Shelf Space: "Demons" Blu-ray Review
The audience at the Metropol Theatre in Berlin settle into their seats, crack open a Coca Cola, and prepare themselves for a little horror film. What they didn't prepare for, is to have the theatre become their own personal hell on earth-- run rampant with obscene, ultra-violent DEMONS. They must do their best to survive this blood bath and pray they don't become one of Satan's spawn. This movie pretty much describes my feelings on the movie theatre "experience." I feel old.
Before we get into 1985's "Demons," let's take a quick note as to what went on in 1978. This was a big year in horror, bringing out the seminal slasher "Halloween" as well as the smash hit that was George Romero's "Dawn of the Dead". Behind the curtain of Romero's critical masterpiece was first-time producer and Italian autuer, Dario Argento(Suspiria, Opera). After the massive success of "Dawn of the Dead," Argento came to the easy conclusion that not only could he be directing films, but producing them as well. So, after a few more years of directing films the likes of "Inferno" and "Tenebre," Argento decided to jump back into the producing game- Approaching his long time friend and occasional Assistant Director, Lamberto Bava (Demons 2, Macabre).
After fleshing out Bava's then slightly more convoluted story, the production took about eight weeks in total between shooting in Berlin and Italy. The story said to be set in Berlin for two reasons: to serve as an homage to the birthplace of horror cinema, and also as a subtle allegory for what was then a divided city between West Berlin and its Soviet-controlled counterpart, East Berlin. "Demons" was released in Italian theaters shortly after Argento's "Phenomena" and grew to obtain a surprising amount of success-- leading to an eventual "Demons 2" and its loosely official third film, "The Church".
"Demons" was released on VHS through New World Pictures and then had a respectable DVD release through Anchor Bay years later in 1999. In December of last year, the fine gentleman at Synapse Films released an incredible, two disc Blu Ray/DVD in a beautiful steelbook-- limited to only 3000 copies.
The people running Synsapse do a very courteous job of keeping those interested in the loop of what exactly is happening over at their facilities. Sometime, before the release date, they reported on a multitude of issues that they needed to address before they felt comfortable releasing this transfer to the public. Their unshakable work ethic paid off- giving "Demons" one of the best transfers of a horror film I've ever seen.
Transferred from the original 1.66:1 in 1080p. The color correction is stunning and the re-instilled grain structure has textures and detail more justly represented than ever before. Every flesh wound and blood splatter blows me away. When its all said and done, this film is dark-- literally-- it takes place in a movie theatre. But Synapse have done an awesome job enhancing the quality from such a tricky base. I've posted both an image from the 1999 Anchor Bay release (top) and from the 2013 Synapse release (bottom). The differences should speak for themselves.
We are given three different options between the DTS-HD 2.0 English track in both stereo and mono as well an Italian 2.0 track. Admittedly, I only gave the english stereo track the proper go, but everything is in perfect working order. Dynamic is at bay and dialogue is at a healthy balance amongst the noise of panic and splatter kills. The unapologetic sound track of 80's favorites the likes of Saxon, Billy Idol, Motley Crue, and more, sit at a reasonable level for the surrounding action. It's definitely worth mentioning that this was the first Italian film to receive a proper Dolby Stereo treatment.
-Carnage at the Cinema: Lamberto Bava and his Splatter Masterpiece (34 min): Bava discusses the journey of "Demons" from the start. Bringing us through the inception, production, and releasing of the film.
-Dario and his Demons: Producing Monster Mayhem (15 min): Dario Argento reminisces about Bava, spfx, and producing. Things come a little off the rails in 15 short minutes. He's old, just nod your head.
-Monstrous Memories: Luigi Cozzi On Demons (29 min): Luigi offers his take on the reception of "Demons" as well as a glimpse of the Italian film industry in the 80s.
-Profondo Jones: The Critical Perspective (17 min): Author Alan Jones gives a critical and in depth analysis of the film.
-Splatter Stunt Rock: An Interview with Ottaviano Dell'Acqua (9 min): A short discussion on the stunt work of "Demons". I seem to have forgotten anything he said. Of course, I'd rather have this supplement than not at all.
-Commentary track from Lamberto Bava, SPFX artist Sergio Stivaletti, composer Claudio Simonetti and actress Geretti Geretti: The recording room is jam packed with horror icons for this release. They come out strong, giving a relatively organized discussion on the making of the film. Everyone has clearly prepared points they want to address, having Geretti fill in any gaps with use of sensible questions. Somewhere around the one hour mark, things start to bog down a tad. I honestly think that, because none of them have seen the movie since it came out in '85, they simply got caught up watching it. An above average track all the same!
-Exclusive Metropol Movie Ticket Reproduction!
-Original US and International Trailer
Should I buy it?
If you're a fan of cult horror- consider it.. If you're a fan of collecting- consider it more.. If you happen to be a fan of both-- it's no question. You have to have this. Syanpse have crushed this release on all fronts and I couldn't be more satisfied with it. I've said it before but just to be clear, THIS IS GOING TO SELL OUT. The $45 price tag will have cautious spenders second guessing, but I trust that they will make the right decision in the end. I'm about to go check the funds (pawn my neighbor's bicycle) and see about obtaining Synapse's companion release of "Demons 2".