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Saturday Nightmares: Why Didn’t Demons 2 Lead To A Franchise?

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Saturday Nightmares: Demons 2At the conclusion of Lamberto Bava’s Demons a universe of possibilities had been opened, suggesting a myriad of directions for sequels. Despite their penchant for cashing in, the Italians seemed to favor ripping off Hollywood successes, rather than carving out their own franchises.

Spaghetti takes on The Exorcist, Jaws and, of course, Dawn of the Dead were produced as a means of “cutting in” on those global successes. But the Dario Argento-produced / Lamberto Bava-directed Demons had created such a stylish and energetic universe that those creators were quick to recognize the potential for more, quickly putting Demons 2 into production and throwing a bit more money behind its architecture. The creation of Demons 2 represented a rare – and surprising – instance where Italian horror attempted to capitalize on its own success with a direct sequel. And despite a somewhat mixed result, it begs the question: “why didn’t they keep making Demons movies?”

Part 2 is something of a lateral move – choosing instead to copy the events of Demons with a change in locale. Gone is the darkened recess of the Metropol theater, moving into a high-tech apartment building instead. We quickly discover that the demon invasion at the end has somehow been contained and the residents of the high rise are watching some kind of documentary or dramatization (it’s never made clear) on the aftermath of that chaos. Instead of watching a mysterious horror movie, it’s this video that spurs the demonic resurrection. It follows four explorers into the “forbidden zone” (a ruined Berlin) to gleam answers, but it begs a bigger question: If Berlin was really destroyed by supernatural forces, why don’t these people seem all that concerned about it?

But movies like Demons don’t live or die by their logic, so it’s unfair to criticize its sequel for coming up even shorter in this department. It’s all an excuse to get to the demon invasion anyway, and Demons 2 resurrects its titular creatures in spectacular fashion: with a demon pushing itself into the real world by way of a tv set, and taking possession of a spoiled rotten teenager who really had it coming.

Saturday Nightmares: Demons 2

One of the problems with Demons 2 is that it too-often functions like a remake of the original: people trapped in a claustrophobic setting, another assortment of 80s punks driving aimlessly around a city, a baffling conclusion, etc. This wouldn’t sting so badly if it didn’t present a much more interesting premise in the film-within-a-film scenario. The production design for post-apocalyptic Berlin is absolutely terrific and loaded with legitimately creepy atmosphere (something the sequel largely lacks). It’s a mystery as to why the filmmakers copped out on continuing from where Demons ended (considering they built devastated urban sets anyway), opting to deliver a scenario that we’ve already seen.

Once the proverbial hell breaks loose, the movie fails at gelling into a cohesive narrative, instead playing out like a series of self-contained vignettes. Even though Lamberto Bava has a fun sense of style on display for the duration, the film succumbs to pacing issues that create a wholly inconsistent viewing experience. One that’s not helped by some goofier choices along the way: demon dogs and creature children that look more like rejects from a Ghoulies sequel than a follow-up to Demons.

Those things aside, Sergio Stivaletti’s make-up FX are largely excellent (I’d kill for a possessed Sally action figure) and the demons themselves remain superlative examples of horror villains. Bulging eyes, jagged teeth and imposing claws make them the stuff of automatic nightmares. Like the original, Stivaletti serves up another wicked transformation sequence – a shining example of 80s FX mastery. Bladder bubbles create pulsating sores, blood pours from every imaginable orifice and fingernails break apart, giving way to razor-sharp talons bursting through flesh. As far as creating a wicked, nightmarish experience, Stivaletti’s FX succeeds big time.

There’s also a nice sense of humor that’s evidenced right off the bat. We think we’re watching a deranged madman stalk the apartment’s tenants with a butcher knife, only to discover we’re really seeing a baker put the finishing touches on a birthday cake. It also resurrects the incredible Bobby Rhodes (Demons‘ Tony the Pimp) as an equally aggressive fitness instructor who tries amassing an army against the demons. Rhodes is quite a presence in both movies, and there’s something spectacularly entertaining about watching him and a group of terrified workout patrons struggle against these monsters. I wouldn’t want anyone else by my side in a demonic apocalypse – let’s put it that way.

Saturday Nightmares: Demons 2

Another plus is the music. From an awesome opening theme by Simon Boswell (I’ve included it below so turn it up and check it out) to some pretty great New Wave from The Smiths, The Cult and Gene Loves Jezebel (to name a few), there’s a great flavor to the movie and these songs really create a memorable juxtaposition to the ghoulish on-screen happenings.

Demons 2 is much more a mixed bag than its predecessor, but it’s not without brilliant moments. The TV studio climax, for example, is still a wonderfully spooky (if nonsensical) slice of bad dream. And possessed Sally makes for one hell of a villain, even if the movie around her isn’t quite as good as she is. But the Demons duo introduce a world that’s so ripe with possibilities that it’s hard to believe they stopped making them after this (and no, neither The Church nor The Ogre count as an official part three).

In fact, this article was in part inspired by a conversation I had with a twitter friend of mine who expressed equal bafflement that this series stopped at two. Despite never finding the same success as the original, Demons 2 sure is a lot of fun – even if it’s a retread. I’d love to see a younger collection of Italian filmmakers take a stab at continuing this franchise (with Argento and Bava in ceremonial producer roles) providing they retain the “practical FX and New Wave music approach” that has sort of come to define this series thus far. These are some of my personal favorite movie monsters and they deserve more outings than this.

We’ve got plenty of cities, and I’d be okay with those jagged-toothed bastards making a few of them our tombs.

