Dario Argento is one of the most iconic names in Italian horror cinema, hailed as one of the masters of the genre, who was treated as being on par with Hitchcock in Italy. But as well as his own directorial work, he also helped to produce a number of films considered classics, and helped to forge the careers of other directors. Demons and Demons 2 is one such project, where Argento produced the projects for director Lamberto Bava, the son of Mario Bava, and created a set of films that have become iconic over the years.
The first film sees a young student, Cheryl (Natasha Hovey) being given free tickets to a new film screening. Roping her friend into going along with her, the two girls end up joining an eclectic group of people who’ve come to watch the film. Once the film starts the audience learns that it’s a horror film about demonic possession.
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Things begin to take a strange turn when one of the people watching, Rosemary (Geretta Geretta), sees a character in the film playing around with a mask that looks just like the one she messed around with in the lobby, and the man on screen ends up being cut on his face in the same way she does. The lines between fiction and reality begin to blur even more when Rosemary transforms into a demon, just like in the film, and begins to spread the infection amongst the film-goers. With the exits all sealed, the audience is trapped inside the building with the growing number of demonic entities.
The second film is set within an apartment building. We get to meet various inhabitants of the building in the early minutes of the film: pregnant newlyweds, a happy family, a boy left home alone, a gym full of fitness enthusiasts, and an apartment filled with party-goers, to name but a few. Throughout the apartment building various inhabitants are watching a film on television, a film about the demon outbreak that destroyed an entire city, as seen at the end of the first film. When one of these demons literally bursts through the screen and infects one of the viewers a new demonic infection spreads through the building, and the inhabitants begin a desperate fight for survival.
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Both of the Demons movies deal with the blurring between reality and fiction, and seem to enjoy breaking the fourth wall in ways that most horror film don’t. There are very few films in general that I can think of that see use the medium of a film within a film to influence events within the ‘real’ world. It’s this uniqueness, along with some fast paced action, great soundtracks, and some top notch special effects that helped to make Demons a popular series from the very beginning.
The films themselves are presented in a great 4K restoration from the original cinema negatives, making this the sharpest and clearest version of these films you’re likely to see. With so many horror fans having watched them originally on grainy VHS tapes and as bootlegs this could be the first time anyone has seen the films presented this way since their original, limited, theatrical runs. The Blu-ray also presents newly enhanced audio tracks for the films, which were made in Italian, and you have the option of the new audio tacks, as well as the original versions. Coupled with the ability to watch the films in the original Italian with newly translated subtitles, the new set provides a host of ways to experience the movies.
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The set also comes with some special features, including video essays for both films from historians that give insight into the making of the films, and the careers of both Bava and Argento, as well as a video essay that takes a look at the themes that are present in the movies. There are also multiple audio commentaries for the films, including those with cast and crew that give insight into how the films were made and what it was like to work on them. The most interesting extras, however, are the two audio commentaries provided by people who didn’t work on the films. The first film gets a commentary from the hosts of Hell’s Bells podcast that looks at the film from a historical point of view and the influences it had on the genre, whilst the sequel gets a commentary by critic Travis Crawford, who brings a host of historical and factual information to the film.
I’d not seen the Demons films before this new set, though was aware of it thanks to the iconic imagery of the glowing eyed infected, so to get to finally experience these movies, with all of this loving restoration work put in and a host of special features and new information was an absolute joy. Whether you’re a fan of the franchise already, or simply looking for something standout to watch, this set is an absolute must.
Demons 1 & 2 Limited Edition Blu-ray is out now from Arrow Video.