If your looking for fodder to make up part of a 31 day Halloween marathon; then 1988’s ‘Night of the Demons’ is surely a solid contender. Is it an original movie? ABSOLUTELY NOT. This thing doesnt have an original bone in it’s body, basically taking ‘The Evil Dead’, ‘Return of the Living Dead’ and ‘House’ combining them together and watering down any of the more raw and impactful moments quite substantially. I can absolutely see why people would really enjoy this movie, I do somewhat stuggle to see how someone could out and out LOVE this movie.
The basic plot is that a group of fratty students are looking to party down on Halloween Night, when they get an invitation from a strange student in their class called ‘Angela’ to join her for a creepy night at ‘Hull House’ an abandoned and derelict building that supposedly contains ghosts and demons.
The gang kind of umm and ahh about going, but eventually decide that it’s better than the school organised dance, so they head over, little do they know that Angela is actually bringing the gang to the house with the express purpose of creating a little carnage. involving seances, human possession and a house seemingly out of time. It’s down to basically a bunch of horny drunk people and a clean cut virgin to figure out how to escape Hull House and survive, the ‘Night of the Demons’
and while I got on with this thing, I have to say I wasnt totally smitten by it, the scripts fine, its got even pacing, reasonable transitions between act structures, but it brings almost nothing new to the table in terms of ideas and all the way through this thing I never felt any kind of genuine sense of unpredictability or unease. The best horror movie usually are the ones where you have NO idea what direction the films going to go off in, and regularly take delight in ramping up the gore and violence when you least expect it.
This thing? I knew the ending before the opening titles even got done it was that predictable. It just, doenst have a whole lot of defining charictaristics. Theres nothing here that I can point to and definitively say ‘THIS is what ‘Night of the Demons’ is known for.’ Because every cool moment, is a somewhat neutered redo of a scene that exists in other, better movies.
The characters arnt particularly well defined or likeable, the demon action is kept to a minimum and the scenes where the demons do appear are largely played to try and create a sense of unease (which they kind of fail to do) with the few gory bits they DO show, being quite few and far between and not particularly any better than ‘passable’
The dialogues a bit cringey too in places. Like; cheesy dialogue is fun, and this film does have some great cheesy lines in it. But it also has a LOT of scenes of actors in their 30s trying to play frat boys in their teens and some of the lines they got these guys to read…eesh, I just ended up feeling bad for them honestly.
The direction and cine are decent enough, arguably some of the best elements that this film has going for itself. its a stylized film that uses colour very well and really DOES capture that ‘spirit of halloween’ vibe that the likes of ‘Trick r Treat’ and ‘WNUF’ manage to capture, it feels as much a part of the season as jack o lanturns or candy corn.
Shots are well composed, they clearly planned their sequence structuring carefully because the edit has plenty of room to breath and use B-roll effectively. the gore shots arnt the best i’ve ever seen, but are far from the worst. and I feel like Kevin’s managed here to direct the cast VERY effectively, getting several lively and animated performances out of the cast that do help bring a little more vibrance to the picture.
As for the performances themselves, well the clear standouts are Amelia Kinkade as ‘Angela’ and Linnea Quigly as Suzanne, the pair get a good meaty part of the script, bring a MORE than solid and well rounded performance to proceedings and they seem to have great fun just doing the horror thing. Which I suppose is all you can really ask for honestly.
Cathy Podewell as Judy works as best she can with the material she’s given, she’s supposed to play a bit of a ‘Vanilla’ sort who comes out of her shell more as the carnage begins. I feel she plays that part really well, though I was completley convinced of her ‘Transformation’ of character. By the end she pretty much felt the same but sadder bascially. Which isnt the kind of arc that wins me over unfortunately.
And as for the soundtrack? Well…Im not saying your horror movie CANT have a ‘punk’ soundtrack, but if you ARE going to have your horror movie feature a predominantly ‘Punk’ soundtrack. TRY not to make it sound like a dollar store soundalike of the ‘Return of the living dead’ score please? Because this thing really just felt like the ‘store brand’ version for like…90% of the runtime. and I couldnt get away from that vibe honestly, which did lower my opinions a little bit.
Despite its issues, I still thought ‘Night of the Demons’ was reasonable fun. It’s (in my opinion) by no means a ‘classic’ but Its easy to watch and digest, it doesnt overstay its welcome and the halloweeny seasonal vibes feel very sincere throughout and could easily help set the mood. I’d absolutely say it’s worth catching at least once, but after that, your milage may vary.