DEMONS and DEMONS 2
When producer Dario Argento (director of Suspiria and Tenebre) and director Lamberto Bava (Delirium and A Blade In The Dark) teamed up to create Demons (1985) they came up with one of the quintessential 80's Italian horror films. In Demons (aka Demoni) various pedestrians are given free tickets by a silver-masked stranger (played by Michele Soavi, the noted director of Italian classic Dellamorte Dellamore and assistant director on Demons) to a new horror film playing at the Metropol in downtown Berlin. While watching the movie, audience members start turning into blood thirsty ghouls (the transformation scenes by Sergio Stivaletti remain impressive) terrorizing ones who have yet to turn. Since the theatre is now an unholy war-zone, the humans band together to protect themselves from the increasingly violent assault.
Along with the full colour gore effects and giallo lighting scheme, one of the striking aspects of Demons is the bright 80's soundtrack courtesy of Goblin keyboardist Claudio Simonetti and hard rock songs of the period by Saxon, Accept, Billy Idol and Motley Crue.
Demons made a huge impact upon release leading to a follow-up quickly put together by the Bava - Argento team. Although the movie theater setting is swapped for a high-rise apartment building, the concept is the same: innocent civilians trapped while fighting off an army of undead creatures (the 80's hard rock soundtrack of the original is replaced with "new" alternative rock tracks by Peter Murphy, Love and Rockets, Dead Can Dance and The Smiths). Demons 2 (aka Demoni 2) doesn't skimp on the gore, but the originality of the first film is lacking and the apartment building just isn't as interesting a locale as the grand movie theatre seen in the first film. Which isn't to say that it isn't fun, it is.
It's just not quite as significant as the original Demons.
Both films have seen multiple home video releases over the years in varying formats. The excellent Anchor Bay DVDs from 1999 (reissued in 2007) were the beginning of high quality releases for the home market. Anchor Bay's Demons came with some nice bonus material: the original theatrical trailer, an audio commentary track by Lamberto Bava, Sergio Stivaletti and journalist Loris Curci plus a brief one minute behind the scenes segment. The Anchor Bay presentation of Demons 2 includes the original theatrical trailer and a commentary track by Bava, Stivaletti and Curci.
For fans who wanted a more comprehensive selection of bonus material to better their knowledge of the final films (or just wanted to upgrade to the blu-ray format) the Arrow Films 2012 releases offered up a healthy amount of new bonus features. The Demons blu-ray keeps Anchor Bay's commentary track then adds an additional commentary (in Italian with English subtitles) by Bava, Stivaletti, Simonetti with actress Geretta Geretta and moderated by Mike Baronas, Art Ettinger and Mark Murray. There's also "Dario's Demon Days" a ten minute interview with producer Argento discussing his involvement with both films, "Defining An Era In Music" an excellant ten minute interview with Goblin keyboardist Claudio Simonetti about the dynamic score for the film and "Splatter Spaghetti Style" an eleven minute segment featuring Italian movie screenwriter/director Luigi Cozzi (Starcrash 1978, Contamination 1980) with his list of the most important Italian horror films.
While offering completely entertaining supplemental features, Arrow's blu-ray releases of Demons and Demons 2 weren't perfect. The picture quality of the Arrow discs display compression artifacts from cramming the films onto 25 GB single-layer discs (the 2012 Japanese blu-rays from Kadokawa Entertainment were also pressed using limited capacity 25 GB discs) and the blackness levels are washed out and grey when they should always be solid. Also problematic is the sound quality as Arrow chose to use only the Italian mono and English mono soundtracks when the English international stereo mix exists.
The Arrow Demons 2 blu-ray also retains Anchor Bay's commentary track with Bava, Stivaletti, Curci and Roy Bava but adds "Creating Creature Carnage" a terrific twenty minute interview with special effects artist Stivaletti discussing his work on both films inspired by Rick Baker's transformation technique in An American Werewolf In London and The Howling. This interview was conducted in Italian with English subtitles. There's also "Bava To Bava" an informative sixteen minute piece with Luigi Cozzi about the history of Italian horror movies citing the work of Mario Bava, Dario Argento, Antonio Margheretti etc.
Luckily Synapse Films have stepped up to deliver the definitive versions of these films. Housed in radiant steelbook packaging (and limited to just 3,000 copies of each) Demons and Demons 2 are finally given proper deluxe edition treatment. First of all, the movies are formatted onto 50 GB dual-layer discs meaning there is none of the compression issues found on Arrow's cheaper 25 GB releases. Synapse has scanned Demons in high-definition from the original 35 mm negative, painstakingly performing frame by frame restoration (including important colour corrections), to deliver the most vibrant and detailed versions of these films to date. Finally the blacks are solid while the neon flourishes are bright and sharp.
