Lamberto Bava isn’t quite as beloved by Italian cinema fans as Dario Argento or Lucio Fulci but he did bring us one franchise, two films precisely that have become cult classics.
Demons, the first one, is really the classic. Demons 2 has some really fun moments but it isn’t successful at bringing Italian horror sensibilites and drive-in ridiculousness together in one film as the original. It’s entertaining, but the first film is levels above. The basic story of the first one is a bunch of people are invited to a sneak preview of a horror movie. Once in the theater the events playing out in the movie begin to spill over into the theater and people begin getting killed and turning to demons. To be very clear, these are definitely demons and not zombies. The second film continues the spread of the demons into a luxury apartment.
These films, especially the first one, sit comfortably in with a viewing of Evil Dead 2. The gore is outrageous and almost rainbow colored. There’s obviously a ton of green, probably more green than red actually. I’m going to do something here that I almost never do, recommend watching the dub over the original Italian language version. I may be making this recommendation based on that being the way I first saw the films but I also believe the hilarious dubbing just adds to the humor in the film. The filsm were made in the 80’s but the dubbing is most definitely locked in that 70’s way of delivering lines, priceless.
Lamberto Bava is the son of another hero of Italian giallo Mario Bava, and through that connection he hasa team of some of the country’s best in genre cinema. The films are produced by Dario Argento and argento’s team, including his special fx maestro, jump onboard to give these films that truly Italian giallo look and feel blended with Lamberto’s leaning to the over the top gore. Neither film offers groundbreaking storytelling but they do offer a gory good time with a great soundtrack (again, especially the first one).
If I were reviewing the films separately I’d give Demons an 8/10 and Demons 2 6.5/10 so together we’ll go:
These films have literally been brought back to life with these brand new 4k scans. Detail is outstanding and the HDR is perfectly implemented to add more dynamic range to the existing color but the overall look remains very 80’s. In other words it’s not made overly vivid which happens sometimes with HDR. Darker scenes, of which there ar a lot, do bring some grain to life and I wish the blacks were just a little inkier but on the good side you can see everything happening which wasn’t the case on the original DVD releases.
The Audio here while not stellar is the best we’ve heard the films sound. Dialogue is cleaner in the original Italian tracks with the dubs still showing some distortion in places. Surround use is minimal and the subs don’t kick in nearly enough. It does sound great when the music kicks in though. These are good solid audio presentations for movies made in the early 80’s but definitely not demo worthy.
The Packaging, Bonus Features, and Collectibility
Arrow Video does it again with a stunning presentation and collection of bonus features. Sadly, as you read this I would wager that this release is sold out, and to even get it I had to import it. I would be on the look out for standard releases of these movies not in this limited edition packaging though.
There are a bevy of archival commentaries including cast, director, and special fx. There are pounds of interviews with the cast, the director, sfx, and the producer Dario Argento himself. There’s even a video essay focused on Argento as a producer, which something different than what is out there on Argento directed films. There are hours and hours of deep features to dig into. Most of the features are archival, but Arrow did bring us some new stuff too. Finally there’s a beautiful packed in book with poster art, stills, and additional essays about these films.
I predict this set is going to be sky high on the second hand market not only because the movies look and sound amazing and there’s so many extras, but also because the packaging is stunning. The artwork on the stiff cardboard box is gorgeous and the poster and book are wonderfully designed. The only negative is instead of the typical side loader box that Arrow uses they chose a box that splits in the middle to reveal the digibook inside. This split box kind of falls apart when you pull it from the shelf. Also I would have preferred a standard amaray case inside the box so we could have gotten the reversible art that we are accustomed to from Arrow. Generally these are minor complaints for such a stunning package.