Saturday, November 6

Some quick thoughts on Night of the Demons (2009)

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A bunch of twenty-something teens stage a Halloween bash in a decrepit mansion with a murky past of black magic, murder, and suicide. Just as the debauchery reaches a fever pitch, the police halt the VD-exchanges and demand the party be shut down, but host Angela (Shannon Elizabeth) and a few of the guests stick around. Upon poking around in the basement, they discover a hidden room containing several pruned corpses laid in a strange pattern. Angela wisely tries to pry a gold tooth from one of the dead and is quickly snapped at for her efforts. The others pass it off as "reflex" but soon the poor, smokin' hot thirty-seven-year-old's health progressively worsens. And then, you called it, the night of the demons begins...

Despite thoroughly enjoying it, I've never held the original Night of the Demons as a sacred idol on ye high '80s trash mountain. Tenney, who co-produced this "remake", made a durable little demon stew of surprisingly grisly effects, sexy time, and Linnea Quigley voiding the instructed use of lipstick. Ultimately, a lil bit of this and a lil bit of that satisfyingly thrown together. The series went on to spawn two sequels; the second being not that bad while the third an annoying wasted opportunity. So I've been perfectly fine with the prospects of this modern revisit. I mean, the end result, no matter how bad, would just have to be better than the third sequel, right...?

Thankfully, Adam Gierasch's remake accomplishes what it sets out to do, but not without a few caveats. The approach of Night of the Demons '09 is reminiscent of Snyder's take on the seemingly impossible task of remaking Dawn of the Dead. There's a rough-hewn outline in the new feature that resembles the original, but besides that, the sandbox is completely different. We're essentially watching a fourth NotD sequel considering the official continuations jettisoned most meaningful connections to Tenney's first anyway (besides Angela, of course). Trying to look at this one in direct comparison to the 1988 film will give one's cranium a case of the Ironsides. This utter non-adherence to simply re-tell the prior story is this re-imagining's best attribute, as one can tell Gierasch isn't trying to trump Tenney, but rather pay splashy tribute to gory, Fulci-side-up horror through a non-rocket science concept that writes itself.

Is it all flesh-colored glasses? Not quite. Unlike Amelia Kinkade's Angela, we don't really get to see much of Shannon Elizabeth's Angela to the point that she doesn't seem the leader of Hell's incarnate nor the one everyone should fear most. Like so many recent horror films, way too much time is spent mulling around the humans, despite the viewer just waiting until the next clawed evisceration from the bad guys. Films like Night of the Demons survive on the momentum established after the shit goes down and this emphasis on the living fractures this remake. At a certain point, the survivors find a room with spells and symbols sprawled across the walls that keeps demonic forces out. They plan to wait until daylight when the demons recede and suddenly the whole movie grinds to a stop. Naturally, the horned ones trick them and things pick back up, but afterward the narrative flounders about unsure of its footing to the conclusion. There's a time for exposition and a time to roll with the fury of napalm; Gierasch should have chosen the latter.

A well-fed Edward Furlong fatnecks his way through the role of a low level coke-swapping thug trapped in the mansion. The character is the outsider of the group being indebted to and missing a life-or-death due date with his British-accented boss. John Conner's presence is out-of-place here; almost as if the production wanted a "name", any name, to give the film more recognition to audiences. Should have called up Charles Napier or something. Another off-putting performance is that of Monica Keena; who was the blonde chick in Freddy vs. Jason. She's the lead and while decent, there's something tiring about watching her as the film progresses. One gets the impression that her delivery is blatantly from her memory of the script and not her character speaking. She also has this sudden, uncanny way of relying a encyclopedic knowledge of the mansion and even potential weaknesses of the demonic foes.

Still, I'm being hard on Night of the Demons. It is, for the most part, brisk fun that snaps in nicely with the original trilogy. I'm even inclined to totally forget about the third sequel and insert this one in its place. Great make-up effects, very minimal use of CG, and an obvious love for both the original and "old school" horror in general. Check it out. EOne Entertainment's Blu-ray presentation looks and sounds solid (albeit not spectacular). Given that the high def disc's price is so close to that of the DVD, the preferred format is really up to you.    
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3 comments:

Lee said...

All in all it wasn't a bad direct-to-video remake. I expected it to be much, much worse than it turned out to be. Good gore and some heaving breasts. Tiffany Shepis was sadly miscast and underutilized however.

J. Astro said...

Agree on Keena being sorta a dull lead... although I did like Furlong, for once. Usually I hate him, but I found him to be the most amusing character in this remake.

Buscemi said...

I saw this recently. It felt like I was watching House of the Dead again. How the hell do you screw this up that badly?

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