Demons 2 / Dèmoni 2… l’incubo ritorna (Lamberto Bava, 1986)

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A virtual remake posing as a sequel, Demons 2 is plot-wise almost a twin brother to Demons. Yet plot isn’t really the thing to focus on when talking about Italian horror. These films are rich in atmosphere, visual inventiveness and often esoteric subtext – a combination which makes them such a delight to watch. Both Demons films, scripted by the tireless Dardano Sacchetti, are of course complete failures from narrative standpoint. They present us with cardboard characters behaving irrationally, story lines leading nowhere and riddled with countless plot holes. None of these shortcomings stop the two Demons films and other similar Italian horror classics from being enjoyable films that withstand and improve on repeat viewings, though. Cinema cannot be reduced to just linear storytelling, character arks and three-act structure. Those things pertain to drama and literature, and while cinema has adopted them, it also has other means of keeping the viewer watching, otherwise such frankly badly-written films as the Demons would  never have become the worldwide cult favourites they are today. Nor would the many arthouse films which deviate from straightforward storytelling tropes have their audiences. So, what is it that makes Demons 2 and others of its ilk so special?

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The answer is simple: Demons 2 is cinema (Soderberg has made a nice comment on cinema/movies distinction in his San Francisco festival speech). Cinema at its most sincere and unadulterated. Heavy on atmosphere and offering the viewer a blood-splattered spectacle, without trying to be meaningful beyond the required minimum. Demons 2 has a unique, recognisable style and a look to die for.

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Coming from Lamberto Bava (one of Italian genre cinema’s less-esteemed filmmakers) whose films somehow manage to be incredibly visionary and utterly boneheaded at the same time, Demons 2 has its fair share of problems.  Apart from loose plot threads, Demons 2 also features a very crappy mini-demon stalking Nancy Brilli around her apartment. Presumably imitating Gremlins, Lamberto Bava dedicates lengthy screen time to a fake-looking monster puppet that’s supposed to project menace but barely manages to totter around the set instead. DoP Gianlorenzo Battaglia uses heavy strobe lighting to obscure the crappy effects work during this drawn-out, seizure-iducing sequence. These quibbles aside, Demons 2 is still a must-see, with its many demon attacks and grotesque make-up and effects work from Sergio Stivaletti. After the initial box-office failure of his subtle and studied debut feature Macabro, Lamberto Bava would embark on making small films quickly and efficiently, often for TV and invariably from terrible screenplays. To many viewers the two Demons films represent the pinnacle of Lamberto Bava’s film career, due to  Dario Argento lending them his then-marketable name and providing substantial budgets to film gory mayhem and violent ‘humans vs. demons’ confrontations.

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Filmed in the summer of 1986, Demons 2 retains the German setting (the demons outbreak takes place inside an apartment block in Hamburg) and some of the cast from the first film. Lino Salemme (Demonia, Delirium), who played the coke-head punk Ripper comes back as a security officer and Bobby Rhodes (The Last Hunter), famous for playing Tony the Pimp, takes on the role of Hank the gym instructor. Simon Boswell picked the bands for Demons 2 soundtrack and he’s signed up some legends: The Smiths, Gene Loves Jezebel, The Cult and other amazing acts, as well as contributing some excellent tunes himself. The new wave/alternative selection of songs is worth the price of admission alone.

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Stylish, violent, illogical, visually splendid/sonorously mind-blowing, crafted with a lot of skill and featuring a young Asia Argento in one of her very first screen roles, Demons 2 is prime slice of 80’s eurohorror.

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