It's not unheard of for American made-for-TV movies to receive theatrical releases in Europe. ('Salem's Lot and Twin Peaks are two good examples.) So, it only seems fair that a made-for-TV movie from Italy can come to America under the guise of a theatrical film. With that, Demons III: The Ogre shows that they've got some whacky-ass TV going on in Italy.
(The on-screen title for this film is actually The Ogre, so that's how it shall be referred to in this review.)
The Ogre tells the story of an American horror novelist, Cheryl (Virginia Bryant), who is vacationing in Italy with her husband Tom (Paolo Malco) and their young son. Cheryl was haunted by vivid nightmares as a child, in which she was pursued through a dank basement by an unseen monster. When the family arrives at the castle in which they are staying (why would three people stay in a castle all by themselves?), Cheryl is shocked to find that the castle's subterranean rooms look exactly like those from her childhood nightmares. As Cheryl begins to explore the castle, she finds evidence that a monster inhabits the building. Are Cheryl and her family in danger, or is this simply the product of her fertile imagination?
The Ogre is being marketed as Demons III: The Ogre, but aside from sharing the same director with Demons and Demons 2, Lamberto Bava, the films have little in common and this can't be considered a sequel. (Italian horror fanatics know that a Demons III was planned, but this eventually became Michel Soavi's The Church.)
The Ogre falls into that middle-ground which so many EuroHorror films inhabit. It's not exactly awful, but it's not very good either. The main problem with The Ogre is that it's incredilby slow-paced, even for an Italian horror film, and there are way too many shots of Cheryl wandering through the castle. The story is too ambiguous as well. For the majority of the film, it isn't clear exactly what's going on, or why we should care. It's not until the final 10 minutes that the film comes to life, and the story makes sense. These scenes are actually quite interesting, but they don't make up for the tedium which proceeded. Being a made-for-TV production, there is some mild violence and brief nudity, but nothing like what we'd see in an Italian theatrical film. The Ogre itself makes a few appearances in the film, and his conquistador-like costume is interesting, but he constantly moves his lower jaw, as if he has a giant wad of Big League Chew in his mouth. The castle locations in The Ogre are quite impressive, but they only overshadow the low-rent nature of this film.
The Ogre comes to DVD from Shriek Show, a company who has gained an unfortunate reputation for releasing defective discs. They'd better get ready for more hate mail. The DVD contains an anamorphic widescreen transfer of the film, which has been letterboxed at 1.85:1. The image is fairly sharp and clear, showing surprisingly little grain. The colors are good, but the film still has that overall faded look that many EuroHorror films sport. There are some obvious defects from the source material, and evidence of edge enhancement shows on-screen. The major problem comes at the 30:32 mark, where the screen goes black for 2 seconds. This isn't like frames were missing, it was almost as if that information didn't make it onto the disc. I tried the DVD on several players and always got this problem.
The DVD carries a Dolby Digital mono audio track. This track provides clear dialogue, but there is noticeable hissing and popping on the track. Other than that, the track is unremarkable, and the music sounds quite flat.
The Ogre DVD features a 10-minute interview with director Lambero Bava, in which he explains that the movie was made-for-TV because it was too "thin and insubstantial" to be a feature film. He then goes on to describe his recollections of the production in great detail. He speaks Italians and the subtitles are easy to read. The disc also contains the theatrical trailer for The Ogre, letterboxed at 1.85:1. Theatrical trailer? Really? There are also bonus trailers for other Shriek Show releases.
The Ogre will appeal only to Lamberto Bava completists, as it lacks even the sleaze and gore which usually inhabit Italian horror films. The movie features some nice locations, but The Ogre moves along at a pondering pace, and even the interesting finale feels like a cop-out.