Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dèmoni 2 (Demons 2) (1986)

One of the reasons that I immensely love the two Dario Argento-produced and Lamberto Bava-directed Demons films is their narrative simplicity. Make no mistake these films are about demons, and they are coming to get you.

About Dèmoni 2 (Demons 2) (1986) Luigi Cozzi writes, "This time, just like in Tobe Hooper's Poltergeist and Cronenberg's Videodrome, horror comes out of tv sets, a brilliant idea and a poignant metaphor of all the monsters that populate the screen. What Bava's film states is that they all come from our unconscious, and feed through our very eyes: they are born with our complicity and keep growing thanks to our pleasure in consuming what most disturbs and frightens us. That's why they are invincible: they're part of ourselves." (from Giallo Argento, by Luigi Cozzi, Profondo Rosso, Rome, Italy, 2001: pp. 153-154.)
Let’s start the show.

Sally (Coralina Cataldi Tassoni) is having a party for her birthday. She lives in a high-rise apartment building in Hamburg. Her neighbors are George (David Knight) and his expectant wife, Hannah (Nancy Brilli). On the first floor of the building, Hank (Bobby Rhodes) encourages the gym patrons as they furiously pump iron. The rest of the residents of the apartment building settle in to watch what is perhaps the greatest show to ever be broadcast on television. This show, within Dèmoni 2, is so amazing that it deserves its own paragraph and summary.

The culture-at-large within Dèmoni 2 clearly recognizes the outbreak scenario and the events that transpired in Berlin in the first Demons film. The show being broadcast on television to the Hamburg high-rise residents is a docudrama which takes as its thesis, “Would we be prepared if another demon outbreak occurred?” Love it. The dramatization involves four young adults who, like Stalkers, enter a quarantined and forbidden Zone, walled-off from the general population. These young adults are searching for artifacts and proof relating to the existence of demons. (Is this not the coolest shit, ever?) They find a demon corpse, and as all good young people are capable of doing in a horror film, they accidentally resurrect the demon. The resurrected demon kills the young four within the program.
Sally decides to cry during her birthday party and retreats to her bedroom. She watches the demon docudrama on television while the rest of the partygoers continue in the living room. Once the demon within the program kills the final young protagonist, it turns towards the screen and exits the television set to attack and possess poor Sally. It’s time for her to blow out the candles and cut the cake.
Gianlorenzo Battaglia lensed Dèmoni 2 as he did for Dèmoni (1985). As for the latter film, Battaglia employed theatrical lighting to accompany the movie-theatre setting of the film. For Dèmoni 2, Battaglia uses a similar technique: mimicking the light from a snowy television screen, the color scheme is grey and shadows. In a signature scene, involving Hannah and her diminutive demon attacker, the lighting even flickers and flashes. This lighting technique as visual motif is successful because it is subtle. It’s a very creative touch within the film.
Dèmoni 2 features two child actors in important roles. One is Ingrid, played by Asia Argento (daughter of Dario); and the other is Tommy, played by Marco Vivio. On a personal level, I can connect with these two characters: Demons 2 was the first Italian horror film that I saw in a film theatre during its original run. I’m a few months older than Asia Argento and when I initially saw this film, these were the characters to whom I could most closely relate. Asia’s character is sheltered and protected by her father up until an intense battle later in the film; whereas Tommy is alone throughout the entire film. (His parents are out in the city.) Tommy watches the demon docudrama on television, and like me at that age, is enthralled with the proceedings. In a very effective scene later in the film, after the initial group of high-rise demons have gone to cause havoc on the lower floors of the building, Tommy ventures out of his apartment into a darkened hallway. He is equipped with his toy laser pistol. Tommy approaches the stairwell and peeks over the railing. In a sobering moment, he sees a vengeful and furious group of demons racing up the stairs. With a quick cut, Tommy drops his toy and runs to hide. This scene has always been particularly affecting to me. It’s both symbolic and very well orchestrated.
There are light moments within Dèmoni 2. Bobby Rhodes returns and reprises a similar role, as a de facto general of the human population, defending themselves against the demon legion. In a humorous twist, Lino Salemme who played the coked-up thug Ripper in the first Demons, plays the overbearing high-rise building security guard in Dèmoni 2.
The acting within Dèmoni 2 is definitely average and many of the sequences go on for a tad too long, but these are the only real gripes that I have towards the film. There many small and brilliant visual compositions with Demons 2. In addition, the final twenty minutes are intense (and a wee predicable), and the final confrontation is in an effective setting. Dèmoni 2 is way, way better than a sequel should be and far more creative than most fans would expect. Essential viewing.


Alex B. said...

DEMONS 2 is a special film. Flawed, but special. Love the color palette which you commented upon and framing is excellent,too. Love the shots of abandoned corridors accompanied by Simon Boswell's cheap/divine keyboard solos. This film introduced me to such bands as The Smiths and Love and Rockets.
Am rather envious of you having experiences this picture at the cinema, must be a great memory to have.

Hans A. said...

Special, indeed, Alex. I'm quite fond of this film and those memories from the original theatrical experience are very nice. I'm a huge fan of The Cult, because of this movie.:) I appreciate your comments, Alex, and thank you.

Alex B. said...

Gave this one another spin the other day, (finally upgraded from VHS to DVD) enjoyed it more than ever before. All the flaws seemed a lot less obvious this time around.
Bobby Rhodes added me on facebook later the same night, which was a fun coincidence.
And later I went and got 'Love' by The Cult and got hooked!