Here’s a secret about me, you guys… I’m kind of over the whole Halloween thing. Say what you will, but I really don’t need to earmark a day on the calendar to pig out on junk food, wear sassy outfits, watch scary movies, and drink a beer or 12. I guess I feel the same way about Halloween as a drunk might feel about St. Patrick’s Day. On paper, it’s a celebration of all things that you love, but in reality? It’s total amateur hour. That being said, there are a lot of very fun movies either explicity about, or even just set on Halloween, and at the very least, they are always enjoyable to dust off and talk about this time of year. One of my personal favorites is 1988’s Night of the Demons. It’s a dumb, non-sensical, gory piece of trash that still manages to hold up almost 30 years later. Oh, it also spawned 2 sequels of varying quality, and a LOLBAD Furlong filled remake. But let’s put those in a little box for now, and focus on the original.
On the surface, Night of the Demons looks like just another 80’s horror turd, where generic teenage stereotypes get murdered by some supernatural entity one by one. Ok, that’s pretty much exactly what it is, but it’s an extremely charming 80’s horror turd, where generic teenage stereotypes get murdered by some supernatural entity one by one. What we end up with though, is maybe the definitive Halloween party film. A group of kids (who are different enough that in real life, they would have literally ZERO reason to ever interact) decide to spend the night in a haunted funeral parlor, and partake in all the boozing and banging you’d expect such a location to inspire. I know I’VE always wanted to screw in a casket. After reading aloud an ancient text, or some shit (always a bad idea), they are turned into demons one by one, and sent hunting the remaining survivors who are desperately trying to last until sunrise. Pretty straightforward premise, I guess.
What makes this one special is all the batshit crazy stuff hiding in here. There’s a kid who spies on his sister changing, and compliments her boobs, a big fat dumb dude dressed like a pig, a spooky goth girl doing a sexy sexy dance to a Bauhaus song, and a scene involving lipstick that if you haven’t seen, I definitely don’t want to spoil. Also, it’s bookended by a sketchy old dude trying to flat out murder school children, but it’s played as a joke? It’s safe to say it’s kind of a weird one.
Ok, real talk here. This isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination. There are major issues with the tone and pacing, and some of the performances are exactly as bad as you’d expect. However, there’s plenty here worthy of praise. Right off the bat, this movie has one of my favorite opening credits sequences of all time. It has little to do with absolutely anything that happens in the rest of the movie, but it’s animated, and has awesome old school spooky music. I miss sequences like this from this era. Do movies even have opening credits anymore? We should get back to that. It’s a simple thing that I always appreciate.
Also, Linnea Quigley is in this, and she is just the best. She’s definitely one of those actresses that you know exactly what to expect when you see her name on a project, and that’s definitely not a bad thing in her case. Her character introduction here is hilarious, crass, and totally perfect. Amelia Kinkade is also pretty awesome as Angela. In the same movie, she manages to make believable swings from creepy outcast to seductress to horrifying monster, and she pulls all of them off. Also, that dance scene I mentioned earlier is super hot. Like really hot.
The make up effects are generally pretty solid, and the camera work is better than it has to be. They even manage a cool shot of Demon Angela gliding down a hallway that legitimately approaches ‘iconic’ status. There is a sense that care was taken with this production, and I’d say overall that it’s mostly a successful film. History has actually been much kinder to this movie than critics were in 1988. I guess when removed from the context of shitty direct to video garbage, this one manages to stand out. It’s certainly a fun and creative little film, and while I think calling it a ‘classic’ might be pushing it a bit, you could definitely do worse for your Halloween viewing pleasure. For example, you could watch its sequels or the remake. But that’s another story for another day. This is what I’ll be watching this Halloween, and I hope some of you will do the same.
-Johnny Zontal can be found watching eating candy and thinking about Linnea Quigley on Twitter