interpretive dance while an annoying light flashes. We can’t see any real reason for Sal to be freaking out at this, especially as Angela hasn’t even assumed demonic form yet. (Once she does, it’s more understandable for people to be frightened, as she is a bit on the grotesque side.)

Demons hit every branch in the whole ugly thicket.

As is so often the case with horror movies, this is actually kind of watchable, but only if you go into it with the assumption that you’ll be making fun of it. Grab a few friends and some popcorn, and it can be a good candidate for lampooning. But when judged on its actual merits, it really doesn’t have much going for it. The plot is both trite and silly, the characters are mostly unsympathetic idiots, and the acting ranges from “slightly wooden” to “game show host”. I’d say it’s hard to believe that this spawned two sequels and a remake, but then I remember that Puppet Master spawned nine, so clearly there’s a much lower bar for horror sequels than there is in other genres.

Rating: 2 Pumpkins

About Morgan R. Lewis

Fan of movies and other media
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3 Responses to Night of the Demons (1988)

  1. But you know? Its so fun to read you mocking it! 😀

    Love it. Thats the redeeming feature to these movies, for sure. Just laying into them. I like your slightly wooden to game show host scale of acting. You should work that concept up! What other segments could the needle point to? 🙂

    I like “Night of the Demons 2” much better. But admittedly, its because the “Pandering” is some of the best in 80s horror movies. LOL. Great review. Fun read.

    • Boy, I’m not sure I could willingly subject myself to the sequel. I can’t help but think it’s all downhill from here. 😀

      I have to say, I do have fun savaging some of these films. Though sometimes it’s like there’s no effort to be made… the game show host comment popped into my head as they were driving up to the mansion and talking about the stories about the place. The whole delivery may as well have been “Say, Johnny, isn’t there a fabulous tale of murder and mayhem about this place?” “Why, yes, there is, Pat!”

  2. Pingback: Halloween Haunters 2012 | Morgan on Media

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