Night of the Demons (1988)
NIGHT OF THE DEMONS
WRITER: Joe Augustyn
DIRECTOR: Kevin S. Tenney
STARRING: Alvin Alexis as Rodger
Allison Barron as Helen
Lance Fenton as Jay
William Gallo as Sal
Hal Havins as Stooge
Mimi Kinkade as Angela
Cathy Podewell as Judy
Linnea Quigley as Suzanne
Philip Tanzini as Max
Jill Terashita as Frannie
QUICK CUT: A group of teens gather at an abandoned funeral home for a Halloween party. What could possibly go wrong??
Rodger - I don't know why Rodger is in this movie. I don't think HE knows. He doesn't seem like the sort that would hang around with Stooge, and he spends most of his time running from whatever's going down. I wouldn't call him cowardly, because hey, it's the smart thing to do, but he does come off as very passive.
Judy - A local girl with a good heart, and too many guys in her life. She's your typical all-American girl. So much so that you can almost smell the apple pie.
Stooge - The big, dopey type we all know, who is into crude humour, and being mean just to be mean, because it's funny.
Angela - The girl behind the party. A little bit goth, and described as the weird girl in school. She's an outcast, but she's found her niche in life by being the spooky kid throwing the spooky party in the spooky place on the spooky holiday.
THE GUTS: Welcome back, Triskelions to the midway point of MONTH OF THE DEMONS. We reach 1988, and probably the best known movie on this list, Night of the Demons. Yep, we've upgraded from singular to plural. But there's still no occult magicians here, and no Bigfeets. Third time around features the classic 80s horror setup of a group of teens going to a party and calling down some demons for funsies.
Arguably when someone says "Night of the Demon/s", this will be the movie people think of. It spawned a number of sequels, was around at the height of the VHS/home video boom, and has a lot going for it in the timing of things. So it has a lasting fanbase, many of whom saw it when it was new, or on tv, or whatever, so this is the one we all think of. Or, the remake, which is recent and on peoples' minds.
But we dive right into this movie after the credits, with a group of mischief making teens on their way to a party, and taking some time out of their busy day to harass an old man. But the joke is on them as he's got some apples and razor blades he's bringing home to give out as treats.
Judy tries to help him out after someone else causes him to spill his groceries all over the sidewalk, but he chases the girl off with his *charming* personality.
She heads home to get ready for the school Halloween dance, but her date calls up with a better idea; a different party in the middle of nowhere being hosted by the weird girl from school, and at the legendary Hell..er, Hull House. Because school parties are for nerds! Here's a tip, school parties are also for the kids who wanna survive the movie.
Judy's ex shows up and is intercepted by her little brother, but he finds out from the squirt where the secret party is, and heads on over. Yeah, this isn't stalkery at all.
Meanwhile, over at the local Try 'N' Save, that 'weird kid' Angela is using her friend's butt as a distraction to keep the attention of the cashiers while she robs the place for some party supplies.
Jay shows up to pick up Judy for the party, and another couple of friends on the way. Don't worry about them, they're just here to pad out the canon fodder. We have met our cast, everyone is on their way, we can finally get this ball rolling, and dispense with the cheap scares of kids in masks jumping out of shadows!
Actually, we take a bit more time as everyone arrives at the old funeral home and DOES do more cheap scares of jumping out of shadows. Hopefully they don't run into Chalmers in the basement. They give us some typical spooooky lore, and that there is an underground stream beneath the high, high wall surrounding the entire place, so any evil spirits can't escape. Or pesky kids and their meddling dogs.
This movie takes a long, long time to work through its setup. It takes a whopping 20 minutes before we even see the house of doom, but there's a lot of characters to introduce and get into place, so that's fine. On top of that, once they're inside and starting the party, even that chugs along for another 15, 20 minutes before any paranormal activity kicks off.
I'm torn, because like I said, there's a lot of characters, a lot of lore, and a location to set up, but the movie really needs something to spice up the opening act. Scaring an old man so he drops his groceries just doesn't cut it.
