Demons

Demons 2 (Dèmoni 2… l’incubo ritorna) (1986)

Demons 2 (Dèmoni 2… l’incubo ritorna) first published by VODzilla.co

One year after he made Demons (1985), director Lamberto Bava returned to his reflexive formula, where film itself becomes the medium of a diabolical uprising. Demons 2 (Dèmoni 2… l’incubo ritorna) is, improbably, a true sequel (as well as a rehash), set after the complete (and never explained) containment of the demonic apocalypse with which the last film ended. Everything is back to normal: everyone speaks English (in Berlin!), and gets on with what looks like an Italian idea of the great American Eighties lifestyle (again, in Berlin!). Most of the film is confined to the interiors of a swanky modern high-rise apartment block (called ‘The Tower’, again in English, in Berlin!). Bobby Rhodes, who memorably played a tough-talking, ass-kicking pimp in the original, here returns (impossibly) as a tough-talking, ass-kicking gym instructor. All of which is to say that, like its predecessor, this sequel, with its weird stylisations, is almost a study in inauthenticity – but that is not out of keeping with a film where reality warps and fiction comes to life. 

If demons entered Berlin last time around via a cursed film screened in a cinema, this time their point of entry is television – the medium through which, with the rise of home entertainment, most of us were watching horror movies in the mid Eighties. Many residents of The Tower are riveted to a cheesy film about four co-eds entering a ‘forbidden zone’ and accidentally reawakening a demon – a film-within-a-film that appears to be a sequel to the film-within-a-film from the first Demons. In the middle of her own birthday party, narcissistic Sally Day (Coralina Cataldo Tassoni) is sulking alone in her bedroom when the demon from the show stretches its way through the television screen, Videodrome-style, and takes possession of her. From here on in we know the score: locked into a building that is also a deathtrap, different characters either strive desperately to fight or escape, or else themselves join the growing throng of bright-eyed demons. And no one is safe from Satanic takeover – be they children (including a ten-tear-old Asia Argento in her first on-screen rôle) or even dogs. 

The hero here is George (David Knight), who in attempting to rescue his heavily pregnant wife Hannah (Nancy Brilli), gradually transforms from bespectacled physics student to a sleeveless action man, not unlike Ash from The Evil Dead (1981). Hannah is no slouch herself, having already learnt all the scientific formulae with which her husband still struggles, and proving resourceful in fending off a Gremlins-/Critters-like baby demon that chases her around the apartment. We suspect that George and Hannah will make great parents together, so long as their own baby is of the non-demonic variety. Everyone else, though, is doomed, as the demons claw, bite, run and leap – and ooze the sort of acidic blood last seen in Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986). Their spirit of contagion and infection taps right into the anxieties of the AIDS crisis (at its peak in the Eighties) – but the real source of danger here is television itself, literally poisoning viewers with its content and metamorphosing them into packs of crazed, violent killers. Demons 2 even ends in a television studio, and devilry is defeated by quite literally smashing TV screens.

Otherwise, not much has changed here from the original Demons. There is still the same expanding demonic horde fighting tooth and claw against a desperate ensemble of trapped survivors, still the same grotesque practical effects, still the same wooden acting and shrill dialogue, still the same use of contemporary goth-rock tracks on the score, still even a group of trouble-making punks joy-riding outside. So I guess demons never die – although subsequent entries (including Michele Soavi’s infinitely better Dellamorte Dellamore, aka Demons ’95) were sequels in name only.

Summary: Lamberto Bava’s small-screen sequel lets the devil out of the box.

© Anton Bitel