Demons 2 (1986) Demons 2/Demoni 2 (1986) **½

     When you really think about it, the ending of Demons doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for a sequel, unless, of course, the writer of said sequel wanted to go in a quasi-post-apocalyptic, Day of the Dead sort of direction. But make a sequel they did, and the one that Lamberto Bava and Dario Argento came up with follows the exact opposite tack, taking the usual 80’s “let’s make exactly the same movie again” approach. You might expect this to mean that Bava and Argento have their work cut out for them from a making-the-movie-make-sense perspective, especially since the script for Demons 2 explicitly acknowledges the events of the previous film. The present two filmmakers, however, have an advantage over their counterparts in the English-speaking world in this respect, in that they are Italians, and therefore don’t give a rat’s ass whether you can make sense of their work or not. It’s a mindset that served them well the year before, but they get rather less mileage out of it this time around.

     Demons 2 is structured much like its predecessor. Its characters cluster together in little groups, each of which has its own self-contained back-story, and the only connection between them is that they all happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time-- in this case, a huge ultra-modern apartment complex. First, we have a young woman named Sally (Coralina Cataldi Tassoni, from Evil Clutch), who lives on the tenth floor of the building. It’s her birthday, and she is having all of her friends over for a party. Sally’s next-door neighbors are a couple of married college students named George (David Edwin Knight) and Hannah (Body Count’s Nancy Brilli). Just to make things more interesting, Hannah is nine months pregnant. Down in the building’s private gym, we have a veritable army of shirtless steroid-pumpers and spandex-clad fitness queens presided over by Hank the trainer (Bobby Rhodes, in a functional reprise of his role as Tony the pimp from the original Demons). Elsewhere in the building are a few other, less important groups (look for Argento’s daughter, Asia, as the pre-teen girl in one of the families). Finally, there are the people whose fault the whole mess is, a team of Geraldo Rivera-like investigative journalists who are shooting a live TV documentary (without any sign of a film crew, I might add) on the previous year’s demon/zombie near-apocalypse. They have snuck into the walled-off section of Berlin that surrounds the Metropol Theater in order to look for anything that might help explain the outlandish occurrence, and everybody in the apartment building seems to be watching them on TV.

     This bunch performs approximately the same function as the movie playing on the Metropol’s screen in Demons. While poking around the Forbidden Zone (someday, somebody’s going to think of a new name for the walled-off part of town where nobody is allowed to go...), the reporters find the mummified body of a demon/zombie, on which one of the women makes the mistake of bleeding. This brings the creature back to life, after which it kills all four of the idiots who woke it up. Sally, who has by this point locked herself in her room because somebody invited her moron ex-boyfriend to the party, sees it all on her television. Then the damnedest thing happens. The zombie on the screen notices Sally watching! The monster then climbs out of Sally’s TV set and attacks her, after which it is never heard from again. It’s done its job, though. When the rest of the partygoers coax Sally out of her room to blow out the candles on her cake, the girl turns into a zombie herself, and sets about massacring all of her guests. Then she starts to hemorrhage, and her blood eats its way through the building, Alien-style, shorting out the phones, the lights, and the building’s electronic security system, turning the entire building into a huge prison with walls of sound- and bullet-proof plexiglass.

     From here, Demons 2 becomes little more than a loosely connected series of zombie set-pieces, as Sally and her infected guests make the rounds of the apartment complex, killing everyone in their way. True, the same thing could be said about the original Demons, but what seemed crazily inventive the first time around here comes across like the retread it is. The only element of Demons 2 that works as well as its predecessor is the battle in the parking garage, into which Hank has herded all the people he could find, and which he has ingeniously fortified against attack by the monsters using whatever he and his followers could find inside the parked cars. In a sense, this scene could be looked at as an attempt to correct the biggest mistake Bava and Argento made in Demons: killing Tony off too soon. Hank gets to play general for much longer than Tony did, and the movie is able to reap corresponding benefits from Bobby Rhodes’s no-bullshit, tough-guy screen presence.

     But otherwise, Demons 2 doesn’t quite come together. The biggest problem is that the apartment complex isn’t nearly as menacing a setting as the Metropol Theater. I understand what the filmmakers were trying to do by literally bringing the horror home, but it is my experience that the “monsters in your backyard” approach depends heavily upon the believability of the underlying scenario for its success. Try to put something completely outlandish in an ordinary setting, and you can run into serious suspension-of-disbelief difficulties. Lots of movies have pulled the trick off, but Lamberto Bava isn’t quite equal to the task. His troubles are compounded by the fact that this is a sequel. If something like this happens one time, in what is obviously an evil place, it is possible to accept that there simply is no explanation. If it happens twice, however, repeating itself in so prosaic a context as a basically ordinary apartment building, then there must be an explanation. But Demons 2 offers none, and it is painfully obvious why: nobody could think of any that an audience would swallow. The original Demons is constructed in such a way that it draws strength from its brazen defiance of all reason. Demons 2, on the other hand, is nearly undone by the same paucity of logic. It does work at times, but when it does so, it gets by on adrenaline alone.

 

 

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