There is only so much dancing, drinking beer, and not getting killed a horror reviewer can take, my friends.
But wait! Something happens...THE RADIO'S BATTERIES DIE. The *horror*. Seriously the movie needed to do SOMEthing to inject some energy and scares into the first act. The house has demons? Gimmie something to look forward to!
Angela at least has the right idea, and once the radio is out of commission, killing the dance party, she suggests holding a seance. Helen tries to stop that before it starts because oh no, it's Halloween and the spirits are out when the veil is weak between worlds. That's the point! Get on with it! Do not listen to her!
The house farts, and that is so not what I mean by doing something. But a creaky house is a good *start* at least. Stooge drags Rodger to check out the noise, and he screams the instant they leave the room. Rodger is *really* shaken by it, and it would've been great if the movie let US in on the frights.
Our group finds a large mirror in the room, and decide to hold a 'past life seance' which involves sitting and staring at the mirror until weird shit happens.
Look, I've been sitting and staring at this movie for 30 minutes waiting for exactly that, and we are way past due, so the movie better get on with it!
The movie actually delivers and a strange face appears in the mirror, causing little miss let's not hold a seance to scream. The mirror topples over and nearly takes out most of the group right then and there, but we are not that fortunate.
So, we have two people already traumatised by sights and sounds, and they've not given the audience itself much of anything to go along with them on this journey.
The group huddles around the mirror shards, and for such a low budget trashy horror movie, they actually pull off a REALLY nice artsy shot with the camera pointing straight at the shards, and seeing each person reflected in their own bit of mirror.
Some more noises burp out of the house, and Judy says its coming from the basement, so we get to see the furnace. Take your pick! Will Freddy Krueger appear? Or Max Jenke?
Neither, obviously, and whatever's lurking in the house bursts out of the oven, and crawls around like it's straight out of Evil Dead. Run faster, this movie needs you, stat.
Rodger has had enough, and he decides to get out before he becomes the Black Guy Walking. He has clearly seen his fair share of horror movies.
The demon or whatever quickly possesses Suzanne, as Angela tries to explain that there aren't ghosts in the house, it's not *haunted*. It's POSSESSED. Because they're demons, and never had human form, never died, and...I don't *quite* think that's how it works. If a ghost possesses a human, they don't say the person is haunted, they say, well..it's right there, isn't it?
But hey, if this is the lore the movie wants to go with, I can run with it, as long as it sticks to its own terminology.
Rodger and Helen are ready to leave, and get some keys, so they can bug out before the weird stuff starts. Take your time kids, no hurry, if the movie so far is anything to judge by.
And what does the demon want to do? Party! Oh come on, you missed the last 15 minutes of that, kid. Start ripping tongues out and setting things on fire already.
But wait! The rest of the group isn't up for more partying, and instead decide to split up and explore the house, probably to have sex. Oh thank the maker, those are all things that get you killed in a horror movie.
Demanne decides that's not a bad idea, and drags Stooge off into the house to have her way with him. But before she goes, she passes on a little demon to Angela, to spread the fun around.
Meanwhile, outside Rodger and Helen are looking for the gate so they can beat feet out of there, but all they find is more and more brick wall. And then Helen just up and disappears. Things are not looking good for you, Rodg!
Rodger decides to wait in the car until someone shows up, or the gate reappears, and I thought the demon told him to open the gate? Doesn't it want to escape? Why keep him trapped?
Upstairs, Stooge is waiting on Suzanne, but he somehow loses her in a locked room, and not getting anywhere with her. The weird stuff is at least slowly beginning to trickle into the plot.
While Stooge is getting ghostblocked upstairs, Angela's demon is starting to enjoy the feel of its new body, and makes her dance all around to get some more titilation into the plot.
Stooge gets bored and comes down to see the dancing black bride, and she tricks him into a kiss. And by 'trick' I mean 'asks for a kiss'. Easiest possession *ever*.
Unfortunately, Stooge bit off more than he could chew, or maybe Angela did, as she tears out his tongue during the kiss. FINALLY.
