Demons 2 (1986)

Lamberto Bava, Dario Argento, and the demons may be back, but it’s just not quite the same this go around. For lack of a better term, I have sort of a love-hate relationship with Demons 2. On the one hand it successfully taps into the style, make-up, and mayhem of the original; but on the other hand it has almost none of the gore or bite that made that film so much fun. What should have been a crazy sequel set in the apocalyptic world we were left with at the end of Demons, ends up being a fairly tame rehash of virtually the same story with even less of a plot (if you can believe that). There are still some things to like here, but it definitely feels as if the filmmakers just wanted to quickly churn out whatever they could to ride the success of the first film.

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Just One of the Guys (1985)

Just One of the Guys is one of a number of films that I grew up watching on late night cable, which is actually how I discovered a lot of ’80s flicks I wouldn’t normally have seen. It may not be as memorable or highly regarded as some of the bigger name comedies, but it’s still filled with cheesy, androgynous fun. Helped by the delightful balance of semi-raunchy humor that never dips too low brow and surprisingly snappy dialogue, the film ends up being an easygoing and enjoyable comedy.

The story is very loosely based on Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’, so you know you’re in for some mistaken identities and cross-dressing antics. Terri Griffith (Joyce Hyser) seemingly has it all: she’s smart, sexy, and has a gorgeous college boyfriend. She’s determined to become a journalist, but when she’s turned down for her dream internship she feels it’s because the penis-centric society sees women as nothing more than pinups. To prove her point Terri decides to enroll in another high school, this time as a guy, so she can submit her article again and see if she gets the internship. With little more than a hair cut, a sock in her pants, and a few pointers from her brother Buddy (the horniest little brother you’ll ever see!), Terri sets off with her new personality that “dresses like Elvis Costello and looks like the Karate Kid”.

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Baby It’s You (1983)

Having worked a number of blue collar jobs before making his way into films, John Sayles is a talented filmmaker who never fails to find the poignancy in the mundane. His films are very human and relatable because they focus on the people themselves and the emotions that stem from characterization. Baby It’s You is the third film from Sayles and it would be his only studio funded project. He fought the whole way to get his cut made and in return the studio did a minimal job of promoting it. Due to the music rights the film is just now making its way onto DVD and a bare bones release at that, thanks Paramount. Regardless, I am glad to finally be able to watch this film which offers a unique, albeit uneven, take on a coming-of-age romance.

Rosanna Arquette really shines in her first major role as Jill Rosen, the smart, aspiring actress who comes from a middle class Jewish family. In her last year of high school she meets the “Shiek” (Vincent Spano) a slick and handsome young man who lives by his own rules. Shiek comes from a blue collar Italian family and his only aspiration is to not end up like his working stiff father. If you sense a star-crossed lover story coming on, you’d be correct, but don’t worry, thankfully Sayles knows better than to follow the same old formulaic story line.

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Demons (1985)

Demons (1985)

“They will make cemeteries their cathedrals and the cities will be your tombs.”

We all have those moods where we want to sit down and watch a film that offers little more than some cool visuals and a lot of gore. Well, straight from the minds of Dario Argento and Lamberto Bava (yep, that’s Mario’s son) we are presented with a film that does just that. Demons is simply an excuse to stylishly slaughter a group of people trapped in a movie theatre, and really, that’s all it needs to be. It has about as much use for a plot as audiences do for another Saw sequel, but the nature of the film is so completely ridiculous that it works.

Set in Berlin, the film begins with college student Cheryl (Natasha Hovey) on the subway attempting to elude an ominous ‘Phantom of the Opera’ character who has been following her. She eventually does bump into him only to find that he’s giving out tickets to a free screening of an unnamed movie. She gets a second ticket for her friend Kathy (Paola Cozzo), whose response is “I hope it’s not a horror movie.” The two girls decide to skip class to go see the movie at the new ‘Metropol’ theatre. The venue itself offers no hints as to what movie they’ll be watching, the only thing in the lobby is a medieval suit of armor riding a dirt bike holding a samurai sword and a demon mask. I wonder if those items will come into play later in the film..

In the lobby, our diverse group of moviegoers start to trickle in which, among others, include: two strapping young college boys, a blind man and his assistant, a young couple looking to make out, an older couple, and Tony the Pimp (Bobby Rhodes) with his two hoes. On the way in one of the hookers decides that it’d be fun to try on the demon mask, which cuts her face when she takes it off. “That will teach you to touch things.”

Once the movie begins it is, in fact, a horror movie. An obviously low budget Italian film about two couples that go in search of the tomb of Nostradamus. This film includes the very same mask from the lobby and when one of the characters cuts himself in the same way, we know that something isn’t right. Things start to parallel what is happening on screen and when the hooker goes to the bathroom, her face pulsates and bursts with green gooey goodness turning her into a demon. Well, “demon” isn’t really right in this situation since these things are more like zombies in every way, but I suppose that’s neither here nor there. All hell breaks loose when the demons, literally, burst through the screen merging the two worlds into one chaotic bloodbath.

One by one the theater patrons are attacked and mutilated in incredibly entertaining ways. There is enough biting, slashing, gouging, and decapitating to satisfy most any gore hound. The filmmakers have some fun with the different demon metamorphoses and one of the best moments has to be the teeth transformation, where the demon’s gnarly teeth protrude out from its gums. After the first wave of demons have spawned, a small group of survivors band together to try and stay alive. As you can imagine, that goes really well, and things only get worse after a bunch of coke-heads show up (and leave the door open).

There really is no reason Demons should be as good as it is. Aside from the absurdity of it all, the dubbing is bad, the acting is worse, it has about as much interest in story as it does in logic, and it has the most random deus ex machina you will ever see. And yet, it is pure awesome. Basically going from set piece to set piece, the film is brimming with atmosphere. With Bava’s love of long shadows and the combination of 80’s metal and a synth score from Claudio Simonetti (Suspiria and Tenebre) the hyper-stylized experience is complete. Right about the time they gouge the eyes out of a blind man, you know you’re watching something special.

It’s hard to describe the appeal of a film like this, it’s something you have to experience for yourself. I’m not sure how big of a part Argento played in production, but his influence is definitely here. Although, it’s Bava who really steps up and makes this one his own, it’s hard to even compare it to another horror film (save the sequel Bava directed in 1986). Sure, there are other films that are just as silly (Evil Dead) and equally as gory (Braindead), but I think Demons is playing on a whole other level because of the pure lunacy of it all. It’s not a great film by any means, but I would easily put it in my top 10 Italian horror films.

Grade: B+

Christine (1983)

“Some things are just born evil, or in this case made evil. Christine is the seventh feature film from the great John Carpenter, who was coming off of two big horror successes with Halloween and The Fog and the undeserved commercial failure of The Thing. Carpenter has said that he took the job only because it was all that was offered him at the time, but don’t let that seeming lack of enthusiasm fool you. Christine is still an atmospheric and convincing horror film that, despite being fairly tame, fits well into Carpenter’s oeuvre.

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