I remember thinking this was quite bad when I saw it on VHS twenty-plus years ago, and it probably is, but all qualitative analysis goes out the window when you’re watching Demons in a sold-out theater with Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin performing the soundtrack live. In fact it’s a solid horror movie once you throw out the idea that characters or dialogue or motivation or logic matter. What matters is that people are trapped in a theater full of demons – most will be killed horribly and/or turned into zombie demons themselves, and a few might survive. And after the credits roll, you forget which ones survived and why, as Goblin performs a full set of hits synched to music videos of kills from Argento, Romero, and Deodato movies.

Internet says the two who escaped through the hole in the roof caused by a helicopter smashing through the roof (!) are Urbano Barberini (the killer cop of Opera, who’d previously motorcycled through the theater cutting down zombies with a sword) and Natasha Hovey (who turns demonic and dies over the end credits). The victims are gathered by invitation of Michele Soavi to watch a movie about a demonic plague caused by a cursed mask, as the same scenario plays out in the theater. Some hopped-up punks break into the place only to become extra victims. A bloody, oozy, gory good time with a big crowd, and even Claudio was laughing at some of the English line deliveries. I haven’t seen Bava/Argento’s part two, and an attempt to make part three resulted in Soavi’s great The Church.

Hovey inviting doom from Soavi:

Victim #1:

Getting to the chopper:

Brutality in front of 4 Flies and No Nukes posters:

Sharp costumes and production design on a gorgeous blu-ray, a nice change of pace. Ferroni made this long before Night of the Devils, but not a horror specialist, made mostly adventures and westerns in between. In the 1920s Hans has come to write a research article in a historic mill full of remarkably realistic (uh oh) sculptures of people being murdered. He meets up with cute Lottie, but becomes obsessed with the secretive Elfie, daughter of millmaster Wahl. He discovers that Dr. Bolem also lives at the mill because Elfie is afflicted with a secret made-up illness: she’ll die if she gets too excited. In the very next scene, a secret meeting with Hans, she gets upset and drops dead.

Elfie’s first appearance:

Elfie hitting on Hans:

Turns out Elfie has recurrent death syndrome and her dad and the doctor keep bringing her back by stealing blood from local girls, then Wahl turns the dead girls into new exhibits for his horror windmill. They drug Hans so he loses his object permanence then they declare him insane and send him away so he won’t discover their mad science. Meanwhile they’ve got their eyes on his girlfriend Lotte’s especially rare blood. Hans sends the cops, but no need, the dad and the doctor feud to the death, and the mill burns.

Nice touch: local girl Liana Orfei pretends to be a statue for a drawing class:

Liana ends up as expected, Wahl adding final touches:

Hans was later in Night of the Damned… Elfie of euro-spy Operacion Gigante… Wahl of Christopher Lee non-horror Secret of the Red Orchid… Lottie in Clouzot’s Inferno and the Christopher Lee Hands of Orlac… and Dr. Bolem was Mabuse in the last Lang film.

Every Shocktober you’ve gotta watch one of those illogical Italian movies with crazy use of zooms and focus and repetitive editing. Londoner “Jane” (Five Dolls star Edwige Fenech) sees murder everywhere since her miscarriage, husband “Richard” (her costar from Martino’s Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh) wants her to take her blue pills and make sweet love to him and not go to therapy. But Jane is being stalked by the blue-eyed man from her murder dreams. After he tries to kill her with an axe, neighbor May takes Jane to a group she says can help: a rapey clown cult of pale-faced people watching a guy with Freddy fingernails do animal sacrifices.

“You’ve crossed the limits of reality.” Everyone starts dying – Richard pitchforks Blue Eyes (Ivan Rassimov of Schock) then shoots his wife’s sister Barbara for trying to seduce him, the cult kills Richard, etc. Even the tidy explanatory ending doesn’t make sense, which is perfect.

Typical dumb-youth peer-pressure setup, the idea of grabbing the cursed severed hand and letting random angry ghosts inhabit your body for a couple minutes quickly turns from an unthinkably bad idea to a hilariously fun drinking game. The movie makes summoning demons for social media clout seem like a realistic idea, then after a wild possession party, Mia lets her little brother Riley participate, and while possessed he smashes his face and blinds himself, so party’s over.

Mia and the kid are still somewhat possessed, making a series of bad decisions (he is violently suicidal, she steals the demon-hand and decides to murder her dad). Craziest part was the sound mixing, when watching at home through the soundbar, you turn up the volume to hear the mumbly teens then the sounds of match strikes and knives whistling through the air are loud enough to shake the walls. The directors are famous youtubers who’ve already got Talk 2 Me and Untitled Prequel on their filmographies.

Riley, Mia, Young Jason Momoa from Aquaman, Jade:

Already my second movie of the month where someone stabs themself in the face – I rewatched The Empty Man, which is referenced in Adam Nayman’s Ringer article:

Talk to Me is closer to something like Zach Cregger’s brute-force B-movie, Barbarian, than Peele’s intricately intellectualized “social thrillers.” But whatever their pretensions — or lack thereof — the Philippous are keen observers of a marketplace where it pays to attach some kind of pedigree to terror, and underneath its adroit shock tactics, Talk to Me makes a fairly significant concession to the elevated-horror model by hinging its plot on a case of capital-G Grief. The reason Mia is so susceptible to possession is because she’s heartbroken over the death of her mother, whose overdose may or may not have been an act of self-harm. Where her friends are just chasing a hedonistic thrill, she’s trying, if at first only unconsciously, to reconnect with a loved one — a difference that ends up dooming her above the others and rerouting a story line bristling with unpredictability into a fairly conventional trajectory.

