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Here at Four Horsemen Films, we're dedicated to some of the very best and worst cinematic masterpieces you know, love, and despise. Think of us as Bad Movies for Bad People, or as a liaison to the inner sanctum of cinema. Or, just think of us as quick and entertaining reads. That's what Four Horsemen Films is all about.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Night of the Demons (1988)

Night of the Demons (1988)

Written By: Joe Augustyn

Directed By: Kevin S. Tenney

Starring: William Gallo, Hal Havins, Mimi Kinkade, Cathy Podewell, Linnea Quigley, Alvin Alexis, Lance Fenton

Country of Origin: United States of America

The Idea:
At some point in the 1980’s horror cinema took a turn for the worst in regards to thrills, chills, and spills. What was once a terrifying experience with greasy, buttered fingers at the multiplex had become an experiment in schlock film that left many audiences lukewarm rather than boiling. This concept, known as “camp,” gave fans of mainstream movies something valid to bitch about: The amount of B-Grade bullshit skewing the line between the good, the bad, and the ugly. The following film is the essential example of camp, and speaks to the core of what an excellent campy film can be.

My first exposure to Night of the Demons came when I was only eight years old. My parents, bless their hearts, had me watch clips of this film following what was our feature presentation of the evening, Friday the 13th Part 4. After that less than humbling experience, I remember being scared out of my skull by the images of this picture. So it should come to no surprise then, that I avoided the flick until high school and never spoke of it again.

When Night of the Demons made its way to the silver screen, it was seen as hokey and often had far too many errors within the characters to really produce strongly for 90 minutes. It also found reviewers complaining about the lack of lighting or direction in many season, often being cited as a hard watch based simply upon the motor skill of visibility. Now while these gripes are not without merit, it leads me to believe that most reviewers overlooked everything that this perennial underdog stands for.

The plot is simplistic and unoriginal. Teenagers looking for a great party find themselves headed to Angela’s bright idea, the abandoned and awfully creepy Hull House. For absolutely no reason whatsoever, I’d like to take this time to tell you that Hull House has a large wall built all the way around it with an underground stream beneath the wall. These are important plot details, for sure, but they also make me want to take the architect out to a nice dinner followed by a swift clubbing to the head with a 9-iron. Angela, portrayed smashingly by up and coming scream queen Amelia “Mimi” Kinkade, has lead her friends to Hull House in an attempt to have as good a time as any teens could be expected to have on Halloween Night. For you see, the film never skips on sending us the message that these events occur on Halloween, with several references to the silly old superstition that the Gates of Hell have opened for one night, and one night only. You have no idea what a tangent I could go off on in trying to explain the whole Horror Movie “Gates of Hell” Theory, so best leave the idea at that.

Anyway, this crew of misfits isn’t short on stereotypical horror movie protagonists. Oh no, we’ve got the token black guy and traditional jock-hole represented, as well as a vast array of races in our promiscuous girls and even one member of Christianity for good measure. Guess who lives? Moving on, we are led to believe that Angela has summoned the restless spirits that live within Hull House’s once bloody walls for massive havoc. All of it, and I mean literally all of it, is transmitted through a singular tube of lipstick. Don’t worry, this is also a reoccurring theme for the Night of the Demons Saga, as the lipstick is a focal point of the fairly indistinguishable sequel.

However, in its greatest scene to date, the tube of lipstick finds a way to give us something great to talk about. Linnea Quigley, in an act of pure possession I’m sure, begins to decorate her entire upper half with the tube and then disposes of it in a manner most interesting. She seals the cap, and carefully, without hesitation, inserts the lipstick into her body through her nipple. I want you all to carefully reread that last sentence. Particularly the part about INSERTING LIPSTICK INTO HER NIPPLE. If that doesn’t make this movie $100 million nothing will.

Back on topic now, the body count rises (sort of) and so do the gratuitous tit shots. But hey, if you read the last paragraph you were very well aware of the use of boobs in this movie. Finally, after all the carnage has passed, we reprise with an elderly couple who hasn’t been seen but in a bit part at the beginning of the film. I bring this up because the ending is of completely no consequence without the rest of the film and chances are you would have missed it if you didn’t know it was there. The old man in the sequence mentioned in his early scene that he was going to be putting razor blades into apples and give them to children who were trick or treating. We have all heard this old legend, and time and time again, it never ceases to amaze me that people actually bought the idea. Still, the old man sits now stewing about the fact that he didn’t get rid of even one measly apple. His carefree wife joins him at the table and gives him his breakfast. It isn’t until he has taken about a half a dozen bites that he realize that she took those dangerous apples and made them into his breakfast. His throat is then slashed from within several times for having presumably swallowed many razor blades. Think about it. How the hell do you not notice sharp, jagged, metal slicing through your system? Are you Bart Simpson? This little bit of closure to the grand story is so devoid of intelligence that it has officially and completely invalidated the Theory of Relativity.

Member of the crew who should have been fired: Writer Joe Augustyn, who made the intelligent statement of the century by writing it in his script that these demons could close doors with great success, yet their opening prowess was less than worthy. Seriously, they can’t turn a fucking handle. Does becoming a demon automatically create a rift in the bare basics of hand/eye coordination? Did you even think about that when you penned this flick? Or the sequels? (Read: yes, there were two sequels, each of which had the same exact plot as their predecessor. Perhaps the writing wasn’t so bad after all.)

The EFF One-Line Synopsis: “Party turns ugly.”

Best Name in the Cast: Linnea Quigley. In the event you are wondering why this spacey blonde makes the cut, then you obviously don’t watch enough horror flicks. Quigley is a, no, strike that, the perennial Scream Queen of the 1980’s. She was already a Troma Team mainstay during this time period, making appearances in several Toxie-related schlock masterpieces. And if that wasn’t enough, Quigley was also well remembered for her role as Trash in Return of the Living Dead (1985), in which she is turned into a flesh-eating nuisance following a lengthy nude scene. And I mean entirely nude throughout 45 minutes of the film. Awesome.

Quote of the Film:
“Bodacious Boobs, Sis!” -Judy’s Little Brother, spying on his (facepalm) older sister.

Final Thoughts: This is by no means the world’s greatest horror flick, and it isn’t all that scary, either. Hell, I can’t even remember why it gave me chills when I was about eight years old, but perhaps that’s simply because I was eight. Still, despite its seemingly all-too-obvious flaws and foibles, this film is a piece of nostalgic horror schlock and a chapter in the book of B-Movie Paradise. If nothing else, watch the opening credits and the final five minutes to get the full effect of a simpler time in horror cinema. Why do most scary movies flop at the box office these days? Because they’re not allowed to be intentionally silly like this one was. And for that goofiness alone, Night of the Demons holds a bodacious place in my heart, likely right next to the lipstick.


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