The Deepest Cuts is a weekly invitation into some of the sleaziest, goriest, most under-explored corners of horror and cult film online. Every title will be streamable and totally NSFW. Whether it’s a 1960s grindhouse masterpiece, something schlocky from the 90s, or hardcore horror from around the world, these films are guaranteed to shock, disturb, tickle, or generally blow your mind.
Where else should Nostradamus’ predicted “coming of the demons” begin than in a creepy old movie theater full of misogynists, racist stereotypes, a blind man, and a weirdly mysterious redhead wearing a Peter-Pan-esque dress? With this set-up, an amazing soundtrack and loads of fantastic gore, it should be obvious that Demons is a definite must-see.
Demons begins with two cute American students in Berlin who decide to cut music class for a screening at the “Metropol,” a classic old theater that’s only about a quarter full when the unnamed horror movie begins. Their fellow theatergoers include a miserable couple celebrating what must be their last anniversary, the blind man mentioned above whose “little girl” niece is describing the film to him when she isn’t silently making out and getting felt-up, and a pimp accompanied by Carmen and Rosemary, the latter of whom tries on a rather demonic-looking mask in the lobby that leaves a small cut on her cheek.
Early in the film-within-the-film one of the male protagonists, on the hunt for Nostradamus’ tomb, tries on an alarmingly similar mask and cuts his own face when he removes it – and turns into a demonic killer chasing his friends around the haunted cemetery. Rosemary runs to the restroom to check on her own wound, which swells into a giant, pulsing boil that explodes in a spray of that indisputable sign of the demonic: neon-green goo; in a transformation sequence that nearly rivals An American Werewolf in London, Rosemary becomes a bloodthirsty, sharp-toothed, jerry-curled killer herself. Just a scratch from the demon’s nails makes her victim into a killer, and soon the theater devolves into a chaotic battleground between good and the living-dead evil.
Like An American Werewolf in London, Demons is a successful combination of gore, ironic humor, real scares, and even a little pathos; in a scene (probably knowingly) mimicked by the opening death in Scream 2, Carmen’s shrieks of terror are masked by those of the movie, until she bursts through the screen, covered in blood, already mid-possession. The crowd watches in grimacing horror as her hands ripple, growing new, evil nails, a giant, foot-long tongue shoots suggestively out of her mouth, and her teeth fall out as new fangs burst through her gums. This shit is intense.
Directed by Lamberto Bava, son of Giallo master and slasher pioneer Mario Bava, Demons was produced and co-written by Italian auteur Dario Argento. Though definitely part of the blood-and-guts horror trends of the 80s, it clearly benefits from these “fatherly” influences, with its saturated palette, convoluted plot that embraces a more Catholic supernatural than most films of the time, and all the beautiful, helpless women. The soundtrack, on the other hand, is strictly of the era, and to its benefit: what better background could there be to the demonic apocalypse than Billy Idol and Rick Springfield, not to mention heavy metal legends Saxon and Accept?
The special effects are the perfect blend of crude and creative for a totally tasteless experience. Released 4 years after Evil Dead, some of the same techniques for representing possession are on view, and the film uses the make-up and prosthetics to achieve a similar atmosphere of fear, disgust, and humor. Demons will keep you cringing, laughing, and gasping from start to ridiculous finish.
You can find Demons streaming free on YouTube.
For more insight into the best (and worst) of cult horror classics, check past editions of The Deepest Cuts here.