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Monday, November 8, 2010

Review: Night Of The Demons (2009)

In theory, I regarded Night Of The Demons to be a film that could possibly benefit from a remake.  The 1988 teen Horror offered plenty of laughs, a few chills and some inspired FX work; making it a modest enough hit to inspire two direct-to-video sequels.  Angela's macabre and erotically charged possession dance is still one of the more transfixing moments in 80's Horror cinema - if I have anything to say about it - and she would go on to become a minor icon.  However, the film is a little slow moving at first and some of the performances are shakier than a junkie in withdrawal.  Additionally, there are plot holes aplenty and when it all ends it leaves a few unanswered questions.  Chiefly, where did these demons come from and what was the eventual purpose for the bodies they inhabited?

It is with these things in mind that I hoped a remake might improve upon some of these aspects.  Maybe flesh out the story a little better to give it more cohesion; add an arc or two to give things a fresh twist; and hopefully offer stronger set pieces and performances so that it doesn't suffer from the inevitable 80's kitsch/cheese factor that seems to permeate nearly everything from that era.  So does director Adam Gierasch bring enough goods to the table to make this 2009 updating worth your time and attention?  Well honestly it's a mixed bag, but you're bound to find something tasty in all the raucous revelry.

To its credit, from the outset Night Of The Demons wears its admittedly shallow heart on its sleeve.  We are in for a rock 'em, sock 'em, devilish good time that never intends to take itself too seriously.  Pretty bodies, blood, booze and plenty of dirty dialogue are the order of the day and it delivers on all these fronts.  And the fronts of several of our core female participants deserve a credit unto themselves, I might enthusiastically add.

The main premise is basically the same: some obnoxious young adults attend a Halloween party, get mysteriously trapped inside the abode, inadvertently unleash body-possessing hell spawn and are killed off in various manners.  Gierasch substitutes Broussard Mansion for the original's Hull House funeral parlor and adds some motive behind the ghoul's fiendish festivities, but aside from that he keeps the mindless zeal of the original in both form and function.

Angela (Shannon Elizabeth) rents the sprawling manse and throws a huge bash hoping to turn some tidy profit.  When police bust up the brouhaha, we are left with soon-to-be-victims Lily (Diora Baird), Maddie (Monica Keena), Suzanne (Bobbi Sue Luther), Dex (Michael Copon), Jason (John F. Beach) and drug pushing Colin (Edward Furlong).  The group discovers a secret chamber in the basement housing six skeletal corpses.  When Angela attempts to remove a gold tooth from one she gets bitten and then it's off to the races.

All of the actresses seem more than comfortable in adopting their skimpy characterizations (and costumes) to utmost effect and the entire cast seems to have fun with the salty (if somewhat immature) dialogue.  Shannon Elizabeth doesn't have the same presence of Amelia Kinkade, but she does her best to give Angela the needed wanton wickedness to propel the proceedings.

Director Gierasch retains many key scenes from the original while adding his own little touches and flourishes, which will certainly be appreciated by the purists out there.  He improves upon the pacing and the script takes several knowing nods to the absurdity of it all for our added rustic amusement.  The electrifying soundtrack is a strong point and effectively punctuates the more feverish sequences; particularly the use of Type O Negative's "Black No. 1" during Angela's first carnal conquest.

On the downside, although the FX lean more toward the practical than CGI, there are some awkward and unconvincing moments and the demons get less impressive as their numbers mount.  Additionally, the somewhat contemptuous script teeters so closely on the edge of imitation and mockery that it steals from any suspenseful buildup that occasionally occurs.  Thankfully gags like face ripping, anal befoulment, beastial threesomes and bit cameos by Linnea Quigley and the infamous lipstick, all help to shift focus from these frequently facetious moments.

Despite a valiant effort, ultimately Gierasch's Night Of The Demons doesn't really improve on the original per se, but it does add a glossier sheen, doles out more eye candy and does its best to retain the same spirit of jubilant debauchery.  Still, a rather cursory celebration of Halloween is better than none at all; I'll give it props for dressing the part and knocking loudly at the door, I just wasn't that impressed by its overly familiar guise.  This one only gets the candy corn, sorry.

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