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Blu-Ray/DVD Review: NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (1988)

The Doctor | 24 January 2014 | DVD/BluRay Reviews, Movie Lounge | | 0 Comments   

NIGHT ONight-of-the-Demons-bluray-cover-600x753F THE DEMONS (1988)
 BY
 SHAWN FRANCIS

It was issue #2 of the 1989 fanzine, Slaughterhouse Magazine, which clued me in to the existence of director, Kevin Tenney’s, Night Of The Demons. Flip to page 25 and right there is a super close-up of possessed and burned Stooge’s (Hal Havins) face. The next page his evil, scorched mug is there too, spread out across both pages, not as large, but just as imposing. It was this gross make-up for this character (by FX artist, Steve Johnson) that quite frankly turned me off to this movie for a while. I was 20 and I had never seen anything like that in my life. I thought, ‘oh, God, this looks like a gross movie. Look at that fuckin’ thing.’

My memory is somewhat vague when it comes to the night I saw it on cable. IMDB states its release date was October 14th, 1988, which would mean I probably saw it in ’89 or ‘90. Back then it generally took a year before any new movie made it to cable and the memory I have of the next day is clearly summer, or late summer. I was working at K-Mart back then (in the stockroom) but I don’t have any memory of going to work the next day, so it may have been a day off I had.

But back to the night it actually came on. It was late, and I was in the living room, the only room that had the cable box hooked up to the TV and I think I knew ahead of time it was going to be on. I also vaguely remember thinking ‘well, I’ll give it a look but no guarantee I’ll continue to watch it all the way through.’ From the photos in Slaughterhouse I already had this preconceived notion of what the production value was going to look like and quite honestly I assumed it would be, at the most, a pretty crummy movie. Nothing more, nothing less.

It was that animated opening credits, however, that actually gave me hope that, perhaps, this wasn’t going to suck balls after all. Anyone who’s seen them knows of which I speak. There were creepy, cartoonish images of a house on a hill, ghosts and ghouls flying about all wrapped up in classic 80s synthesized, instrumental rock music that actually appealed to me. It was basically a unique opening, one that an average low-budget horror movie about a haunted house generally doesn’t have. It hinted that the filmmakers were striving to do something different, something they actually gave a shit about.
I decided to relax and give this thing some serious attention.

The premise is simple. Throw a group into a confined environment and set upon them a “force,” be it human, alien, giant insect, etc., and watch how they react. You’ve seen it before and you’ll see it again, here the group is a bunch of teens on Halloween looking for a place to party, the confined environment is an abandoned mortuary called, Hull House, and the “force” that’s going to set itself upon them is demonic.

What makes this particular confined environment terror tale a standout are due to several factors, most importantly the characters/actors are congenial and relatable. Even the “douchebags” in the bunch, and every group in one of these movies has at least one, aren’t as douchey as they could be. I’m speaking strictly about Stooge (Hal Havins) and Sal (William Gallo). They fall more into the “lovable douche” category; off putting on one level but balanced out with enough good humor and charm where you end up liking them in the end.

There are ten kids in all—Stooge (Hal Havins), Helen (Allison Barron), Rodger (Alvin Alexis), Angela (Amelia Kinkade), Judy (Cathy Podewell), Suzanne (Linnea Quigley), Jay (Lance Fenton), Sal (William Gallo), Max (Philip Tanzini) and Frannie (Jill Terashita).

Stooge, Rodger and Helen attempt to make it Hull House first, but don’t due to Stooge not having a tire iron; this’ll be the first date for Jay and Judy; Sal was not invited but nailed Judy months prior and wants to see her again, so he crashes the party; Max and Frannie are a couple and are hitching a ride with Jay and Judy; Amelia is the Goth chick who planned this whole night and Suzanne is her best friend, both of whom are seen for the first time in a convenience store. Angelia is shoplifting while Suzanne acts as the distraction.

Hull House has a history and is completely encircled by a brick wall, which lines up perfectly with the underground stream on the property. It was once a mortuary but more than that the land it was built on is cursed. What better place to throw a Halloween bash?

Aside from the relatable characters the second thing this movie has going for it is the house itself. It’s not a set but an actual location, and up to then the second creepiest abode I had ever seen committed to film; the first being the Marsten House from Tobe Hooper’s 1979 mini-series of Salem’s Lot. I remember being quite impressed with the fact that it didn’t look like some cheap location.

