From its "man, these sweet keyboard riffs will never go out of style" soundtrack to its hilariously bad acting and boobs-for-boobs'-sake nudity, 1988’s Night of the Demons is a fantastically fun film that, thanks to some really amazing make-up effects and dynamite cinematography, also packs in some effective scares and loads of eerie atmosphere. Now , thanks to Scream Factory’s glorious new Collector’s Edition Blu-ray set, this time capsule chock full of all of the inherent cheesiness of 1980's horror cinema is reopened for a whole new generation of fans!
It's Halloween, and Angela (Amelia Kinkaid) is having a hell of a party; literally. You see, Angela and her pal, Suzanne (Linnea Quigley) are throwing a “bash” (if you can call eleven disparate personalities a bash) at the nearby abandoned funeral home, Hull House. The guest list features more stereotypes than a bloody Breakfast Club, with handsome jock, Jay Jansen (Lance Fenton); virtuous Valley Girl, Helen (Allison Barron); wiseguy Italian, Sal (William Gallo); fat, angry punk, Stooge (Hal Havins), and…uh…the black guy, Rodger (Alvin Alexis) among the handful of revelers in attendance! It seems like the makings of a rather dull party, especially given that none of these people seem to remotely like each other, but things get exciting when one of Angela's party games lead to an ancient evil being unleashed, trapping our hapless heroes in the Hull House, and possessing them one by one! It's a fight to survive the night...of the Demons!
From its disturbingly demonic make-up FX to the shaky "Demonic" P.O.V. cam, Night of the Demons obviously owes a debt to Sam Raimi's Evil Dead, but the flick definitely has a spirit of its own that makes it for a really fun slice of me-decade decadence. While much of the film is played for laughs, it's still got a few scares up its sleeves thanks to Tenney’s assured camera work and Steve Johnson’s demonic make-up (which I still find downright creepy to this day). Add to this a lengthy, totally bonkers interpretive dance sequence (set to Bauhaus’ Stigmata Martyr, no less), a really cool animated intro, and one of the most disturbing uses of a lipstick tube ever set to film, and you’ve got one of the most off-the-wall and entertaining horror films of its era.
Night of the Demons was released on DVD a long while back by Anchor Bay, and the transfer was obviously a huge leap in quality over my ratty old VHS copy, but, since the advent of Blu-ray, I’ve been dying to see what this colorful and atmospheric flick would look like in HD. With Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition release, I finally got to find out, and the bottom line is this thing looks stunning.
Presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Scream Factory’s transfer is virtually flawless, with deep, rich blacks, and wonderfully vibrant reds and blues that really pop. The image is crisp and clean as a whistle, and I was really surprised by the amount of fine detail that comes through, especially given the era and its predilection for “soft focus” and gauzy aesthetics. The film comes with two audio choices; a robust 2.0 DTS HD track, and a very well-mixed 5.1 DTS HD track which, contrary to my purist leanings, I actually preferred this time out! While most of the action still takes place in the center channels, environmental effects and directional cues are implemented quite well, resulting in an immersive mix. The low end is also a lot more pronounced (especially during the aforementioned dance scene), while dialogue is up front and center.
Scream Factory puts together a really excellent collection of bonus features here, including a pair of commentary tracks (an all-new track featuring Kevin Tenney, along with stars Cathy Podewell, Billy Gallo, and Hal Havins, along with Steve Johnson, as well as the commentary from the aforementioned Anchor Bay’s DVD release); a collection of trailers, radio spots, and vintage promo stuff; a pretty exhaustive image gallery, and an interview with the still-stunning Amelia Kinkade. The real star, here, however, is a feature-length retrospective entitled “You’re Invited”, which features interviews with virtually all of the principals involved in the production of the film! It’s a really entertaining, enlightening, and oftentimes quite funny look back at the making of the movie, and features lots of vintage stills and footage, cast and crew anecdotes, and a hilarious interview with Steve Johnson that probably could have been its own featurette. Easily amongst the best retrospective documentaries I’ve seen, and well worth the price of admission alone.
And, of course, this collector's edition DVD comes with reversible artwork, as well as a copy of the film on DVD!
For me, Night of the Demons is both a guilty pleasure and a welcome walk down memory lane, back to a simpler time; a time when blood, bleached blondes, and boobies were the essential ingredients for any self-respecting horror film. Scream Factory’s excellent Collector’s Edition Blu-ray offers a fantastic A/V presentation and a really entertaining collection of extra goodies that should make this release the definitive version of Night of the Demons for some time to come. Highest recommendations!