‘Demons’ & ‘Demons 2’ 4K Review: Sink Your Claws Into This Stunning Ultra HD Twofer


Dario Argento had already made a name for himself the world over as a director of note since his debut, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1971). But in the mid-1980s he decided to branch out into producing, too – and his first feature was the instant cult classic Demons (1985). Directed by Lamberto Bava, son of the legendary Mario Bava, the film utilizes the denizens of hell almost like zombies, with waves of the ever-growing horde taking on a group of filmgoers trapped inside a theater. Argento’s eye for filmmaking was still razor-sharp in those days; combined with the like-father-like-son style of Bava and a nightmarish synth score from Goblin’s Claudio Simonetti the film had all the necessary elements to satisfy horror fans. And truly, it’s a blast from start to finish with little time wasted.

College student Cheryl (Natasha Hovey) is out on the town – Berlin, to be specific – when an enigmatic masked man approaches her and offers two tickets to a film premiere at the local theater, Metropol. She accepts and convinces her friend Kathy (Paola Cozzo) to come along for the show. The girls arrive and find the theater quickly filling up. They zero in on a couple of dapper dudes they join on the cinema floor. Also attending the show are a blind man and his caretaker daughter, a few couples, and Tony (Bobby Rhodes) the pimp, who has two of his ladies of the night along with him. One of Tony’s women, Rosemary (Geretta Giancarlo), puts on a silver mask displayed in the lobby intending to play a prank. But when she removes the mask it leaves a tiny cut on her face. No big deal, right?

Also Read: This Day in Horror History: Mario Bava’s BAY OF BLOOD (TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE) Opened in 1971

Very wrong. That little cut begins to fester and bubble, eventually unleashing a torrent of pus and transforming Rosemary into a full-fledged demon. Just as with zombies, all it takes is a bite or scratch from a demon and their victims become a fellow member of Hell. At first unsuspecting theatergoers are plucked off with ease. But once the demons make a scene up on the stage the tide turns and everyone goes wild with panic. The survivors’ only hope is to escape the theater. But with demons prowling every corner getting out alive seems a grim prospect.

Running a tight 88 minutes, Demons sets up the action and then lets loose with a torrent of demonic mayhem that rarely lets up before the credits roll. There’s this wild, frenetic energy to the picture. The demons are savage beasts, frothing at the mouth and frantically attacking their victims. FX legend Sergio Stivaletti provides the gruesome gags which are oozing, gooey, and viscerally revolting—all staples of the Italian special effects scene. The characters aren’t exactly memorable or noteworthy – other than Tony the Pimp, for obvious reasons. But the situations in which they are constantly put are pretty bonkers. Once that action is married to Simonetti’s heavy synth sounds and Bava’s otherworldly direction the chaos becomes exploitation eye candy. Italian horror films have long been more notable for aesthetics than storytelling. Demons is a film that smartly leans into its visual strengths.

Also Read: THE BLOODTHIRSTY TRILOGY Blu-ray Review – Imagine If Hammer Sent Mario Bava To Japan To Direct Vampire Films

One cool aspect here is the film-within-a-film playing at the theater. In it, a group of friends explores an ancient burial site, uncovering the grave of Nostradamus. They find an arcane text and a mask that look an awful lot like the one on display in the theater lobby. Similarly, someone in the film receives a cut on their face from wearing the mask and they, too, turn evil. What strikes me most about this meta-movie isn’t just the content. It’s also the fact it looks competently shot and with decent production values – almost like it’s an actual feature. But frustratingly it isn’t, which is a real bummer because I want to watch it.

A similar feature sets the stage for the you-knew-it-was-coming Demons 2 (1986). Here, the bottled-up action is moved from the confines of a movie theater to the less confined but still singular location of a high rise apartment building. Unlike most sequels the entire creative team returns here, allowing this quickly produced follow-up to retain the same atmosphere and FX work seen last time. Here, the movie is shown on TV, and apparently watched by nearly everyone in this building. That gives the demons a gateway into our world via the broadcast. Like, a demon just comes out of the TV. Don’t ask why.

The residents of the building are besieged by the growing horde, with a new twist this time around: demon bile is acidic, like Xenomorph blood. As the searing saliva slices through floors and ceiling and cables like a knife through warm butter it also has the effect of transforming anything – person or animal – with which it comes into contact into a demon. Pockets of survivors are holed up around the building and the film cuts back and forth between these groups constantly.

Also Read: A Retrospective of Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath

There isn’t much of a focused narrative here. Action bounces all over the building to display the utter chaos caused by the demons. I wouldn’t say any character here is the lead necessarily – maybe Sally (Coralina Cataldi Tassoni). Bava maintains the same manic pace he did on the first film, and Stivaletti’s FX are just as good if not marginally better. The demon kid make-up always creeped me out, especially the VHS cover that gave me literal nightmares when I was just a child. Claudio Simonetti hands over scoring duties to Simon Boswell, who delivers something similar but not quite up to the level of Simonetti’s synth work. Once again the score is supplemented by popular American rock music, with the likes of The Smiths, Dead Can Dance, The Cult, and Peter Murphy being featured.