The next thing to impress me was Angela’s talk of demonic infestation. The last time I came across that term was in the book The Demonologist, the one that chronicles those ghost hunters, Ed and Lorraine Warren. I remember thinking, ‘I wonder if the filmmakers had read that book and decided to incorporate some of that info in the movie?’ Lastly, the movie does a good job and making you feel afraid of the dark and the demons lurking within it. I credit that to the cinematography and the actors who actually act like they’re terrified.

Last but not least, Steve Johnson’s’ effects are a standout. Stooge’s and Angela’s state of possessions being key among them, as well as Suzanne’s infamous lipstick gag.

The following day when I got up I had that end credit’s song, “The Beast Inside,” on my mind as I showered. I believe right then and there I made the choice to actually record it the next time it came on.

My next vivid recollection of this movie is in the fall of 1990. I had just started dating this girl and we were at her apartment. It was the night I first met her brother and wouldn’t you know it the movie was about to start on cable. All three of us watched it. Neither she nor he had ever seen it and I remember the both of them jumping when Max’s severed arm leaps at Judy and grabs her ankle.

Back in the late 90s when Anchor Bay was the king of cult classic distribution Night Of The Demons finally saw the light of day on DVD in 2004. To say I was pleased would be an understatement. Now that it’s finally hitting blu-ray (and DVD again) in a combo with a new remastered transfer on February 4th I’m pleased all over again.

Coming from Shout! Factory’s horror sub-label, Scream Factory, the new 1080p 1.85:1 anamorphic high definition transfer is without a doubt the best I have seen this movie look. To me it looked like it could have been made yesterday. It’s so vivid I actually noticed the “crotch patch” Linnea Quigley wears under her panties in her famous bent over ass shot in the convenience store. It’s almost flesh colored but not quite and you can see some of it on both sides of her clothed nether regions. I have never noticed this before with Anchor Bay’s 2004 DVD. Details on the walls in Hull House could be made out and quite frankly this new look made the abode creepier. Colors were very good, too.

I was also impressed by the new 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. This is the crispest one I have ever heard on a Scream title. I even heard audio sounds I’ve never noticed before. The scene at the house where they go into the kitchen and you hear the story of the Indian. As they first enter, the camera is on Max and in the background you can see Frannie and Judy looking at and commenting on something. On this version I could hear, “Look at this,” “Ewww,” from the girls. Never had I heard that dialogue before. You also have two other audio options—the 2.0 original DTS-HD track and a new 2.0 DTS-HD track.
There are subtitles; English only.

Now we come to the extra features and this new edition is loaded. The crème of the crop is the 1 hour, 11 minutes and 31 second documentary titled, “You’re Invited”—The Making Of Night Of The Demons. From idea to release, this doc chronicles it all. You even get interviews with the two artists who did the animation for the opening credits. Some of the info is reiterated from what gets conveyed by Tenney in the two commentaries, but for the most part it’s all new stuff you’ll learn. The only two actors that couldn’t be part of the doc, for whatever reason, are the ones who played Frannie and Max.

You get two commentaries. The old one from the Anchor Bay DVD has been ported over, which has director Kevin Tenney, Executive Producer Walter Josten and Producer Jeff Geoffray and a new one made especially for this combo, which has Director Kevin Tenney and cast members, Hal Havin, Cathy Podewell, Billy Gallo and FX Artist Steve Johnson.

‘Interview With Amelia Kinkade’ (22:31)—Recorded in South Africa, this was broken apart and inserted into the doc. This here is the whole thing cut together with a few new tidbits that were not shown.

‘Allison Barron’s Demon Memories’ (3:56)—Allison narrates a slide show of some of her personal photos taken during production.

You also get a Theatrical Trailer, a Video Trailer, some TV Spots, a Radio Spot and a Promo Reel (4:11). Watching the TV spots again made me think I may have actually seen them when the movie was coming out. And rounding out the extras are 344 behind-the-scenes photographs, most if not all I have never seen before. They are spread out among four different slideshow featuretets: Behind The Scenes Gallery (9:22), Special Effects And Make-Up (8:42), Photo Gallery (8:37) and Posters And Storyboards (1:27).

In a nutshell I declare this new combo to be the definitive edition of Night Of The Demons (1988). What are you waiting for? Get your ass onto the net and buy it!

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