Meanwhile, Sal has wandered upstairs to find Suzanne, so I guess he and Stooge swapped partners. He finds her where Stooge left her, and acting really weird. Which, at this point, is saying something.
As Jay takes his turn visiting Suzanne, Sal heads downstairs to head home, but discovers that he can check out any time he likes, but he can never leave. And when Angela comes at him after sticking her hands into the fire, he starts to clue in that weird things are afoot.
Outside, Rodger gets woken up from his nap, when the dead body of Helen reappears into the movie almost as quickly as it disappeared. Almost an hour into this thing, and finally the bodies are literally dropping. Shame we didn't get to *see it happen*.
Back upstairs, Jay is having sex with Demanne, and gets his eyes gouged out and killed. Talk about going from zero to sixty in no time at all.
Now that he's one of the walking dead, Stooge wanders around and finds the other two members of the party whose characterisation and plot got dropped amidst everyone else's. He snaps the girl's neck, and slams the lid of the coffin they were having sex in down on the guy's arm until it snaps off. We seriously just chewed through half the cast in three minutes.
Rodger has heard everyone dying and rushes in for his own fate, but before Angela can add him to the rapidly mounting pile, Sal appears. The two hide in the labyrinthine corridors of the house and wait.
They find Judy locked in a room where she spent nearly the entire second act, and has NO clue what's going on in the rest of the movie. Demona shows up and Judy figures it out really quick as Rodger runs off by himself again.
Unfortunately, they decided to hide in the same room Demanne and Jay were boinking in, and have to deal with one demon while escaping another. Sal gets defensetrated, and Judy runs off alone.
She finds herself in the parlour, where Max's severed arm attacks her, and she runs away some more, this time finding the front door. And finding the front door locked.
Judy finds Rodger, just as Stooge finds them both, and she runs off once again. We have officially entered the 'wandering the halls' phase of the plot.
She runs and runs until she finds a way out of the attic and onto a rooftop patio. But just as Sal finds his way back to the group, so does Demona. The possessed girl falls to her notdeath, and almost takes Judy with her, but she manages to fall onto another part of the house that's not as far down as the actual ground.
Sal however, was not so lucky and landed on a nearby picket fence that picketed his heart.
Of course, even if they get out of the house, there's still the 20 foot tall brick wall completely encircling the place. But one problem at a time!
So with everyone else either dead or possessed or both at this point, Judy and Rodger resume their running and end up back in the basement. Judy sees the giant metal door, and thinks it might be a way out.
Yeeah, no, this is a funeral home, and that's an oven for cremation.
The Attack of the Frank Welkers arrives outside the basement door, and bangs away trying to get in. But they say too much and Judy figures all they have to do is survive until dawn, when Halloween is over, and the demons go back to where they came from.
It would seem like a good plan to just hunker down in the basement and wait for the sun to come up, but the demons have other plans. They use their magic powers of plot convenience to start removing the bolts that keep the door to the basement on its hinges.
That still gives Judy plenty of time to MacGyver a flamethrower from the pipe that feeds gas into the oven. Convenient that the gas has been left on all this time, but I digress.
Our heroes run for the front door, but find it locked. Which gives Blind Jay time to show back up all demonised. And the burninating only slowed down the others, since they're still wandering around, just a little crispier than before.
The entire Legion of the Unliving show up to try and corner the two normies remaining. Rodger continues to be the smartest one in the room, and continues to insist he is NOT gonna be the black guy who dies in a horror movie. The doors may not work, but he sees one with a giant pane of glass, and dives right through it.
Defenestration saves the day!
So they made it outside, but yeah, there's still that wall, but fortunately, there's something dangling down they can use to climb out! ...Barbed wire! Okay, I get that climbing up that is difficult, and they have no other choice, but surely they could have like...removed Rodger's vest, to wrap around their hands? Or torn up Judy's skirt? Or ANYthing?
I will let it slide only because of the demonic horde nipping at their heels.
