I recently renewed my acquaintance with Lamberto Bava’s deliriously silly 1985 gore film Demons/Demoni. It made me pine for the days in the late 1980s and early 1990s when me and my friends actively sought the worst VHS rental films to laugh at, be bewildered by, bitch about, quip at and get drunk with. For those who have missed out on this kind of wonderful experience– maybe you have mostly dullards for friends, or your partner affects only to enjoy good films or something, I don’t know– I recommend Red Letter Media’s Best of the Worst videos to give you an idea of how much fun you can have with a couple of atrocious films, a few (or a lot of) beers and some witty pals.
If my memory serves me correctly, during that long ago session Demons may even have been part of a double bill with the colossus of crap that is Showgirls, for some reason. Possibly one person bargained that they’d watch Demons if they could also rent Showgirls, or vice versa. In any case there are probably more similarities between the two than one might think. For one thing, both of them are well-made and good looking films even though this fine craftsmanship is in the service of scripts that are absolute trash and never make a lick of sense. Both were (perhaps excessively) sincere attempts at appealing to a mainstream audience, although they went about doing so in such an absurdly maladroit manner that with hindsight they couldn’t be more ripe for cult status instead of mass appeal. The primary difference between the two film makers is that I don’t think even Paul Verhoeven himself ever knows at any given time whether he’s got his tongue in his cheek or if he’s unironically revelling in gratuitous smut and violence, whereas Lamberto Bava seems to be quite firmly in the latter camp. I think gratuitous smut and violence can be glorious, by the way. I’m not knocking them. I mean, has anyone ever made ultraviolence more satisfying and cathartic than Verhoeven does in Robocop?
I’m on the record about the fact that I could hardly care less about spoilers, but for what it’s worth nothing here is going to give away anything major about the film. That’s mainly because there’s virtually no plot to spoil anyway. Some randoms get trapped in a cinema, some of them become possessed by demons and savagely attack the dwindling group of survivors, the end. Characters in the film have hairstyles and outfits in lieu of personalities. We learn virtually nothing about them as individuals either before or after they get ripped apart, gnawed, squished or stabbed.