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Old 05-11-2003, 08:02 PM   #1
dwatts
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Demonia (Fulci)

Sometimes you have to throw credibility to the wind and tell it like it is. Sure, the good people at horrorDVD may hold me in less regard, but a man sometimes has to be be a man – and to stop hiding. Hell, there are people that like Rollins’ films, so why can’t I say I like Demonia for goodness sakes?

Hey – quit the laughing! Stop making fart noises at the back! I’m trying to explain to you why I liked this film!

I am simply going to have to come to terms with the fact that I like pretty much anything that Fulci turned his hand to. That doesn’t mean that I am in awe of his technical skills (which sometimes inexplicably deserted him). It doesn’t mean that I think his scripts were inspired (sometimes, as in this film, entire segments seem to go AWOL). It isn’t that the casting excelled (I just watched this film, and can’t picture some of the faces in my minds eye.) It’s just that I am hardly ever bored during one of his films. Bad, good, indifferent, I’m always happy to be sitting before the set, focused on what he wants to lay out for me. I have infinite patience for Fulci and what he tried to do. I’m never as bored as he must have been, having to work with some of his stories.

I came to Demonia without any expectations. You see, I have read about this film. I’ve not seen a nice thing written about it. Everyone hates it. No-one thinks this one belongs on DVD, let alone in the collections of horror fans worldwide. The chant usually goes something along the lines of – “Stick with The Beyond, City of the Living Dead, House By the Cemetery and Duckling – the rest suck!” Well, I beg to differ.

Since I knew this one had a good chance of being a total turkey, why did I buy it? Well, the answer to that is simple, I can’t ignore Fulci. Argento has the licks, Argento has the vision, Argento has the technical prowess – but he ain’t got the dirt, the heart of this guy who might be any one of us making our first feature film in the horror genre. Not knocking Argento of course – he rocks. Fulci though, demands every bit as much attention from me as Argento. You just have to face facts about yourself and move on.

Anyway, today I bought both Demonia and Manhattan Baby (another one I’ve been warned about). They are German releases, and were very cheap (I’ll talk about DVD quality later). I just couldn’t stop myself.

The Film

Do you know the plot of this one? The movie starts in a church in the 1600’s. The church is near the sea in a town that might have been where Duckling was made (other than the sea being close by). Five nuns live at this church – and they’ve sold their souls to the devil. They invite locals to the church for orgies, and just when the men are about to orgasm – the nuns stab them with ritualistic knives, capturing their blood in goblets.

This can’t go on for long, soon the villagers get pissed. So they converge on the church and nail the nuns to five crosses in the basement. They then brick it in. Minor gore here by the way – this movie is a restrained Fulci. Gore amounts to people with mouths full of blood, spitting it out.

Anyway, cut to modern day, and an archeologist who is at a séance. She is just about to leave to go on a dig near the ruins of the church, and during the séance she is contacted by one of the nuns – GULP! Possessed by an evil spirit who wants revenge, this sets up the rest of the film.

The remainder takes place at the archeology site. People get murdered one by one – and so the story goes. We have severed heads, tongues nailed to cutting boards, eye gouging, and a guy literally torn in half. More on this later.

The woman does some investigation to find out why she is so drawn to the church, and others around her get dragged into the plot (and sometimes to their deaths.) Of course, we know it’s because the evil spirit is inside her! All good so far – huh?

Well, before you all rush out and buy Demonia, there are probably some things I should tell you. First, Fulci is very restrained here. I could see some people calling this one “slow”. However, while I can accept others might find it so, I did not. I suspect those that think it is slow are comparing it to The Beyond or the other Fulci classics. Demonia has a feel all of its own – and you have to take it on its own terms. The first half of the film could easily be shown, uncut, on TV (not the second half, though). The tone just isn’t as dark.

And then there are some, erm issues. One thing seems clear, something went wrong toward the end of Demonia. Now, when I say that, I’m not so much talking about on-screen (although there is evidence there), I’m talking off screen. I have nothing to back this up - but my guess is this movie simply ran out of money. How else to explain scenes that are completely missing? How else to explain some of the worse SFX ever?

For instance, the centerpiece of the gore is where a guy is torn in half. This scene is so ineptly handled, I honestly think that given a couple of hours and a camera, I could have come up with more realistic FX. And that’s not the worst of it.

Without going into too much detail, a son is being dragged away by a nun. The father is seen running through the forest, searching for the son, calling his name. The son breaks away and runs into a clearing. What does he see? His father, tied between two trees, hands tied to a metal stake in the ground. WTF?!?!?! Wasn’t the father just running through the woods? How did anyone have time to overcome him, and then tie him up in such an elaborate fashion? Is my DVD just cut to hell? Nope – I looked online, this is a common issue with this film, they forgot to film some of the connecting scenes. Now – I know what you might be thinking – what’s up with that?!?!? But I was thinking – MAN – THATS HILARIOUS!!! I mean, I don’t watch Italian horror for its wonderful technique. This silly error might well DEFINE why I like it!

Then the guy gets torn in half with the lamest of special effects. The appliance that should have been pasted to the guys chest (so his guts can fall out as he is torn in half) is not only the wrong color (pink on white skin) but they forgot to completely stick it down – so it moves on his chest from side to side. Trust me, this is pathetic – and entertaining for all the wrong reasons.

How about the guy who gets his tongue nailed to the cutting board? Why is his tongue like, 12 inches long? Silly silly silly.