Thought I’d watch a Classic and Current horror double feature with Talk To Me, then had to admit I’m very old now and the mid-’80s counts as classic. Feels like a Duel remake amped up to self-parody… kid discovers that the hitcher is murdering people, the hitcher knows he knows, and becomes an invincible revenge spirit to destroy the kid and everyone he meets. Of course Rutger Hauer is our hitcher and eventually his Flesh + Blood costar JJ Leigh appears as a waitress who believes the kid’s crazy story and joins the chase only to get horribly murdered (offscreen) in the end. I kept waiting for C. Thomas Howell to show up since that’s an old man’s name, but it’s the kid – he’d been one of the Outsiders and a Red Dawn-er in the past few years. I think his character is a cross-country car deliveryman, like in Vanishing Point. Harmon has also made a JCVD action film and a string of Tom Selleck TV movies. Adam Nayman’s review is good.

I love the wide shots:

Salome (1973)

Girl finds a mostly-nude boy in the catacombs, they start making out but he strangles her. The vibe is a murkier, cultier Jean Rollin, with light and fog effects so heavy they turn the actors into abstract imagery. It’s content to roll along in its slow dreamy way without getting caught up in story – I suppose if you’re familiar with the Oscar Wilde play you can follow along but I’m going by a few year-old memory of the Ken Russell version. Music sounds newer than 1973, like Coil Concrete – aha, this must’ve been recorded for the late 1990s home video release, which means I am free to listen to Secret Chiefs 3’s Horrorthon during the next film.

The Forbidden (1978)

Horrorthon mentions Faust in the dialogue clips, and if you skip the “preview” first track and start the album with the movie, the circus music that plays when the nude man (Barker?!) starts dancing around is very funny. Barker made these films and his theatrical works before writing the Books of Blood – I always thought of him as a novelist who came to filmmaking late, but I was off. This has the most nudity in any Faust film outside the pornography realm. The image processed in negative, surfaces seem to glow. The opening mathematica and later full-body tattooing recall Book of Blood, and rotating light over pins/nails predict Pinhead and Leviathan at once.

Celebrating the start of SHOCKtober with a movie I’ve always wanted to see, and finally found in watchable quality. And in true SHOCKtober tradition, it’s bad, and I should not have bothered.

Julian Sands, still traumatized from the death of his hotmom (Meg Register of Fulci’s Demonia), hangs out with buddy Art Garfunkel and antagonizes rival surgeon Malcolm’s Dad (my second Kurtwood movie in a month), but completely freaks out when he sees Sherilyn Fenn. She’s a sensuous neighbor who spends her spare time fucking Bill Paxton (who works at “the club”), comes to Julian’s house party and takes a slow-mo shower in his garden fountain.

After Sherilyn gets run over by a truck Julian stops going to work, focuses on feeding her and amputating more of her limbs. Already kinda psycho, he starts imagining his nude mom being mad at him, and bringing home a girl to fuck in front of Sherilyn (this might have been Nicolette “no relation” Scorsese), and fending off a jealous Paxton. But it turns out the whole thing was a dream (seriously).

Nothing classically Lynchian here, all late-nite pay-cable aesthetic. Music by the guy from SPK, shot by the Twin Peaks DP, with the editor of Warlock, and bankrolled by suing Kim Basinger for dropping out of the lead role.

I was stressed to learn I’d been tricked, that this was only cowritten by Malignant‘s James Wan, actually directed by the NZ guy who made Housebound, but it didn’t turn out to matter – good movie about twisted AI, quite timely. Doll scientist Allison Williams is running secret experiments behind the back of idiot boss Ronny Chieng, cutting corners (like parental controls) to get an evil doll to befriend her newly orphaned niece. Then after the company discovers the doll’s capabilities and decides to mass produce it, Allison switches to trying to interrupt the public launch by proving the doll did murders (she did – chasing a creepy boy into traffic after ripping his ear off, and melting the neighbor’s face with lawn chemicals).

This happens to all murder-droids in the end, and it only makes them angrier:

Crazy low-light texture, the picture swimming in so much grain that you can’t tell if things in the rooms are moving or not. Perverse framing from angles that rarely show the characters. Doors and windows appear and disappear, leaving blank walls with a humming sound. Mention of the boy having fallen down the stairs while sleepwalking, back now from the hospital, though we don’t see any of this. He takes a break from watching public domain cartoons (The Cobweb Hotel) to visit the master bedroom, where dad is blairwitching and vanishing like the windows, replaced by mom. Most dialogue is whispered, and the jump scares are bad. A distant doom voice orders Kevin to sleep. Scene in a cartoon where a character disappears plays on loop to demonstrate a point before a toy in the room also disappears.

Movie itself isn’t scary, but it productively made me remember actual nightmares I had as a kid… the sense of being in a dark house with strange light where time and space can’t be trusted. It rules that this barely-narrative experimental nightmare was in theaters for a month.

Reverse Shot:

The dread that pulses through the film’s empty spaces soon gives way to a permeating melancholy, as it becomes clearer just how helpless Kevin and Kaylee are within their own home. Toys and cartoons, at first objects of childish comfort, begin to be manipulated by the malevolent force within the house, reminders of the fear induced by pseudo-parental control. Time in the house becomes deliberately indefinite to create a perpetual night, a horrific extension of Kevin and Kaylee’s daily reality.