Saturday Nightmares

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George A. Romero’s Daughter, Tina, Wrote a Script For Queens of the Dead

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The loss last year of director George A. Romero was a huge blow to the horror community, as well as the filmmaking community at large. The passing of the man responsible for creating the modern day zombie and whose work influenced “The Walking Dead”, Dead Alive, 28 Days Later, and Jordan Peele’s Get Out was felt far and wide but we take solace knowing that his work and legacy will live on forever.

Something that brings a smile to my face is hearing that his daughter, Tina, who DJ’s under the name DJ TRx, has written a screenplay for a zombie film that is called Queens of the Dead. And yes, it’s very gay! Romero has not only written the script but also plans on directing the film herself.

Romero tells The Saunder Blog about the film, saying, “Queens of the Dead is a fusion of two huge parts of my world: zombies and Gay nightlife. It’s a tribute to my father as well as my entrée into the genre he grandfathered. I can’t say too much yet, but what I can tell you is that this film will have all the hallmarks of a George A. Romero classic: farce, politics, heroes, assholes, and most importantly, herds of silly and slow moving walkers that you can’t help but love. But I’m doing it Tina-style, and bringing the glitter, choreography, queers & queens.

Romero’s father always brought some sort of social message into his work, so to hear that she will continue that tradition is inspiring, especially since it comes on a topic that is so discussed and topical.

If you want to read more about Romero and her DJ career, click on the link above.

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Wanna See Something REALLY Scary?

Wanna See Something REALLY Scary? Local 58 Contingency Emergency Broadcast

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Wanna See Something REALLY Scary

“Wanna see something REALLY scary?”

To horror fans who came of age in the 1980s, the line above instantly evokes memories of Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks in the opening scene from Twilight Zone: The Movie. Now, on a bi-monthly basis, I’ll be asking, “Wanna see something REALLY scary?” with the goal of shocking you with chilling footage plumbed from the darkest corners of YouTube.

As a child of the Cold War born in the 1970s and traumatized by films like The Day After and Threads, I remember immediately panicking every time an Emergency Broadcast broke into a TV show I was watching. That alarming tone made my stomach drop and in the moments before it was confirmed to be “only a test” I had already imagined a barrage of nuclear warheads bursting overhead.

My heart went out to the residents of Hawaii who, due to a false alarm, believed a missile attack was imminent this weekend. For almost 40 minutes, families scrambled into fallout shelters, bathrooms, and even storm drains, believing war had begun between the United States and North Korea. Even after the all-clear was announced and the warning revealed as a mistake, nerves were severely rattled. I can only imagine the potential long-term damage done to the psyches of Hawaii’s youngest residents.

For a taste of the pandemonium that occurred, check out an excerpt from CNN’s reporting below.

While the shock must have been unprecedented for most, a bizarre alert that accidentally aired in the late 1960s puts the Hawaii debacle to shame. What viewers of a local station saw just before the end of programming at 3 am was a message announcing the fall of the US Government, and included instructions for committing suicide rather than surrendering to enemy forces.

Wanna see something REALLY scary?

The message bore the seal of The U.S. Department for the Preservation of American Dignity, included a statement from President Lyndon B. Johnson, and warned that failure to commit suicide as instructed would have consequences:

“Your local law enforcement has been ordered to ensure your compliance,” the message cautioned. “It is against the law to delay.” The final instructions remind adult viewers to put down their children and pets first while promising “There is nothing to fear.” Though the station later posted a statement ensuring viewers the message was a hoax, the potential loss of life this broadcast could have inspired is staggering. Have a look:

If the Local 58 Contingency, as it’s become known, seems too outlandish to be true, that’s because it isn’t. Though the video doesn’t include an admission of fiction, it’s written and directed by Kris Straub. If that name sounds familiar, that’s because he’s the writer of the popular creepypasta Candle Cove, recently adapted into a TV series on SyFy.

Still, the vintage look of the Local 58 Contingency, not to mention the current climate of heightened tensions between American and a rogue nuclear nation, make this video a truly terrifying viewing experience.

Got an idea for a future installment of “Wanna See Something REALLY Scary?” Hit me up on Twitter @josh_millican!

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The Housemaid Haunts a New Trailer

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Here’s the thing… if we had the choice between cleaning up our own house or being haunted by a vengeful spectral servant of sorts, well… just hand us a friggin’ mop, wouldja already? Still, in the case of The Housemaid, it looks like nothing is gonna stop her from sensing shivers! Dig on this new trailer.

Derek Nguyen directs the flick, which stars Kate Nhung, Jean-Michel Richaud, Kim Xuan, Svitlana Kovalenko, and Rosie Fellner. Look for IFC Midnight’s release of The Housemaid coming to select theaters, VOD, and via Digital platforms in the U.S. on February 16, 2018.

Synopsis:
A forbidden passion awakens vengeful spirits within a haunted mansion in this bloodcurdling, erotic tour-de-force.

Vietnam, 1953: Linh (Nhung Kate), a poor, orphaned young woman, finds employment as a housemaid in a crumbling rubber plantation presided over by the emotionally fragile French officer Sebastien Laurent (Jean-Michel Richaud). Soon, a torrid love affair develops between the two – a taboo romance that rouses the ghost of Laurent’s dead wife, who won’t rest until blood flows.

Submerged in moody Gothic atmosphere, this stylish supernatural saga confronts the dark shadows of Vietnam’s colonial past while delivering heart-stopping scares.

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