Yet I could not help but adore the film. Yeah – the money ran out and everyone must have gotten drunk on the last residue of alcohol they found laying about before completing their final scenes. Hell, I bet Fulci caught the early plane and left someone else to film the closing scenes where the villagers once again storm the castle. Yeah, the FX sucked, but the overall feeling was quite nice, imho.

Oh – and one final thing before I get into describing the technical details – there is one priceless scene where one nun gets pregnant during an orgy. We see her – 9 months later – giving birth. Once the baby is out, another of the nuns wraps it up and walks down the hall. You reckon she’s taking it to bed or something. Nope. She’s taking it to the fire. Entering a room, she unceremoniously throws the baby on the flames. I guess evil nuns simply have no time for babies (little infant limbs waving goodbye in the flames).

Anyway – on to the disc. This is the Astro Disc, “Red Edition”. I have no idea what the Red Edition is supposed to mean. I want to be upfront – this disc is so shit, I can hardly breathe.

4:3 pan and scan anyone? Washed out colors maybe? Entire segments covered in fog for no reason? How about scenes that switch from all green, all blue, all purple and then normal – all in the space of fifteen seconds?!?!? Astro tried every trick in the book to make me hate this film (ha! Didn’t work!)

Alright, so this is a garbage release almost beyond words. Reckon I might actually LOVE this film if I could see all of it. It was cheap, thank goodness, but stay away from this release. How incompetent is it? Well, in the trailers that come as an “extra” they have a trailer for “The Dead.” I thought, hm, what’s that? I played it – and it’s a freaking film based on a James Joyce book! Not a dead person in it (the people are dead on the inside, all deep and meaningful). Did the people that put this together just see “The Dead” and think it MUST be cool – or what?!?!?!

Except……

As an extra – you get a free film by Joe D'Amato. It’s called “Ritorno dalla morte” also known as “Return From Death: Frankenstein 2000”. I started it up – and not only is it in English – but the transfer looks stella! Amazing! The main feature looks like shit and is pan and scan, and the bonus is widescreen, and beautiful. What’s up with that?

Now, this film might suck, but it was free. So what the hell.

Getting back to Demonia – this is a new Fulci. He takes his time, there are subtle moments. The ending is completely messed up – I think money must have run out (or they all got bored and wanted to go home, something like that). Yet I still can’t help liking this film. It’s wrong, it is so wrong. But I liked it a lot. Viva Fulci!

Ps: Can anyone tell me if the US release is decent? I’d buy this again in a heartbeat if it is.
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Old 05-11-2003, 08:19 PM   #2
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Hm - on further reading I found out that the fog I complained about was intentional. Just another reason to love this turkey.

And even in my longer review, I forgot to mention the headless, naked, nun ghost wielding a harpoon gun. Boy - so much to love

Oh! Here is the official Horrordvd review of the US Shriek Show version: http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/a-m/demonia/

Seems the original was 1.66:1. So I didn't lose much widescreen wise.

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Old 07-21-2005, 04:42 PM   #3
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Upon seeing it again, I must say that the film is not THAT bad. I have read reviews that literally tear it to shreads, but I think it's watchable. And even the bad gore fx had their moments once in a while.
Much better on repeated viewings.
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Old 07-22-2005, 03:24 AM   #4
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I never thought the film was that bad, I was pleasantly surprised when I got my copy. I liked the gore and didn't find the effects to be that bad, but I'm a Fulci fan as well so I tend to watch movies like this with an eye open wider than most. I think it's a fun effort, one that never is boring and has some nice shots and atmosphere. It's a good average film and for collectors with tons of horror movies, it's a great disc to have. It's also a nice item for collectors because you have to think, when this disc goes OOP, you'll never see an R1 release again.

At the price of the Shriek Show DVD, a whole $7, the disc is an exceptional buy.
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Old 07-22-2005, 04:44 AM   #5
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I liked this movie. The "wishbone" kill where he is torn in half is truly memorable. And nice to finally see you again, Old-Bert-Radley.
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Old 07-22-2005, 05:24 AM   #6
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Hello to you, too.

Yeah, I was very impressed by the wishbone scene. At least Fulci tried and didn't just give a fake stab like in a lot of the mediocre slashers.
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Old 07-22-2005, 09:07 PM   #7
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I think it's really not very good because we've seen what Fulci is capable of doing in The Beyond. And, it's hard to see fulci degrade from such a brilliant film as the beyond, to a chessy flick like demonia. So, it hit me harder than usual.
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Old 07-22-2005, 09:31 PM   #8
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Just as an additional, I did indeed end up buying the Shriek Show version as well.
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Old 07-22-2005, 11:31 PM   #9
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Compared to some other Fulci films, I'd say that this one is sub-par. Having said that I still enjoyed it (to a certain degree). I was also pleasantly surprised at the level of gore involved with this release, which made it all the more enjoyable. This is no Zombie or The Beyond, but it is what it is, and I enjoyed it enough to warrant the $7.99 I paid for it. My next endeavor?: Murder Rock!
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Old 08-08-2005, 09:40 AM   #10
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This one took a while to get going, but I thought the gore scenes were amusing and even the slow-moving earlier parts were funny at times, with the drunken singing archeologists and Fulci as the inspector.

The cat scene was hilarious.
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Old 03-13-2010, 12:17 PM   #11
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Did the Shriek Show DVD come with a chapter index/insert?
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