Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Night of the Demons (1988)

Directed by Kevin Tenney
Starring Mimi Kincade, Linnea Quigley, Alvin Alexis
Rated R

"Eat a bowl of fuck. I am here to party."

Night of the Demons is one of the most instantly memorable 80's shlock-horror hits. Released just before Halloween in 1988, it was a very modest theatrical hit, but once it hit VHS shelves a year later, it became a cult classic, and remains a Halloween staple for horror fans to this day. Demons was directed by Kevin Tenney, who had just scored a surprise hit with his directorial debut, 1986's Witchboard. Much like that film, Demons uses a séance as the springboard for the ensuing Satanic antics, only this one is more firmly rooted in the slasher genre, peppering the typical teenage sex n' death motifs with a bizarre superimposed latex demon who makes a couple of brief and pointless appearances throughout the film. Aiding and abetting this gory monstrosity is a cast of over-aged adolescents, including then-reigning scream queen Linnea Quigley, who provides the film with its most alarming moment (it involves her left boob and a tube of lipstick). Kevin's brother Dennis provided original tunes for the eye-rolling soundtrack, and the cheapjack gore effects were by Steve Johnson, Quigley's one-time hubby. For all intents and purposes, it was an all-star 80's horror event, and like most things in the 80's, the results were chintzy, brainless, and frequently hilarious. Sometimes even on purpose.

Angela (jazz choreographer-turned actress-turned dog whisperer Mimi Kincade) is a sour-faced, black-laced high school goth girl who decides to throw a Halloween bash at one Hull House, the local haunted-place-no-one-ever-goes-to. There was some sort of massacre there many years ago, and no one knows exactly what happened. You know how that goes. With a little help from her saucy friend Suzanne (Linnea Quigley, way over the teen-vamp age limit), she manages to shoplift a sack full of booze and party favors, and proceeds to Halloween-ize the already spooky old joint.

Eventually, a handful of 80's stereotypes show up for the party, including a fat stooge named Stooge (Hal Havins, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-o-rama), a skittish, possibly gay black dude in a pirate outfit (Alvin Alexis), a virginal good girl (Cathy Podewell, Dallas), a heartless cad (Lance Fenton, Heathers), etc. Things go pretty good - lots of drinkin', dancin', and neckin' ensue - until they decide to mess with forces from the beyond. Utilizing a full-length mirror and some of Angela's goth-girl mumbo jumbo, they accidentally summon a demon from his sleep chamber in the basement crematorium (did I mention Hull House was once a funeral home?), who summarily takes over their bodies one by one, using them to attack, murder and mutilate the others. Can anyone escape this Night of the Demons?

Well, sure. All they really have to do is jump over the fuckin' fence.

Night of the Demons is virtually plotless, woefully miscast, and often resembles little more than a walk-through tour of a rickety state-fair haunted-house attraction. That being said, the film still succeeds as a wildly entertaining period piece. For one thing, the atmosphere - especially in the opening scenes - is wonderfully thick. In fact, Night of the Demons captures the sights, sounds, and smells of Halloween better than any other 80's film I can think of. The soundtrack is frequently amazing - Dennis Michael Tenney's song about computer dating has to be heard to be believed - and roots the film firmly in the high 80's, as does Angela's uber-goth get-up and Stooge's punk-slob persona. Casting a 30 year old Linnea Quigley as a hot-to-trot teen was also a brilliantly wrong-headed move, and she makes the most of it, flashing her ass and wildly over-emoting at  Every turn. And of course, the infamous lipstick-in-the-nipple scene is still as effective as ever. Sure, Night of the Demons is garbage, but it's tasty, brightly-colored garbage, full of dimestore gore, obnoxious characters, a smattering of nudity, and a whole haunted house full of dumb fun.

Two by-the-numbers, straight-to-VHS sequels soon followed, and a still-unreleased remake (starring Shannon Elizabeth and Tiffany Shepis!) was shot in 2009. Don't bother with any of them until you've seen the original.

-Ken McIntyre

1 comment:

  1. This has always been a person favorite of mine. None of the sequels/remake are worth the celluloid wasted making them.


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