Night of the Demons (1988)
I'm not going to try and pretend that I'm not biased towards NIGHT OF THE DEMONS, Director Kevin Tenney's sophomore feature film (his first was WITCHBOARD). I've been a big fan of the movie since I first saw it back in the early 90s, and in fact, I revisit it every year around Halloween. It's just that damn fun.
The story - which focuses on a group of teenagers who throw a party in an abandoned funeral home and find themselves falling prey to a demonic entity that possesses them on-by-one - is far from an original or sophisticated concept. However, despite its low budget trappings and over-the-top content, its actually a great horror film that is pretty heavily steeped in atmosphere.
NIGHT OF THE DEMONS makes the most of its restricted setting (most of the film takes place within a modestly-sized house) by using visual creativity and wonderful cinematography. The house itself becomes a malevolent presence, and every hallway feels overly long, with the shadows creeping across the screen like an oppressive force.
And, yet, the film is funny as hell at times...
Much like many other of its 1980s brethren, NIGHT OF THE DEMONS has this whimsically playful quality. However, unlike many of its peers, it strikes the balance between laughter and screams almost perfectly. Writer Joe Augustyn's script manages to turn what could have been another clunky mess of an attempt to cash in on the popularity of films like THE EVIL DEAD into a rollercoaster of a haunted house picture. Despite the fact that the real action doesn't start until about halfway through the film, the pacing is great. And once NIGHT OF THE DEMONS gets going, there's just no stopping. For anything.
Featuring wonderful, and at times, over-the-top gore effects, DEMONS also give us some of the best practical makeup effects of the 1980s. It would only be a matter of a few years before films like this would turn to computers to make their antagonistic creatures come to life, and in my mind, NIGHT OF THE DEMONS may just be one of the last great showcases for physical effects in horror films. Eyeballs are popped, limbs are torn, faces are burned, and teenagers are killed while the camera lingers on every second of carnage. It's pretty obvious why the film was originally truncated for its theatrical release, but thanks to home video, I've never had to watch that version.
If I had to pick one area to nitpick, it would be some of the performances, which at times border on camp. However, I just can't justify picking apart something like that in NIGHT OF THE DEMONS when it does everything else right and when the cast is just so likable. It almost makes you feel sorry for those that don't make it. Almost.
At the end of the day, it really s a no-brainer of a recommendation. If you're looking for high-art, you should probably take your search elsewhere. But, if you're looking for a hell of a fun time, with some great gore, a few hilarious moments, and a killer soundtrack, then NIGHT OF THE DEMONS is one party you should be sure to crash.
Once again, Scream Factory delivers NIGHT OF THE DEMONS to us in a Collector's Edition Blu-ray, which also includes a DVD version of the film. There are plenty of extra features, including multiple commentaries, a making of documentary, still galleries, interviews, and a lot more; most of which is newly created content exclusive to this release. The disc comes with a slipcover, featuring newly commissioned, retro-style artwork that wonderfully captures the spirit of the film, and the original poster art is included in a reversible insert in the Blu-ray jacket. This is the film's Hi-Def debut.
NIGHT OF THE DEMONS has always had a bit of a soft feel, visually, and that is no different here. Most likely, this is due to the source material, and it is pretty typical of a lot of low budget horror features from the 80s. Still, Scream Factory's new transfer of the film is absolutely gorgeous, and it's a huge improvement over the previous Anchor Bay DVD. Detail is fine, blacks are dark with no noticeable crushing, and the underlying grain really gives the movie a great film-like quality. The improved resolution and picture really help to highlight the great special effects, which are easily one of the film's biggest highlights. I've yet to see a bad transfer from Scream Factory, and NIGHT OF THE DEMONS scores high marks; even by those standards.
The Blu-ray features several audio tracks. There is the standard 5.1 remix, the original 2.0 stereo track, and a newly remixed 2.0 stereo track. All are uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio tracks with a satisfying bitrate. I've always been partial to the 5.1 mix of the film, which isn't very surround heavy, but still does a great job of adding atmosphere to the film. The original 2.0 track will keep purists happy; though I'm not really sure exactly how much it differs from the new 2.0 mix. Again, no complaints.
Scream Factory brings NIGHT OF THE DEMONS to Blu-ray with a wealth of newly commissioned supplements, and some old features as well.
- Audio Commentary with Director Kevin Tenney, Actors Cathy Podewell, Billy Gallo, Hal Havens, and Make-up Artist Steve Johnson: This is a new commentary track that is exclusive to this Blu-ray release. It's not overly technical, and in fact, it really has a wonderful laidback feel to it. The participants are constantly laughing and joking while they tell stories about the film's production, its place in their careers, and they just generally have a great time catching up with one another. This is probably my preferred commentary track.
- Audio Commentary with Director Kevin Tenney, Producer Jeff Geoffrey, and Executive Producer Walter Josten: This commentary is directly ported over from the old Anchor Bay DVD. Like the new commentary, it's a good balance of fun, candid conversation with no dull mements. However, it is a bit quieter, and somewhat more reserved. There is obviously some overlap, but not enough that it detracts from either commentary.
- "You're Invited": The Making Of NIGHT OF THE DEMONS: This new, near-feature-length documentary on the making of the film is the crown jewel in this package. Well made, informative as hell, and featuring interviews with just about every key player in the movie, this feature alone makes the disc worth upgrading. (72 min)
- Interview With Amelia Kinkade: A lengthy sit-down with the actress, who played the big baddie, Angela in all three of the original NIGHT OF THE DEMONS films. Some of this footage is used in the Making-Of doc, but it's still worth watching. (23 min)
- Allison Barron's Demon Memories: The actress shares her personal collection of photos from the film's set. (4 min)
- Theatrical Trailer: The red band trailer for the film. (2 min)
- Video Trailer: The trailer that was included on various home video releases. (2 min)
- TV Spots: A couple of TV ads from the film's initial release. (1 min)
- Radio Spot: Yeah, they used to advertise for movies on the radio. (>1 min)
- Promo Reel: An EPK-type promo piece that was used to sell the film's initial home video release. (4 min)
- Behind The Scenes Gallery: Photos from the set of the film (10 min)
- Special Effects And Makeup: A photo gallery of the creation of many of the film's effects. (9 min)
- Photo Gallery: Professional photos that were probably used to help promote the film, etc (9 min)
- Posters & Storyboards: Exactly what it sounds like. (2 min)
Scream Factory delivers once more, giving us what will probably be the definitive home video release of NIGHT OF THE DEMONS. The movie looks and sounds better than ever before, and the disc is packed to the gills with extra features. The commentaries and Making-Of documentary are worth the price of admission alone. NIGHT OF THE DEMONS is a title that I have eagerly waited to ported to Blu for many years now, and this release does not disappoint in the least.