In October 1985, Dario Argento and Lamberto Bava unleashed upon the world a vision of cinematic terror that would go down in history as among the most iconic examples of 1980s Italian horror – but whether it is a particularly ‘good’ film or not is certainly up for debate. A year later, a sequel was released – and I doubt many would argue there was much quality there, either. But despite that, they’re certainly incredibly influential films that make for essential viewing for any horror junkies.
Presented on Blu-ray and 4K UHD with absolutely stunning new restorations, Arrow Video have given their trademark treatment to Demons and Demons 2 with crisp, vivid picture and a wealth of new and archival special features. The result is an absolutely wonderful release that does justice to the films’ legacy as definitive 80s Italian horror, but does feel a little too generous, as watching the films in 2021 – especially in sparkling 4K – reveals just how dated and trashy they are.
Demons sees a group of unwitting filmgoers accept invitations to a mysterious screening where the horror breaks free from the constraints of the screen, unleashing a swarm of evil demons. Then, in Demons 2, the demons come directly into the living room as hell descends on a luxury apartment block, devouring the residents one by one.
Both films are presented here in their Italian and English-language versions, with the first film also including the trimmed US cut, featuring alternate dubbing and sound effects. But whichever audio track you choose – and there are certainly a few to choose from with the first film alone boasting lossless 5.1, 2.0 and 1.0 options – the film itself is most iconic for its grisly and influential special effects, which do hold up today as a remarkable example of slimy 80s creature design.
But aside from the titular demons, the films don’t have a great deal to offer. Wooden acting, cheesy dialogue and amateurish direction are prevalent throughout both films and often make the films more laughable than frightening. Similar to other horrors of the era like Basket Case, the Demons films have become unintentional comedies that feel almost like spoofs, especially with the cheesy 1980s heavy metal soundtracks. But taken as a curiosity, or a time capsule of a rich time for cinematic horror, the Demons films are certainly an interesting watch for genre fans. And the great wealth of special features certainly attempts to enhance audiences’ respect and appreciation for these films, but there’s only so much you can do to make these films look and sound good.
The Blu-rays – especially the 4K UHD discs – are absolutely wonderful, though, so any fans out there will surely be delighted with this definitive release of the influential titles. But newcomers to the series should beware.
These films are cheap and nasty little flicks, packed with everything that’s bad about 1980s horror. But they sure do look nice in 4K. Maybe you can polish a turd after all…