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Demons 2

Synapse Films // Unrated // November 11, 2014
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted November 13, 2014 | E-mail the Author
When it comes to sequels, there are an infinite number of ways to live up to the law of diminishing returns, but there may be only one unbreakable rule that every sequel can stick by: don't do the same things over again. Sure, you want to deliver a similar experience to the original, because people tend to want to see the same characters, the same world, or a related premise, but once you've got that out of the way, be sure to come up with some wild, fresh ideas to keep the audience guessing. Even a film like Evil Dead II, widely referred to by fans as a remake of The Evil Dead, covers mostly new ground: Ash goes insane, fights his own hand, becomes possessed, and eventually travels through time. I bring this up because Evil Dead II is a film that comes to mind when watching Demons 2...and not in a good way.

It's a little vague, but post-viewing internet research tells me Demons 2 is in fact set after the events of Demons. The tip-off for this is meant to be voice-over narration about the demon curse, which is attached to a TV movie about kids looking for dead Demons (it's not entirely clear how the viewer is meant to infer that the TV's playing a fictionalized account of something that happened in the movie's universe and not just another weird film like in the first movie, but I digress). Several of the viewers of the TV movie live in the same high-rise apartment building, including birthday girl Sally (Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni) and all of her guests; young Ingrid (Asia Argento), who keeps it on despite the objection of her father (Antonio Cantafora); and Tommy (Marco Vivio), a little boy left at home while his parents go on a date night. The complex is also home to George (David Edwin Knight) and Hannah (Nancy Brilli), a couple who lives under Sally and is expecting their first child; as well as a man who hires Mary (Virginia Bryant), a prostitute. All hell breaks loose when a Demon pops out of the film and bites Sally, and the infection spreads throughout the entire building.

It's hard not to think of Demons and simply make a checklist of the places where Demons 2 goes wrong. Everything that was great fun in the first movie feels stale and repetitive here, even the return of Bobby Rhodes, who played the delightfully cartoonish pimp Tony in the first film, now appearing as a trainer in a gym located inside the complex. Without giving it away, the end to the first film suggests an obvious direction for the premise to go, and it's bizarre that Lamberto Bava and co-writers Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini, and Dardano Sacchetti all decided to go in a different direction, but not a fresher one. I also wondered if maybe Demons 2 would be a concurrent story, happening a block away from the movie theater in the original, a series of events set off by that incident. No dice. For all intents and purposes, it's a square-one reset, one of the worst mistakes a sequel can make.

So how about that checklist? Well, first of all, the original's movie theater setting provided an opportunity for all types of characters: young couples, old couples, pimps and their girls, even a blind man. Demons 2 has almost no variety in its victims, and worst of all, they're almost entirely annoying. As the film begins, Sally is irrationally upset about everything, hating her hair, hating her clothes, hating people who make mistakes, hating people who try and help her, generally throwing a huge stinky hissy fit that plays very poorly on someone who looks to be in their twenties. She becomes infected, which sets up a logical scenario where her party guests flee into the apartment complex. Instead, she infects nearly all of them right off the bat, removing the movie's excuse for groups of people to work together. Characters on the various floors are automatically less interesting than a group of survivors because they're all isolated, and are generally picked off one by one. By the time a group does form, patience for whiners and complainers has already worn thin.

The original boasted a great soundtrack, featuring a number of exciting and propulsive rock songs that gave the movie a fun, raucous energy. Demons 2 also features a rock soundtrack, but almost none of the tracks have the same energy, as Bava went for a different type of music for the sequel. It's an understandable creative choice, but the sequel just cries out for something to get the viewer in the mood; even the return of the opening track ("Demons") from the original really would've helped kick the movie off with some energy. Minus this crucial bit of tone-setting, the Demon attacks feel repetitive and one-note, despite Bava and his team creating a ton of new threats (dogs, children, and acid blood that seeps through the floorboards and infects people throughout the building). Even when the film does manage to make a decision or two that goes against the grain, such as it does as the film is drawing to a close, the result is anticlimactic. In the film within a film, the characters don't summon a new wave of Demons; instead, blood drips into the mouth of an existing Demon, and he is reformed, same as before. Art imitating life.

Unlike Demons, Demons 2 artwork has varied more over the years on home video. Synapse's new DVD attempts to incorporate several of them, including the silhouette peering at the candles on the birthday cake, an image of the child demon, and the Videodrome-esque image of the demon springing from the TV set. The single-disc release comes in an eco-friendly Amaray case, and there is no insert.

The Video and Audio
The good news is, if you are a fan of Demons 2 and you're stuck or sticking with DVDs, this DVD is pretty much on par with the DVD for Demons. Presented, like its predecessor, in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen, and sourced from scans painstakingly color-corrected by Synapse (read more about their work here), this is a very impressive-looking standard-def transfer that does a very good job with grain management, darkness, and other issues that normally hamstring DVDs. Although the overall color palette for Demons 2 is more subdued than the original, leaning heavily toward blue, the few scenes in natural lighting reveal the same impressive fleshtones and vibrant colors. I did not notice any compression errors or other issues with the disc -- it's top-notch.

Unlike the first film, only a single Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo dub is included. Like the first film, it's surprisingly lively and features very strong separation and clarity for a stereo track. Music and effects are nicely balanced, and it sets a nice atmosphere despite the lack of full surround. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing are also included.

The Extras
None, other than an original theatrical trailer.

If you enjoy Demons 2, don't have a Blu-ray player, and don't care for extras (or just need to keep your purchases affordable), you can't go wrong with this DVD that boasts a spectacular remastered presentation of the film. Those who love Demons and have yet to see the sequel: you've been warned. Rent it.

Please check out my other DVDTalk DVD, Blu-ray and theatrical reviews and/or follow me on Twitter.
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