Directed by: Kevin Tenney
Written by: Joe Augustyn
Starring: Amelia Kinkade, Cathy Podewell and Linnea Quigley
Reviewed by: Josh G.
“Eat a bowl of fuck! I am here to party!”
Few films manage to creep under my skin, but for some reason, the demonic possession sub-genre sends chills through my body like no other. They do not necessarily scare me, but they have a presence that far surpasses any random human slasher or creature of ancient myths. When you start off with pure evil, add an eerie synth score, dark corners at every turn and a cast of memorable mischievous teens, you have a recipe for spooked audiences. Spawning two sequels and a remake soon to come, it is obvious that Night of the Demons managed to touch horror happeners where it hurts. In a way, it feels out of place from the 80s. Yes, the fashions and music are there, but it is almost ahead of its time. Metal playing during a possession dance, brutal death scenes with no forgiveness, and barely any breathing space once the terror starts.
Following a unique cartoon opening credit sequence, we are introduced to a handful of teenagers on Halloween night, who will all be attending Angela (Amelia Kinkade) Franklin and friend Suzanne’s (Scream Queen Linnea Quigley) party. But it is not just any get together. It is being held at Hull House, an old funeral home surrounded by an underground stream; the creepiest of abodes. All is going well until a past life seance is performed, sending Helen (Allison Barron) into tears and church boy Rodger (Alvin Alexis) the hell out. While the remaining eight brush events off as imagination exploring the building, Helen and Rodger discover the gate out of Hull House property is no longer existent, with Suzanne and Angela soon becoming possessed by evil spirits. One by one, through the trickery of sex and emotional taunts, the ten teenagers are picked off by the evil inside, turned into minions of the Devil in the quest to take everybody back to hell with them before the sun comes up. With this house possessed, nobody is exempt from feeling the wrath of the demons, and there is positively no way out in Night of the Demons.
The wonderful accomplishment of this darkly comedic possession slasher is that it can take itself seriously while still boasting some laughs and immaturity for the hell of it. Some sex comedy such as when Suzanne is helping Angela steal supermarket food by distracting the two clerks with her ass is so exploitative that you know it is meant to bring out laughter, and that is okay. The power of Night of the Demons is that it can romp around like a kid with its nudity and lame (though sometimes hysterical) one liners but remain drenched in its sinister aroma. Almost like the later Freddy Kruegar character forms from the late 80s to early 90s, the demons spout some deathly offbeat quotes, but make up for it with their horrific makeup and cruel intentions. The dark ugly low male voice you see now more often that accompanies possessed fellows makes an impressive appearance here, and is certainly the driving force behind what makes evil-Angela and her followers so full of impact.
As much as I love the 80s, come on? I mean, come on? Characters just weren’t giving us enough relatability when the lazier horror flicks came to reap. Not saying that Night of the Demons has a cast of people who are your typical every day adolescent, but they stand out far more than this movie should allow. Loud and bright. They have multiple dimensions, like our leading lady Judy (Cathy Podewell), a bit too nice but has a popular side to her that like all the rest of the partygoers, adds to her charisma. The ones killed (or personality overthrown by demons) first, such as worried Helen, dumb Suzanne and the truth-sayer Angela, have the staying power because of their performances. Which in turn leaves the gruff harder characters, like Stooge (Hal Havins), Sal (Billy Gallo) and Jay (Lance Fenton) more time to grow on you. It is not like they are the trend to follow for all of movie making – I mean, they are sort of stuck in the 80s, and even Sal’s greaser performance feels a little dated for the times – but each and every one of them has a purpose. Maybe not so much to move the story along, but to toy further with our minds and hearts. Okay, so we do not love them all, but there is a stronger bond between viewer and victim than most movies of this type.
The Hull House is pretty much the perfect haunted (sorry, possessed) home. Coffins, a different structure approach, surrounded by a looping brick wall, crashed windows, murky bathrooms, cobwebs, a crematorium and old artifacts. Even without the demons, a half decent horror flick could be made with sounds and atmosphere. Our star, Angela, who would later be reprised by Amelia Kinkade in Night of the Demons 2 and Night of the Demons 3, is the most grotesque but likeably evil villain in a long time. “He decided to stick around.” “Judy, Rodger, where you going? The party’s just begun!” “Don’t cha like your bloody date?” Humor, yes, but in such a colorful way. The kills are special. No knife in forehead moves. More like thumbs in eye sockets, tongues being bitten out, and a razor blade climax that makes you want to give up apples for life. Gooey, but overall, not amazingly gore-filled. I mean, still a handful, but Night of the Demons projects that you are seeing more violence because of its extensive use of highly effective makeup effects.
The tasks people have to go through to stay alive. How heartbreaking. Climbing a wall with sharp barbed wire as your only rope, crashing through windows, crawling along the rooftop edge or beating your friends’ faces in. If you survive the night, just how will your mind be afterwards? It is interesting to see the forces of hell are not all powerful, and cannot burst through walls or doors at will. Or that fire will send them running. Of course, I have never seen a demon in real life, so maybe the makers were onto something. With all the shenanigans, you just expect that if they really wanted every teen, they could do so in a jiffy. Watching Angela float through the house while staring at the camera is an odd lens trick, adding a surreal feel. In fact, a lot of shots are very modern, with panning and once near the beginning, the dreaded shaky cam.
Uncut, on an Anchor Bay DVD, the picture is clean with a bit of a dusty clog, that thankfully ups the Halloween nostalgia instead of disrupting the visuals. Sound is great, especially the background music and pops, pitting you closer to the setting. Promo reels, trailers and tv spots, taking advantage of “The party’s just begun” line, is a cute look at how the film was marketed. The promo reel is especially cheesy and over-the-top, bragging about its raking in of box office, and outselling Heathers and Prom Night II. An audio commentary is present with the director and producers, and an insightful Linnea Quigley interview called My Demon Nights. Oh Linnea, once again showing off your fuzzy wuzzies to the 1988 audience. Creative, grisly and one hell of a fun party, Night of the Demons will make even the most jaded appreciative of the effort and frights. A bloody good thrill in the house of Angela. A must have for Halloween horror fans. Oh, and those who love their Quigleys in pink ‘easy access’ dresses. Buy it!
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