Sunday, 18 October 2015

Demons/Demoni and the world of fake Italian horror sequels.

Well seeing as its October and Halloween draws ever closer it might be a good idea to touch on a few more horror related things then right? I could look at any number of films, I could look into other Doctor Who actors and their contributions to the world of horror, or I could look for a lesser known film that happens to have been done by a master of the genre or I could look at a dodgy sequel that doesn’t live up to the promising original film it follows

Well instead of any of that I am going to talk about the sort of sequels which exist in relation to various Italian Horror films.

Now most places will only call something a sequel if it actually is a continuation from a previous film but the Italians seem to often slap a well-known name on to what can best be thought of as a bastard sequel. A film that has no or very little true connection to the film it has been named after. As a youngster I used to watch films in a very passive manner, I would walk in to the local video shop and pick up the boxes, turn them over in my hands read the title and whatever description was on a box and make my choice based on that, if the film said it was Zombie flesh eaters 2 it was Zombie flesh eaters 2. This is how things pretty much remained until the internet for me at least. Sure from time to time I had thought well that film seemed to have sod all to do with the one before it, but I never gave it much thought beyond that. Along came the internet and all of a sudden there were whispers of this and that I think a moment that really interested me in it was when the Angry Video Game Nerd James Rolf did a video called Chronologically Confused about Sequel Titles. In this he talked about topics such as the weird way in which some sequel films are numbered but others are not. In this video he touched on the Zombie/Zombie Flesh eaters films and how the titles came about. Yeah he only briefly talked about this but it interested me, it made me read up on these films and in doing so I learned about other Italian horror sort of sequels.

This is when I learned that when it comes to Italian horror there is more than one type of sequel. The first kind of sequel is just what you would expect, it is a film which focuses on the original source material, the movie it is following and actually tries to be a legitimate follow up to its predecessor. The second is a sequel in name diverges from the original often being made by a different production team and/or studio yet it is made with the name of the early film attached from the very start usually as an attempt to stay true to the feel of the original film even if it is not really connected. Then, of course, there is the third type of sequel. This sequel will have no reference to the original, is a sequel in name only and was named as a sequel latter on solely to capitalize on the success of the movie it is piggybacking on.

Now there is the risk that a name might lead you to watch a film you wouldn’t otherwise watch, you might find yourself watching something which doesn’t feel like it has any connection at all to the film that brought you to it. Yes this can be a good thing because it can introduce you to something new and a little different but it can also leave you feeling cheated. I am sure that somewhere out there you would be able to find a complete list of every sort of sequel and all I can say is bravo to the man that has done that, but it’s not what I will be doing. That is main course style material, I consider this post more of a taster for the slightly interested. I also think it’s important to mention that just because something might be a ‘’fake’’ sequel this doesn’t mean that taken on its own as a piece of film that it is a bad movie and to be honest I find the whole smoke and mirrors aspect of this just as fascinating as the best films of this genre.

So today I am going to talk about  Demoni aka Demons and its various sort of sequels. Now the original Demons is a film directed by Lamberto Bava, produced and part written by Dario Argento. Now if I was to score this film or review it well let’s just say I would be giving it a rave review. I love it, it truly is an awesome film. It’s about Demons but you can more or less basically think about it as a zombie type movie, the demons bite and scratch people and pass on an infection/steal your soul in this way. The plot in its most basic form is that a group of people get free tickets to the screening of a horror movie, once they are there all hell breaks loose when someone becomes a demon everyone gets trapped in the movie theatre and the problem just grows from here. With every person who is killed popping up as another possessed demon it is one of those films were people battle just to stay alive, certain characters will grow on you and you’ll be eager for them to make it or be sad to see them pass away.

There is one direct true sequel to the original, 1985 classic. It occurs several years after the original and doesn’t follow on directly or focus on any character from the last one. Basically the demons strike again but this time in a large apartment building, they are without a doubt the same kind of demons, they pretty much look the same, they act the same basically because it was intended to be a sequel and both producer Dario Argento and director Lamberto Bava and others from the production team are involved in it. The return of said team seems to have kept cohesion in more than just movie feel and plot continuity. There is a completely new cast of human characters though but in a nice touch the actor Bobby Rhodes who was fantastic in the original as a Pimp, is in this film as a body builder. The musical style is also very similar even though the two films have a different composer at the helm. Both of these films are held in quiet high regard and have found themselves on both DVD and Blue ray. I would definitely advise you check them out. I would as a horror fan give the first a Solid 9. I love it, it is an all time classic horror movie, number 2 is a bit of a rehash and isent quiet up to the first films level but it gets a 7.5 without a shadow of a doubt, if you enjoy the first one and just want more of the same then youll absolutely eat it up.

