Linnea Quigley, in a frilly pink blouse fully unbuttoned to expose her bare chest, puts some lipstick to memorable use in Kevin Tenney’s post-Witchboard effort Night of the Demons. If that’s not enough to make you run for a copy of the film (given you’ve never seen it), then I may have to send Quigley’s workout tape your way and make you do a few dozen push-ups as punishment. The scene is the piece de resistance of the film’s other ambitiously designed moments filled with possession, eye gouging, tits, and camera tricks – most of which Tenney and his producers Walter Josten and Jeff Geoffray give themselves a firm pat on the back for in this disc’s commentary, an hour and a half exercise in self flattery.
Sure, Demons lives up to all of the adjectives past critics have milked from their vocabulary to describe its party till you puke vibe. It’s fun. Lively. A masterpiece, it’s not. But you can’t rightly analyze this flick to death. Accept it at face value; that’s all Demons is serviceable for and that’s where it succeeds. Tenney puts on a crafty light and FX show that’s sexy and goopy and asks you to just roll with it.
Demons‘ carnage unravels within the dilapidated hallways of Hull House on Halloween night. A group of young pretty faces gather there at the request of their party’s hostess, Angela, whose motivation is to “scare the shit” out of her guests all evening. But a residing demon lurking in the depths of this former funeral home gets the jump on her, following a past life seance, possessing Angela and subsequently her friends. The remaining few who are spared a bodily demonic intrusion try their best to escape but realize Hull House itself has a few tricks of its own to keep them around.
An inspiration to Mike Mendez’s The Convent (2000), Tenney’s film is, in itself, the product of an influential predecessor; it’s a harmless Evil Dead II admirer that bears technical trickery plainly stimulated by Sam Raimi’s opus. From its lengthy, ultra-cool animated title sequence all the way down to the production design and David Lewis’ lighting scheme, Night of the Demons – for its time – is impressive across the board. Tenney particularly goes the distance in a scene of exposition that could have been knocked out with a few standard reaction shots, instead, he puts the shards of a broken mirror to effective use. However, had he expended as much energy into his cast as he did the rest of Demons, Tenney might have had something on his hands as classic as Dan O’Bannon’s Return of the Living Dead. Joe Augustyn’s script is hilarious and unpredictable but the ensemble cast – Quigley and actress Mimi Kinkade aside – doesn’t quite feel at ease with the material’s pace and energy. Especially in the film’s early scenes, when they first arrive at the house, the cast’s dialogue exchanges are often stilted and awkward. Nevertheless, Night of the Demons has a lot more good going for it than bad including Steve Johnson’s wild gore FX. (Look out for that pesky severed arm that’s got a will of its own!)
Anchor Bay’s unrated presentation is a welcome arrival after years of viewing ragged VHS copies. Now our eyes can lovingly feast on Quigley’s ass in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that is proficient but takes a hit in the high grain department when scenes get really dark. And the picture quality takes a downward slide when the film shifts into previously excised footage usually involving more snippets of grue. The disc’s “ultra stereo” sound is well balanced and good enough in my book. The aforementioned audio commentary begins strong as the three involved discuss the film’s origins and production history. They chuckle their way through anecdotes, but after a half hour the commentary has all the appeal of listening to a broken record. Sorry, guys. The upside of it is when Tenney breaks into full detail about how certain effects were pulled off – which may prove to be interesting for budding artists.
Anchor Bay has also enclosed on their disc two trailers, three television spots, a promotional reel (4m 9s) geared for home video distributors (it’s a laugh) and My Demon Nights, a new fourteen-minute interview with Quigley in which she discloses her insecurities about auditioning for the film, on-screen nudity and her relationship with Steve Johnson. Is it just me or does Quigley still look foxy?
Night of the Demons (1980)
(Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Directed by Kevin S. Tenney
Starring Cathy Podewell, Mimi Kinkade, Linnea Quigley, William Gallo, Hal Havins
Director and producer audio commentary
My Demon Nights: An interview with Linnea Quigley
Theatrical and video trailers
3 ½ out of 5
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