Release date: April 30th, 2012
Year of production: 1985
Certificate (UK): 18
Running time: 88 minutes
Director: Lamberto Bava
Writers: Lamberto Bava, Dario Argento, Dardano Sacchetti, Franco Ferrini
Cast: Natasha Hovey, Paola Cozzo, Urbano Barberini, Karl Zinny, Geretta Giancarlo, Bobby Rhodes, Fabiola Toledo
There’ve been times at the cinema when I’ve been watching what’s on screen and found myself lost in thoughts about whether or not such a thing could happen in real life – and what I would do if it did. Would I go insane with panic if monsters were eating everyone? Would I take to the streets in anarchy if the world was ending? Would I be any help at all to others? All these things come to mind sometimes and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
In Demons, an unlucky group of cinemagoers get to experience all of these anxieties when the film they’re watching starts to feel a little too real. Set in Berlin, it begins with university student Cheryl (Natasha Hovey) riding the U-Bahn to Schöneberg. When she gets off, a mysterious stranger with a disfigured face, half hidden by a metal mask, hands her a flyer inviting her to a free screening of a new film at the Metropol.
Although frightened by the man at first, Cheryl decides to go with her friend, Kathy (Paola Cozzo). Once they arrive at the Metropol they see a lot of other people have also been invited, and two young guys, George (Urbano Barberini) and Ken (Karl Zinny) start flirting with them. Meanwhile, two young women, Rosemary and Carmen (Fabiola Toledo) arrive with their pimp, Tony (Bobby Rhodes). Rosemary picks up one of the props in the lobby, a metal mask, and begins to play with it, but it cuts her face.
As Cheryl and Kathy take to their seats, the guys join them and the movie begins.
The film they’re watching starts off with a group of friends exploring a cemetery where they say Nostradamus is buried. One of them reads an inscription on a tomb, “They will make cemeteries their cathedrals and the cities will be your tombs”. The girls in the film begin to get very scared and look to the guys to protect them. A mask, like the one Rosemary held, is seen. One of the guys puts it on and he ends up with a cut on his cheek, just like Rosemary’s. He then goes through a nasty transformation and proceeds to kill his friends.
Rosemary’s cut starts to bleed and when she goes off to the ladies room to see about it, she too transforms and all hell breaks loose in the Metropol. It takes a while for the audience in the film to realise what’s happening – that the film they were invited to watch is somehow connected to what they’re now experiencing.
It creates a strange kind of reflexivity for us – we’re watching a film about a group of cinemagoers terrorised by demons as they too are watching a film about a group terrorised by demons. The feeling should be an uneasy one; we should be thinking “will the same happen to us?” but instead we’re not. Demons is far too funny and enjoyable for that too happen. As the Metropol becomes overrun by these creatures, infecting humans and turning them, the uninfected barricade themselves and try to find a way out, but it’s hopeless. Cheryl, Kathy, George and Ken do their best to stay alive, but if they do manage to get out, there’s no guarantee things on the outside are any better.
As a horror film, Demons offers a rare look at Berlin in the 1980’s, and as someone who used live there in the early 2000’s, it’s great to see some places didn’t changed that much. The Metropol building is still there but it’s now called Goya, and although there are many new buildings and complexes on Kurfürstendamm, Heidelberger Platz and Wittenberger Platz more or less look the same.
Despite feeling as if it’s taken its cues from George A. Romero’s Living Dead series and yet not offering any plausible answers for what’s happening, or why, Demons is a film I should have watched a long time ago because of my love for this era and genre.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .