Night of the Demons

Night of the Demons
Director: Kevin S. Tenney
Screenplay: Joe Augustyn
Stars: Cathy Podewell (Judy Cassidy), Lance Fenton (Jay Jansen), Mimi Kinkade (Angela), Linnea Quigley (Suzanne), Billy Gallo (Sal Romero), Hal Havins (Stooge), Alvin Alexis (Rodger), Allison Barron (Helen), Philip Tanzini (Max), Jill Terashita (Frannie)
MPAA Rating: R
Year of Release: 1988
Country: U.S.
Night of the Demons DVD
Smells like teen victimsBy the late 1980s, the slasher subgenre had largely run its course, and filmmakers were looking for new and creative ways to gather nubile, oversexed teenagers together and kill them off one by one without resorting to the old standby, the psychopathic killer. Night of the Demons borrows Sam Raimi’s idea from The Evil Dead (1982)—why not have the teens become possessed by demons and kill each other?—and then runs it straight into the ground with a wafer-thin script, atrocious dialogue, and utterly repulsive characters that are brought to life by no-name actors whose bipolar shifting between cardboard flatness and over-the-top lunacy could only be matched by an Ed Wood production.

The story takes place over one night, where a group of 10 high school kids—none of whom look like they’re in high school and none of whom would actually hang out together if they were—gather for a Halloween party at a creepy, deserted former funeral home that also happens to be possessed (not haunted as in ghosts, mind you, but possessed as in demonic possession). The party is the brainchild of Goth queen Angela (Mimi Kinkade) and her ditzy, boy-crazy best friend, Suzanne (Linnea Quigley). Attendees include Stooge (Hal Havins), whose personal obnoxiousness extends to his multi-colored Brian Bosworth mullet; Roger (Alvin Alexis), the son of a preacher and therefore the first person who wants to exit the building when things start getting weird; and virginal, squeaky voiced Judy (Cathy Podewell) and her preppy boyfriend Jay (Lance Fenton).

Screenwriter Joe Augustyn manages to draw the inane story out for more than a half an hour before someone gets possessed, thus causing a chain reaction in which the possessed teens either pass on the possession or kill someone else, after which the dead body is resurrected as a possessed zombie. Director Kevin S. Tenney (Witchboard) does everything he can to make the film visually interesting, even when it’s bogged down in silly, vulgar dialogue that doesn’t do anything except waste time before unleashing the special effects. Because the characters are either prissy or obnoxious, there’s no effect whatsoever when they get bumped off or taken over by the unexplained demonic nasty. You might feel some relief when the more insufferable characters get their comeuppance, but you know they’ll soon be back in possessed zombie form anyway.

About the only thing Night of the Demons can lay claim to is good special effects work, which is courtesy of Steve Johnson, who had gotten his start working with Oscar-winner Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London). Johnson’s effects are mostly limited to facial prosthetics and gore effects, although there is one genuinely shocking moment involving a naked breast and a tube of lipstick that goes from the erotic to the surreal in the blink of an eye, and it couldn’t have worked had Johnson’s effects been anything short of utterly convincing.

After the more thoughtful and character-driven Witchboard, Tenney clearly wanted to go for the gore here, so we get plenty of gory bits with people getting their tongues bitten off, eyeballs gouged, arms torn off, and necks sliced up with razor blades. Unfortunately, these otherwise good effects are mired in a story that is so utterly uninteresting and populated with characters so annoying that the film’s brief 90 minutes feel just short of endless. It’s almost enough to make you want to eat a razor-blade-filled apple.

Night of the Demons DVD

Aspect Ratio1.85:1
AudioEnglish Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
  • Audio commentary by director Kevin S. Tenney, executive producer Walter Josten, and producer Jeff Geoffray
  • “My Demon Nights” featurette
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • TV spots
  • Video trailer
  • Promo reel
  • DistributorAnchor Bay Home Entertainment
    Release DateAugust 24, 2004

    This disc contains a new, anamorphic widescreen transfer of the uncut version of Night of the Demons. Overall, it is a sharp transfer, with good detail, strong contrast, and excellent color. Although a fairly low-budget production, clear effort was expended on the photography, and the transfer does a good job of making the film look as good as possible. It is noticeable, however, when additional footage is included because there is a slight shift in the image quality, becoming slightly grainier and a bit washed out.

    The soundtrack is presented in its original two-channel “Ultra Stereo” mix. It sounds clean and clear, with a good front soundstage that highlights Dennis Michael Tenney’s funky rock music score.

    Director Kevin S. Tenney, executive producer Walter Josten, and producer Jeff Geoffray, who also teamed up on Witchboard, provide another lively, engaging audio commentary, which is a good thing since it’s more interesting listening to them talk about the movie than it is to watch the movie itself. They clearly think they’ve produced something quite memorable, and to be fair their behind-the-scenes anecdotes makes the film somewhat more watchable. Also included on this disc is the 14-minute “My Demon Nights,” which is an interview with actress Linnea Quigley in which she spends as much time talking about what it’s like doing nudity (she’s done a lot) as she does talking about make-up effects work and starring in just about every B-grade horror movie made in the 1980s and 1990s. The disc is rounded out with the original theatrical trailer, video trailer, and a couple of TV spots, as well as an in-your-face four-minute promo reel sent out to video stores.

    Copyright ©2004 James Kendrick

    All images Copyright © Anchor Bay Home Entertainment

    Overall Rating: (1)

    James Kendrick

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