The unstoppable remake train pulls up to “Night of the Demons,” originally a 1988 fright film that managed some unexpected box office business, spawning two sequels and a feeling of great unease whenever actress Linnea Quigley and a tube of lipstick were in the same room together. As worthless reheats go, this update has a few sparkling ideas and some serious eye-candy for a cast, at least attempting to give superfans a slightly modified ride on the “Demons” express.
In New Orleans, the Halloween party of the year is going down inside an abandoned mansion, once home to a foolish woman who killed herself to avoid the touch of evil. For organizer Angela (Shannon Elizabeth, having a grand old time), the raucous gathering is an opportunity to make some big bucks. For the rest of the attendees, including Maddie (Monica Keena), Suzanne (Bobbie Sue Luther), Lily (Diora Baird), and bothersome drug dealer Colin (Edward Furlong), the shindig is a chance to let loose and fumble through a few romantic reunions. When the cops bust up the party, a chosen few are left behind, unable to escape the mansion. Discovering a nest of skeletons in the basement, the gang unknowingly awakens a ferocious demonic spirit that relies on broadly sexual maneuvers to swallow their souls.
It’s been a long time since 1988, leaving director/co-writer Adam Gierasch a shot at generously reworking the original material to his satisfaction. The new “Demons” doesn’t really resemble the old “Demons,” primarily cherry picking the most iconic scenes to recreate while it attempts to shape its own boisterous take on Angela’s blood-drenched holiday celebration.
The effort is commendable, at least in the early going. There’s a hearty Halloween party atmosphere to the first act of the film, sweeping up viewers with a big, thumping soundtrack, a ghoulish, smoky setting, and a sea of partygoers drinking and snorting their troubles away. Though assembled with a modest budget, Gierasch gives the material an amusing visual lift, despite a few detours into trendy visual distractions that reinforce his amateur status. Helped along by an intriguing score of metal and Halloween tunes (including perfect usage of Concrete Blonde’s haunting vampire ode, “Bloodletting”), the filmmaker executes the festivities with a healthy energy, kicking the film off on an unexpectedly rousing note.
Once the eponymous demons enter the picture, the tone goes from frothy to strained. Gierasch offers his camera a few horrible faces to survey, with the make-up work finely detailed and wicked, but it’s supported by an iffy horror-comedy tone that’s chased to no avail. The cast is fun and sexy (with the exception of Furlong, who just looks ill), but they are a limited bunch, handed jokes that aren’t funny and scare scenes that inevitably turn into tiresome F-word conventions. Striking a tone between chills and smiles proves too difficult for Gierasch, with much of the film paralyzed by schlocky stupidity, including flying demons on wobbly wires and an unconvincing update of the infamous lipstick gag. There should be law in horror: if you can’t afford to do it right, don’t bother attempting it.
The AVC encoded image (1.78:1 aspect ratio) presentation on the “Demons” BD gives off a good impression of the macabre. It’s a surprisingly colorful film, with a range of costumes and characters contributing to a steady sensation of hues, with blood red obviously the most pronounced. There’s a welcome look of fine grain to lend the image an elevated feel of theatricality, while offering solid detail on faces and make-up efforts, which look above average. Skintones are healthy and pink, while shadow detail preserves much of the low-light visual information. For the gore fans, all wounds are handed a rich, clear view.
With an onslaught of heavy metal soundtrack cuts and demonic shenanigans, The 5.1 DTS-HD sound mix has plenty to offer the listener. Music is a big plus here, with rock tunes filling the track with a needed force, contributing to the party atmosphere of the picture. Low-end is well taken care of with action beats and thumping tunes, rumbling along nicely, while scoring cues offer a more sinister, controlled feel. Directionals are active during demon assault sequences, with some jumpy genre movement, and party atmospherics are handled superbly during the introductory moments. Dialogue sounds a little thin and not very pronounced at times, but verbal information remains intact. A 5.1 Dolby Digital track is also available.
English SDH subtitles are offered.
The feature-length audio commentary with director Adam Gierasch, writer Jace Anderson, and actors Monica Keena, Bobbi Sue Luther, and John F. Beach is a more of a party track than anything useful. A playful bunch, the conversation tends to lean on jokes and giggles, not needed technical accomplishments -- the director blows those opportunities right off out of fear he’ll sound boring. Mr. Gierasch, what do you think commentaries are for? It’s a crying shame. Actually, the only interesting tidbit offered here involves Shannon Elizabeth, who apparently broke down into tears when faced with non-vegan hot dogs for a scene.
“Comic Con 2010 Introduction” (1:07) catches Gierasch and Anderson on the convention floor, talking up the picture for reasons unknown.
“Behind the Bloodbath” (18:21) is a disappointing making-of featurette spotlighting cast and crew interviews conducted on-set, with everyone straining to sell the picture to the best of their ability. There’s some BTS footage to savor, but most of the information here is rehearsed and artificially upbeat.
A Theatrical Trailer is included.
The bloodbath kicks off in the third act, with Maddie and a few survivors fending off the demonic assaults with some fast feet, rust (evil hates the stuff), and an enormous amount of sludgy exposition. It all grows dull rather quickly, despite a routine of limb-snapping, face-ripping violence. Certainly inferior to the original “Demons,” the glossy remake nevertheless has a few shining moments before a case of the low-budget blahs comes to crash the party.