Rodger tries to help Judy over the wall, but falls onto the other side. And since most of the movie has had him dealing with shock and a bit of a yellow streak, it looks like Judy will be a goner.
But just as you think she's done for, Rodger finds a tiny bit of courage, climbs back up somehow, and pulls her over the rest of the way. JUST as the sun rises, so they would've been fine in another ten seconds anyways.
The demons, and the bodies, disappear in a puff of smoke, and our survivors literally walk off into the sunrise.
Oh, and they pass by the old guy from the start of the movie, and we see him have some apple pie to start his morning, which his wife made with his bad apples. So a completely unrelated bookending sequence that has nothing to do with the plot!
Not to mention the piles of logic flaws here, such as did the wife know and murdered her husband? If not, how did she slice the apples and miss every single razor blade to the point where she'd not see them? Not to mention how he ATE them without noticing to have them slice through his throat?? I could've almost let the scene slide on fun, if it wasn't so unrelated to the plot, or even made a hint of sense.
Video: It looks solid enough, and is a decent transfer of an 80s low budget movie. The house looks a bit too much like a set, and it's maybe not lit well enough at times, but it's fine.
Audio: All I am going to say, is what the back of the DVD says it has for an audio track - ULTRA STEREO! I don't know what that means, I don't know what is so special about it, but it sounds good enough.
Sound Bite: "Count Dingleberry, the flaming asshole of Transylvania!"
Body Count: This gets a bit dodgy, since do we count people as being dead once they're possessed? The possessed 'living' and the possessed 'dead' look the same, so I guess that the living person is technically dead once the demon's taken over, but I am only gonna count dead bodies, just for clarity. Or as clear as things get when everyone also goes POOF! at the end...
1 - At 58 minutes! a dead body finally appears, but I don't think we actually saw Helen die...
2 - Then Jay is promptly killed by having his eyes gouged out.
3 - Then Frannie gets her neck snapped by Stooge
4 - And Max loses an arm and dies.
5 - Sal falls off the roof and lands on a handy fence post to break his fall.
6 - ...And then everyone disappears in a gust of smoke when the sun comes up??
Best Corpse: I am rather fond of Max getting his arm bashed repeatedly with a coffin lid until it falls off.
Blood Type - C+: Not a bad amount, but clearly could've been more, and gorier. The effects and makeup are also more on the Fright Night side of cheesy, but still decent.
Sex Appeal: Linnea Quigley does it again. We last saw her breasts in Silent Night Deadly Night #1, and they're back in full force here.
Drink Up! Whenever you see demonface.
Video Nasties: This is a tough one, because there's a lot of *little* moments that are a lot of fun, but nothing quite lengthy enough. I went with the fun rooftop moment because it incorporates some good scares and chasing and cinematography.
Movie Review: I'd say it's pretty obvious I'm not a HUGE fan. The pacing is horrible, the production values aren't *great*, but once the movie FINALLY gets rolling, it doesn't really stop, and mows through its cast, and has a few surprises along the way. It has a few unexpected visuals that makes this stand out and make it a truly unique experience. The writing is decent, although a mixed bag for pacing. I do give it a bit of a pass, since they have SO many characters, and it's genuinely well made. It IS a lot of fun, even when it's slow, and has a good feel of the time period and the sort of young people its trying to capture. I can see why this is a cult classic, but I can also see why some people would want to remake it. The payoff is genuinely worth the setup, which is rarely the case. Three out of five black wedding dresses.
Entertainment Value: The slower parts are buoyed up by quirky characters, and there's a lot to like and laugh at in the first half, which goes a long way to making it tolerable. Even the unrelated bookends with the old guy are a lot of fun, set the tone, and intro the group in some fun ways. While it wasn't quite clicking as a horror movie, it was working well enough for a teen comedy. The quirkiness definitely helps give it a singular voice, and of course, the second half is a fun ride that rarely lets up, with some of the most creative visuals I've seen in this sort of movie, from this time period. It's a rocky start, but it's genuinely fun for most of the run. Three out of five severed arms.