So now what about Demons 3 you ask? Well that’s a totally different situation for a start I would have to ask a question and that question is which Demons 3 are we talking about? Well why don’t we do this based on which came first. The first film to be called Demons 3 was also called a whole lot of other things including L'ogre, The Ogre, House of the Ogre and basically any connection of these words and the words Demons 3 or Demoni III. It came out in 1988 and is most definitely a sequel in name only, there is nothing here which links to Demons or Demons 2 at all story wise. In fact I watched this one again earlier today and this was only my second viewing of it and will proberbly be my last for quite some time.  So I will sum up the basic story for you. Cheryl is an American, she is a horror author who is traveling with her husband Tom, and their young son Bobby. They go to a villa in rural Italy for a short vacation during which Cheryl plans to work on her latest book. Once there Cheryl begins having nightmares, these are the same nightmares she had as a child, they are nightmares of being stalked by a big ugly ogre

She tries to persuade her husband that the villa has a curse on it, a curse which is causing her nightmares to somehow manifest into reality. There is no hoard of demons, no growing army of the possessed only an ogre. Her husband basically thinks she is insane, that her horror writing has driven her over the edge. It is quite a slow film especially when compared to the likes of Demons and Demons 2 but I do think that certain ideas within it are very clever and there are some wonderful mood setting set pieces, it’s worth a watch but it’s no classic. So does it have anything in common with Demons? Well the director is Lamberto Bava but that’s basically it. The film although having a neat idea basically drags it out for too long and doesn’t give you enough bang for your buck, it’s not awful it’s just kind of average hence the score of 5 I would give it. There is the genesis of a good story in it though and some good set pieces there just far too weighed down in mediocrity.

 Well next there is the film known as The Church, Cathedral of Demons, The Demon Cathedral, La Chiesa, In the Land of the Demons and of course Demons 3. So is it Demons 3? Well on the one hand it once again has a  “Dario Argento Presents” tag on it.  Dario Argento also has a story and screenplay credit as well as a producer credit but there is no involvement from Lamberto Bava with this film instead being directed by Michele Soavi. Although the film is sometimes known by the title 'Demons 3', the script for 'The Church' has nothing to do with the rest of the Demons series. Apparently at one point it was originally conceived as another entry in the Demons series, but director Michele Soavi insisted that the film stand alone and not be connected with the films Demons (1985) or Demons 2 (1986) basically because he viewed them as  ‘schlock horror' and wanted his film to be something  much more sophisticated. So maybe at some point this was a proper Demons 3 during its conception but the film we got is definitely an unconnected film. That does not mean that The Church isn’t a good film in its own right, I certainly thought it was better than the ogre and I particularly enjoyed the medieval, witch hunt sequence, it is a bit slow in the middle but there are great scenes in here and there is the odd little part where you can almost see something Demons related (the closest bit being about 40 minutes in to the film when someone’s own arm appears to be possessed and grabs at his face). With a few tweeks and changes they could have made this a part of the series, infact with the medieval opening I personally feel it could have been made in to a prequel of sorts, it could have been used to explain the origins of the Demons, paid a little fan service here and there and yet still managed to be a very different more series take on horror. As it stands though I would give the film a 6, it drags too much at point to get more but I do feel there are very good parts in it. It’s a lot better overall than The Ogre though.

So this leaves us with Black Demons, Black Zombies, Demónios Negros aka the other Demons 3. This film was produced by Umberto Lenzi and written by Umberto Lenzi and Olga Pehar. While the film was original entitled Demons 3, this is very far from a Demons film. There is plot connection, no shared actors or filmmakers. Neither Dario Argento or  Lamberto Bava have anything to do with this movie in the slightest, this is the film which is probably grasping at straws the most by using the name Demons 3.

Black Demons can best be described as a low budget zombie film, yes I said Zombie film, not Demon film. It’s a voodoo based tale that relies heavily on its atmosphere and effects to carry it. While it is not Demons 3 it does share a love of gore and guts with the earlier Demons films, it feels more like it belongs to the Zombie/Zombie flesh eater’s line of films, and I don’t mean that as an insult just an observation, still I guess Zombies are much closer to Demons than Ogres are.
The film follows three college students, as they travel through Brazil. One of them wanders off from the others and gets mixed up in a voodoo ceremony, which he captures with his audio recorder. After the ceremony, the group find themselves stranded after having car issues. A young local couple appear and offer them the chance to stay at their plantation. Once at the plantation, the same student who saw the ceremony visits an old graveyard on the grounds, where he stupidly plays his audio recording and this recording brings six dead slaves back as Zombies. Armed with scythes, pitchforks, and knives, the zombie slaves seek revenge for their deaths, revenge against the living. Its not the fastest or the best Zombie film going and it doesn’t hold a candle to Demons or Demons 2 but it’s well I think it is average I would once again give it a 5 out of 10.

So does it end here?  Well as far as I know the list of films which call themselves Demons 3 does but not the list of films with a Demons related name there is a film called  La seta, also known as The Devil's Daughter, The Sect and Demons 4, One called La maschera del demonio also known as The Mask of the Demon or Demons 5: The Devil's Veil, one called Il gatto nero also known as The Black Cat or Demons 6: De Profundis/From The Deep, and lastly as far as I know there is Dellamorte Dellamore which is also known as Cemetery Man or Demons '95.
Do any of them have any real basis as a Demons Sequel? Nope. Would I recommend them? I found The Sect to be a decent film, it’s got an occult sort of story but it’s closer to a son of the devil style movie than a demon related movie featuring Satanists and such. Cemetery man is a horror comedy and is a wonderful film I would recommend it well above any of the films which held the name Demons 3.

So why do all these films have alternate titles which connect them to films they have nothing to do with? It’s all about the money baby, it’s all about the money.

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