DVD Review: Demons 1 & 2 / Cert: 18 / Director: Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava / Screenplay: Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava / Starring: Urbano Barberini, Natasha Hovey, Karl Zinny, David Knight, Nancy Brilli, Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni / Release Date: Out Now
The use of Dario Argento's name above the titles of Demons 1 & 2 could be considered something of a misnomer, as they bare no relation whatsoever to other works by the master of Italian suspense. This infamous duo of schlock, though gory enough to rival Argento at his best, bares none of the crispness which, though perhaps not making his work palatable, at least leant it an air of sophistication. Demons 1 & 2 on the other hand have all the subtlety of a car-crash. Forget the fact they're directed by Lamberto Bava, son of the legendary Mario, because it's obvious from these films that cinematic panache didn't run in the family.
Demons 1 focuses on the attendees of a horror film screening at a recently revamped Berlin movie theatre, and what befalls them during the ensuing nightmare evening. A display in the theatre's foyer has an ancient pagan mask as its centrepiece, which a girl called Rosemary (Geretta Geretta) tries on, scratching herself in the process. The film being screened in the theatre charts the story of some kids who find a mask that transforms those who wear it into flesh eating demons, the same mask that now sits in the theatre's front-of-house - which Rosemary and the other guests are about to discover to their cost.
Demons 2, starring Argento's daughter Asia, continues the story some time later as the residents of a Berlin apartment block unwittingly unleash an ancient demon from a TV set which is playing a horror film. As the majority of the building's inhabitants are transformed into gut-munching, bone-crunching demons, those uninfected have to battle for their lives during the customary apocalyptic climax.
The best way to view these films is back to back, the main interest lying in their distinctive similarities, with Demons 2 a virtual remake of Demons 1 save for setting and characters. The narrative thread of releasing the demons through the medium of film and television is the only really interesting touch, despite this theme having been explored before, and to better effect, in such classics as Videodrome and Poltergeist. Fractionally superior, Demons 1 contains the best death scene and is also the more atmospheric, being set within the claustrophobic interior of a darkened movie theatre.
Unfortunately even a host of unusually good extras including a comic book called Demons 3 (a graphic visualisation of a third grisly instalment), can't save the films from what they ultimately are - prime examples of an era when gore won out over any attempt at style or substance. As a result they should be watched as quickly as possible, then just as speedily forgotten.