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Demons I & II (Dèmoni and Dèmoni 2) (4K Ultra HD)
Synapse Films releases Italian horror films Demons and Demons 2 together on 4K Ultra HD in this excellent two-disc set that offers the cult favorites with strong 4K presentations and abundant accompanying bonus features. Directed by Lamberto Bava and written and produced by the legendary Dario Argento, these films offer gory, Italian-horror thrills with plenty of action and humor to boot. In 1985's Demons, a mysterious man hands college student Cheryl (Natasha Hovey) an invitation to a screening at Berlin's Metropol cinema. She decides to take friend Kathy (Paola Cozzo), and they meet fellow students George (Urbano Barberini) and Ken (Karl Zinny) at the movie, which turns out to be a strange, violent horror film about a cursed tomb. One attendee cuts her hand on a strange mask in the lobby, which makes an appearance in the film. When she heads to the bathroom, feeling sick, the woman soon turns into a red-eyed, blood-thirsty demon, and begins attacking other patrons. The human survivors fight to protect themselves as more and more guests turn into demons, and they discover the world outside the theater has also gone to hell.
Bava, who worked with Argento on effects and matte paintings in Inferno, splatters the screen with plenty of gruesome effects sequences, but the screenplay also has a comedic undertone, highlighted by the rock-opera score by Claudio Simonetti. I would not call Demons especially suspenseful, but it does turn into a macabre, heavy metal circus that brought a huge smile to my face. This circus is expertly lensed in the relatively limited setting by cinematographer Gianlorenzo Battaglia, and the transformation and makeup effects by Sergio Stivaletti, who worked with Argento on Opera, are impressive. The diverse, entertaining cast is game for this over-the-top material, and the somewhat bleak ending demands a sequel. Demons: **** (out of *****).
That sequel is Demons 2, released a year later in 1986. This follow-up was obviously rushed into production and does not match the quality of the original. That said, this ridiculous, often cartoonish and frequently gory film is never boring. The residents of a high-rise apartment complex watch a horror movie on television, and, much like with the ominous horror film in the first Demons, strange things begin happening. During a birthday party for one of the residents, Sally Day (Carolina Cataldi Tassoni), a demon comes through the television and attacks her, turning her into a macabre, demonic creature. Meanwhile, the pregnant Hannah (Nancy Brilli) waits for her husband (David Knight) to return home, but a little boy left unattended is turned by a creature and attacks Hannah. As the evil spreads from floor to floor, more and more residents are turned, sending Hannah scrambling for her life throughout the building. Demons 2 is absolutely ridiculous, and stacked with bad acting and ridiculous dialogue. That does not mean the film is not incredibly entertaining - it is - and it offers the same bloody, tongue-in-cheek thrills as its predecessor, just to a lesser degree. The practical effects are wholly entertaining, and Demons 2 offers plenty of flesh-tearing thrills and belly laughs for genre fans. Demons 2: *** (out of *****).
THE 4K ULTRA HD:
Both films are presented from recent restorations with 1.66:1/2160p/HEVC/H.265 transfers from native 4K sources with Dolby Vision and HDR10. You get three versions of Demons (international English language version, the Italian language version, and the U.S. English language version) and two versions of Demons 2 (the Italian language version and the English language version). These presentations look rather fantastic for 35-year-old, low-budget Italian horror films. Fine-object detail is abundant, and the effects work shines with fantastic texture and crisp detail in close-ups. Wide shots are sharp and clear, too, and the transfers offer excellent, three-dimensional experiences. Demons 2 offers more grain than its predecessor, but both films look fantastic in motion. Black levels are strong, and black crush is kept to a minimum. The HDR pass is also impressive, and the gorgeous neons of the city and theater and primaries of the apartment building explode from the screen. I noticed no issues with print damage, noise reduction or compression artifacts, and these are excellent, filmic presentations.
A number of soundtrack options are included. For the international English language and Italian language version of Demons you get 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mixes, which the U.S. English language version gets a 2.0 Mono DTS-HD Master Audio mix. Both versions of Demons 2 receive 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mixes, and English SDH subtitles are available for all versions. Obviously, the soundtracks and dubbing vary significantly depending on which version you choose, but the good news is you cannot really go wrong here. I sampled these mixes throughout my viewings, and I am happy to report these are quite excellent soundtracks, without any distortion, crowding or clipping. Depth and fidelity are excellent (and obviously expanded in the surround mixes). The impressive scores are given appropriate room to breathe, and sound effects make use of the entire sound field and LFE. The frenetic, demonic action truly comes alive with these strong mixes.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc set is packed in a clear case with two-sided artwork; theatrical artwork on the back and newly commissioned art on the front. Inside you get a reproduction of the Metropol movie ticket and a birthday invitation from Demons 2. You also get a fold-out poster for Demons. These items fit inside the case, which slides inside a glossy slipcover.
On the Demons disc you get an Audio Commentary by Podcasters Kat Ellinger and Heather Drain; an older Audio Commentary by Lamberto Bava, Sergio Stivaletti, Claudio Simonetti, Geretta Geretta, Mike Baronas, Art Ettinger, and Mark Murray; Produced by Dario Argento (27:13/HD), a strong piece about the Italian filmmaker; Dario's Demon Days (10:30/HD); Defining an Era in Music (9:34/HD); Splatter Spaghetti Style (11:27/HD); Carnage at the Cinema: Lamberto Bava and His Splatter Masterpiece (36:01/HD); Dario and the Demons: Producing Monster Mayhem (15:51/HD); Monstrous Memories: Luigi Cozzi on Demons (30:18/HD); Profondo Jones: The Critical Perspective (17:39/HD); Splatter Stunt Rock (9:12/HD); Sergio Stivaletti Q&A (36:13/HD); the Italian Theatrical Trailer (2:09/HD); the International English Trailer (2:09/HD); and the U.S. Trailer (1:32/HD).
On the Demons 2 disc you get an Audio Commentary by Travis Crawford; Together and Apart: Space and Technology in Demons and Demons 2 (26:36/HD); Creating Creature Carnage (20:29/HD); Bava to Bava (16:43/HD); Demonic Influences: Federico Zampaglione Speaks (10:22/HD); The Demons Generation: Roy Bava Discusses a Legacy in Lacerations (34:50/HD); The New Blood of Italian Horror: Sergio Stivaletti and Michele Soavi: From Demons to Dellamore Dellamorte (16:15/HD); Screaming for a Sequel: The Delirious Legacy of Demons 2 (15:59/HD); A Soundtrack for Splatter: An Interview with Composer Simon Boswell (27:08/HD); the Italian Theatrical Trailer (2:56/HD): and the International English Trailer (2:55/HD).
This two-disc 4K Ultra HD set from Synapse Films packages Italian horror films Demons and Demons 2 from director Lamberto Bava and producer Dario Argento together with excellent presentations. Genre fans will also love the abundant bonus features, which run for hours and hours and provide excellent insight into the making of and legacy of each film. Highly Recommended.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.