To go along with the improved picture quality, the audio gets an upgrade also. Along with the expected audio tracks, Synapse located the stereo "international" audio track which features different voices doing the dubbing and changes in dialogue as well. Both English language tracks have a dedicated subtitle feature.
In addition to the premium attention given to the restoration of the films, Synapse also gets the upper hand over Arrow when it comes to supplemental features. To start, they ported over the previous audio commentary track, then Synapse has added the U.S. theatrical trailer and the dialogue-free original international trailer. Most impressive is the brand new exclusive bonus features. "Carnage At The Cinema: Lamberto Bava And His Splatter Masterpiece" is a thirty-four minute interview with the director who talks about making the movie and working with producer Dario Argento, which brings us to the next segment, "Dario And His Demons: Producing Monster Mayhem" fifteen minutes of Argento explaining his role in the creation of both films. Luigi Cozzi gets a twenty-nine minute slot entitled "Monstrous Memories" where the Italian horror film expert discusses Demons and perhaps most interestingly, the various Demons knock-offs like Umberto Lenzi's 1991 Black Demons aka Demons 3, Cozzi's own 1989 feature Black Cat which was known as Demons 6 in Japan and Michele Soavi's excellant The Church (1989) which is the original Demons 3 in every sense but the name. Strangely, Cozzi omits any mention of Lamberto Bava's own attempt at a sequel The Ogre from 1988 also known as Demons III.
"Profundo Jones" is a seventeen minute piece featuring Alan Jones, author of the book Profundo Argento dissecting the films and Dario's role in each of them. "Splatter Stunt Rock" is a good nine minute interview with stuntman Ottaviano Dell'Acqua who has also appeared in Lucio Fulci's Zombie 2, Antonio Margheritti's Cannibal Apocalypse and Michele Soavi's Stagefright.
A nice additional bonus in the package is a reproduction of the Metropol movie ticket seen in the film.
And as with Demons, Synapse have outdone themselves with brand new, exclusive bonus features for the sequel. "A Soundtrack For Splatter" is an extremely informative twenty six minute interview with composer Simon Boswell (Stagefright , Bava's Delirium, Richard Stanley's Hardware) speaking about working on Dario Argento's Phenomena (1985), doing the score for Demons 2 and picking the modern rock songs for the film, almost all of them (save The Smiths) from the Beggars Banquet label, something I had never noticed before. "Demonic Influences: Frederico Zampaglione Speaks" is a ten minute segment of contemporary Italian director Zampaglione discussing the influence of the films on his own work. In "Screaming For A Sequel: The Delirious Legacy Of Demons 2" Lamberto Bava gets a fifteen minute portion to finally explain his involvement in the creation and writing of The Church and how disappointed he was when Argento removed all credit of his from the final film.
A really interesting supplement is "Demons Generation: Roy Bava Discusses A legacy In Lacerations", a thirty four minute interview with Lamberto's son who trained as assistant director on Demons and was fully credited with A.D. duties on Demons 2 . The younger Bava's recollections of being a novice A.D. involved with the films offer a fresh perspective plus apparently he helped choose some of the hard rock music for the Demons soundtrack. Special effects maestro Sergio Stivaletti is the focus of the sixteen minute "The New Blood Of Italian Horror" featurette during which he goes into detail with working with Michele Soavi (he also worked of Soavi's Stagefright and Dellamorte Dellamore) . The set is finished off nicely with the original theatrical trailer.
For Demons 2, Synapse has also performed a complete makeover. Again, a high def scan of the original 35mm negative and over 50 hours of colour corrections ,make this new version of Demons 2 the absolute best it has ever looked. Because of an inferior film stock (Kodak 5294, discontinued shortly after the movie was completed) Demons 2 has always looked a bit darker and shown more grain than it's predecessor. Luckily Synapse has done as much restoration as possible without causing further issues with the picture quality.
Signed poster courtesy of John Farmer
So what's missing? Well, not much.
The original commentary tracks for Demons and Demons 2 found on the Anchor Bay DVDs and the Arrow blu-ray are aren't included (meaning Demons 2 has none at all). I'm sure there may have been some TV spots which would be nice to include but the biggest omission would have to be the lack of participation from Michele Soavi since he was such an important part of these films and the whole 80's Italian horror industry.
Still, without a doubt these are the most complete and best quality versions of Demons and Demons 2 ever produced and bring new appreciation to the films.
Owning these are absolutely essential for fans of 80's Italian horror film-making.