Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Film Review: NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (1988, Kevin S. Tenney)

Stars: 3.5 of 5.
Running Time: 89 minutes.
Tag-line: "Angela is having a party, Jason and Freddy are too scared to come... But you'll have a hell of a time."
Notable Cast or Crew: Linnea Quigley (RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, SAVAGE STREETS), Lance Fenton (HEATHERS, HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN), Hal Havins, (SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA, ALF), Allison Barron (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY'S REVENGE, the INXS video game from 1992), Billy Gallo (PRETTY WOMAN, WHO'S THE BOSS), Jill Terashita (SLEEPAWAY CAMP 3: TEENAGE WASTELAND, TERMINAL ENTRY).  Directed by Kevin S. Tenney (WITCHBOARD, WITCHBOARD 2).
Best One-liner: "Festering fuckwads!"

Welcome to NIGHT OF THE DEMONS, a palace of adolescent, blockheaded delights, a 1980s horror classick that probably doesn't have a single original thought in its brain, but that really doesn't matter––it's a charming ode to scares and fun and teenagers making bad decisions while exclaiming things like "Count Dingleberry!" and "I never made it in a coffin before!"

From its imaginative, animated opening sequence (set to some nice, prog-rockin' Goblin-style grooves composed by the director's brother) to its spooktacular finale, NIGHT OF THE DEMONS is the generic, 1980s Halloween party movie that we deserve.

First off, I must say that I really enjoy the tag-line, which taunts much more well-established horror franchises FRIDAY THE 13TH and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.  That's ballsy.  This movie is a scrapper.  I think that's why I like it so much.

So the plot involves a group of teens who make the ill-advised choice to host their Halloween party at a cursed, abandoned funeral parlor.



They manage to hit every last note of the "teens in a haunted house" genre, and soon the festivities ("All right, dudes and dudesses, let's party!") give way to a magical totem

(in this instance a haunted mirror)

which unleashes evil spirits faster than you can say "Necronomicon."
 
In fact, it's very EVIL DEAD, right on down to the Steadicam shot of a demon spirit roaming corridors and flinging open doors just before it possesses an unsuspecting teen.



And, yup, that's Linnea Quigley, from RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4, and the like.  Usually, whenever you hear her name, it's prefaced by "Scream Queen" Linnea Quigley.

There's a lot to be enjoyed here. For instance, a pervy convenience store clerk (Clark Jarrett) hams it up like a poor man's Bill Paxton:

On the right, obviously 

and we get a classic, dickish performance from Lance Fenton (of HEATHERS fame, as one of "my dead, gay son[s]!"), who made it his business in the 80s to play those jocks you love to hate.

There's an extended, interpretive dance (by Amelia Kinkade) for no discernible reason, aside from padding the run-time. 



It feels like an outtake from THE HUNGER, and is, naturally, set to a Bauhaus song.  But I love it––I love this aimless, Goth freestyling, and I wouldn't take it back for the world!

Later Kinkade glides around the halls in an eerie display which may very well be the film's most iconic image.

On that note, cinematographer David Lewis (who also shot PEE-WEE'S PLAYHOUSE and multiple LEPRECHAUN films) delivers the perfect spooky imagery


and it all ends with a fun zinger involving a gleefully crabby old man (Harold Ayer) who intends to "get back at those meddling kids" by putting razor blades in their Halloween treats.

The gruesome payoff is essentially unrelated to the movie as a whole, but completely entertaining.

It's a classic, offbrand horror flick–––it might as well be called BOO! THE MOVIE or THE TEENS IN THE HAUNTED HOUSE.  It's not quite a masterpiece, but if you're in the right mood––and this is certainly the time of year for it––it'll charm the hell outta ya.

––Sean Gill

2015 HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN

4 comments:

J.D. Lafrance said...

Ah, Linnea Quigley... she's so good in this. She really gives it her all and doesn't hold back one iota. I love that kind of committment, esp. for this kind of movie.

The Bauhaus goth dance is definitely one of the high points of the movie for me. What an inspired bit that does nothing to move the narrative forward but does give the movie some much deserved atmosphere and really sets a creepy kind of mood.

And, to me, the bit with the old man that bookends the movie feels like it could have been a story on TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE or maybe an outtake from a CREEPSHOW movie.

Sean Gill said...

J.D.,

Oh yeah––agreed on all fronts––and the bookends could easily have been Tom Atkins from CREEPSHOW!

Francisco Gonzalez said...

Totally agree with ya, this is the perfect one to watch on Halloween, along with Trick or Treat (1986), or Trick R' Treat (2005)! I love that opening sequence, which is why I was let down with the ultra craptastic one they had on the crappy ass remake. That scene with Angela dancing in the probe lights is actually pretty awesome, it sets us in the crazy, spooky mood.

Sean Gill said...

Francisco,

Yeah, totally! I never saw the crappy remake; I think there was pretty much universal disdain for it. And I do love the strobe dance!