Demons made a surprising, international-level amount of noise for an Italian horror flick during its original release, which is doubly impressive when you consider it was made during the dying days of horror filmmaking in Italy. Thus, the idea of a Demons sequel was obvious and the original creative team behind the film wasted little time in setting up its sequel. The first film took some cues from American horror of the era and the same could be said for Demons 2: like its American horror film sequel cousins, it is content to stick to its working formula while weaving in a few new angles and a bigger sense of scope.
The setup for Demons 2 shows a strong David Cronenberg influence: like his first film Shivers, it deals with a contagion wreaking havoc on a chic, modern apartment tower. The point of origin lies in the television broadcast of a film about demons. The first victim is Sally (Coralina Cataldi Tessoni), a bipolar birthday girl who gets attacked by a demon that emerges from her television screen à la Videodrome. She quickly spreads the contagion to her party guests when it’s time for her to blow out the candles on her birthday cake.
And from there, Demons 2 fragments into an episodic series of setpieces and subplots. The tower locks down as the non-infected survivors either look for a way to escape or barricade themselves and try to fight the ever-growing demonic hordes. Heroes/potential victims include a young Asia Argento, a latchkey kid (Marco Vivio), the apartment building’s fitness coach (the great Bobby Rhodes) and a grad student (David Knight) trying to protect his heavily pregnant wife (Nancy Brilli).
Demons 2 provides a decent amount of fun for the Italo-horror buff: the television demon-birth and Sally’s transformation before the birthday cake are standout sequences, boasting some all-stops-out prosthetic effects from Sergio Stivaletti and a barrage of flashy angles from director Lamberto Bava. It also has wall-to-wall music but intriguingly the hard rock-intensive approach of the last film has been replaced by an array of alternative rock tunes from the Smiths, Dead Can Dance, Love And Rockets, et al (that said, Simon Boswell’s synth-rock score is of a similar style to Claudio Simonetti’s work in Demons).
However, the flimsiness of the plotting and characterizations that was easy to ignore in Demons stands out a bit more starkly in Demons 2. By design, its larger-scale storytelling needs for the audience to be able to invest in the characters a little more and sadly, these characterizations are as thin as those in Demons. The plotting gets slapdash in places, as well: much to-do is made of a plot thread with an unwanted party guest racing to Sally’s party that ultimately goes nowhere. There are some fun new wrinkles — like an Alien-esque bit where the demons emit an acidic blood that eats through the building’s floors as they first transform — but these elements are ultimately thrown away as the second half of the film becomes a series of sieges and cat-and-mouse skirmishes.
That said, Demons 2 is diverting for the patient Italo-horror fare if you can ignore how the nonsensical element of the storytelling is more pronounced. The combination of that glossy Italian style, the pumping soundtrack and unpredictable bits of weirdness can be hypnotic if you look at it as a style ride. Sometimes, it gets campy in its weirdness, like an extended scene where the pregnant woman fights a Ghoulies-esque mini demon, but it’s not dull. Rhodes is as much fun to watch as he was in the first film and the parking garage conflagrations between demons and humans that he presides over are some of the film’s most exciting moments.
Simply put, the appeal of Demons 2 depends on your appetite for wacko Italian style over storytelling substance. Those who can appreciate its stylish airheadedness will find enough goo, weirdness and rock tunes for their liking.
Blu-Ray Notes: Like its predecessor, Demons 2 was previously given a limited-edition steelbook release by Synapse Films. They have recently produced a general-release blu-ray version of this title. The company did a lot of cleanup work on this title and the results are impressive: color and detail are both impressive and the black-levels during the shadowy night photography and dark interiors are rock-solid. There are a few shots that suffer from a certain “flutter” effect but this was an unavoidable flaw in the source material (click here to read about the challenges of doing this transfer). The English 2.0 stereo mix is presented in lossless style here and has a crisp, bold sound that fits the party movie for horror fans vibe of the production. The one extra for this disc is the original trailer — more extras can be found on the steelbook but supplies are limited on that version so interested fans should move fast to get one.