While I don’t think Demons 2 is on par with the first it’s close enough that this’ll scratch the itch if you want more of Demons but, you know, slightly different.

Also Read: Kill, Baby… Kill! Blu-ray Review – Bava’s Baroque Brilliance in HD!

Synapse previously issued both films on Blu-ray in 2014. Now the company has gone back to the 35mm original camera negatives to create proper 4K masters for the Ultra HD format. Each film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1, with 2160p transfers that are similar in quality – that quality being a near-flawless image that obliterates all previous editions. Colors appear richly saturated and pop off the screen like never before; the bright red blood is incredibly vibrant. Black levels retain their darkness while still offering up solid shadow detail. Film grain swirls and moves organically. Image clarity and depth of field are both exemplary. Fine detail is sharper than demon claws. I could continue to gush but I think the point has been made. If you’re a fan of these films and want the best possible presentation look no further than this release.

Similarly, both features are available in either English or Italian versions. I opt for English dubs simply because all audio was done in post anyway so you aren’t missing anything captured on the day. Channel options come in either 2.0 stereo or 5.1 surround sound, with the latter scoring better to my ears because it takes full advantage of the available speakers. No hissing or pops were heard. Source music and scoring are powerfully reproduced. Subtitles are available in English.

Special Features:


  • NEW 4K RESTORATIONS of both Demons and Demons 2 from the original 35mm camera negatives
  • Limited edition o-card/slipcover packaging featuring new artwork by Juan José Saldarriaga and Chris MacGibbon
  • Reproduction of the original movie ticket from Demons
  • A special Demons 2 birthday party invitation
  • Included fold-out poster of Demons artwork from Wes Benscoter
  • Reversible cover art



  • Two versions of the film: the full-length original cut in English and Italian, and the shorter U.S. version featuring alternate dubbing and sound effects
  • Uncompressed DTS-HD MA English & Italian 5.1/2.0 audio mixes on the original cut derived from the archival audio masters
  • Uncompressed DTS-HD MA English 2.0 U.S. theatrical mono audio newly remastered in 2021 by Synapse Films
  • New audio commentary by critics Kat Ellinger and Heather Drain, co-hosts of the Hell’s Belles podcast
  • Audio commentary with director Lamberto Bava, SPFX artist Sergio Stivaletti, composer Claudio Simonetti and actress Geretta Geretta
  • Produced by Dario Argento: a new visual essay by author and critic Michael Mackenzie exploring the legendary filmmaker’s career as a producer
  • Dario’s Demon Days: interview with writer/producer Dario Argento
  • Defining an Era in Music: interview with Claudio Simonetti
  • Splatter Spaghetti Style: interview with long-time Argento collaborator Luigi Cozzi
  • Carnage at the Cinema: Lamberto Bava and His Splatter Masterpiece
  • Dario and Demons: Producing Monster Mayhem
  • Monstrous Memories: Luigi Cozzi on Demons
  • Profondo Jones: The Critical Perspective
  • Splatter Stunt Rock: interview with Ottaviano Dell’Acqua
  • Stivaletti Q & A at the 2019 UK ‘Festival of Fantastic Films’
  • Original Italian and English international theatrical trailers
  • U.S. theatrical trailer
  • Newly translated optional English SDH subtitles for the English version
  • Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian version


  • Uncompressed DTS-HD MA English 5.1 & Italian 5.1/2.0 audio mixes derived from the original archival audio masters
  • Uncompressed DTS-HD MA English 2.0 true stereo theatrical mix remastered in 2021 by Synapse Films
  • New audio commentary by film critic Travis Crawford
  • Bava to Bava: interview with Luigi Cozzi on the history of Italian horror
  • Creating Creature Carnage: interview with Sergio Stivaletti
  • Demonic Influences: Federico Zampaglione Speaks
  • The ‘Demons’ Generation: Roy Bava discusses a legacy in lacerations
  • The New Blood of Italian Horror featuring Sergio Stivaletti
  • Screaming for a Sequel: The Delirious Legacy of DEMONS 2 with Lamberto Bava
  • A Soundtrack for Splatter: interview with composer Simon Boswell
  • Together and Apart: a new visual essay on the space and technology in DEMONS and DEMONS 2 by author and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
  • Original Italian and English theatrical trailers
  • Newly translated optional English SDH subtitles for the English version
  • Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian version
  • Demons
  • Demons 2
  • Special Features


Synapse knocks another release out of the park, with stellar a/v quality, loads of bonus features, and a few fun tangible items contained within that fans ought to dig – this is the ultimate package for Demons fans.

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