Dance of the Demons
Review Date: April 13, 2001
Released by: Dragon Entertainment
Release date: 2/18/2001
Region 0, PAL
Widescreen 1.66:1 | 16x9: No
begins in a Berlin subway station as college student Cheryl (Natasha Hovey
) gets off a train to meet her friend Kathy (Paola Cozzo
). When she hears footsteps following her in the nearly-deserted station, she thinks someone is about to attack her, but it turns out to actually be a man dressed in black and wearing a kooky mask on his face, who gives her a free ticket to a movie that night at The Metropol, a downtown theater. She gets a ticket for Kathy, too.
That night, Cheryl and Kathy show up at the theater for the movie, even though nobody seems to know what it's about or even what it's called. In the lobby, the girls meet George (Urbano Barberini
) and Ken (Karl Zinny
), two hunky guys who take an immediate liking to them. Meanwhile, a pimp named Tony (Bobby Rhodes
) and two of his prostitutes are examining a prop mask on display. One of them picks it up and tries it on, cutting her face.
As it turns out, the movie is a horror film, telling the story of a group of teenagers messing around in an old cemetery at night. They find a tombstone with the name "Nostradamus" on it, and so they logically decide to break into the grave. Instead of finding a body, however, all they find is an old book and a dusty mask resembling the one that the prostitute scratched herself on. One of the guys begins reading the book, a manuscript about demons that says that anyone who wears the mask will become one. Unfortunately, one of the other guys has already put it on, and has scratched himself on the face. At that moment, the prostitute's cut begins bleeding again and she goes into the ladies' room, where the wound suddenly swells up and explodes in a ball of puss.
When she doesn't come back, the other prostitute goes to look for her in the bathroom. She gets a shock when she discovers that her friend has been transformed into a snarling, bloodthirsty demon that attacks her and slashes her throat open. She runs back into the theater and collapses. Tony, George and Ken rush to her aide, but are shocked to see that she is starting to transform into a demon herself. She suddenly springs to life and attacks another man, ripping his throat open. Everyone runs screaming for the exits, but are mortified to find that the doors to the building have somehow been sealed with brick. They're trapped!
Working the assumption that the movie is somehow responsible for the creatures, a group of them run up to the theater's projection room and smash all the equipment, and although they stop the movie, they fail to stop the demons. They barricade themselves in the balcony as the creatures attack and kill many of them, turning everybody they slaughter or injure into demons themselves. Cheryl, George, Kate and Ken must now fight for their lives against the inhuman beasts!
Dance of the Demons
, or simply Demons
as it's most commonly known, seems to fall into the "love it or hate it" category. Personally, I don't like the movie that much at all. On a technical level, the film is a superb accomplishment. The gore flows freely, and the special effects are quite good for an older film. The stunts, camerawork and editing are all top-notch, and the whole picture is a non-stop onslaught of visual and audio stimulation. Unfortunately, the movie is all style with very little substance, and it often feels like it was produced solely so everyone behind the camera could keep their skills fresh. The script, by director Lamberto Bava, Dario Argento and Franco Ferrini, has even less of an emphasis on characterization than the average Italian horror film, meaning that virtually every character, even the leads, are an uninteresting blank slate that are hard to even pay attention to. The script is also hurt by a strange subplot involving a group of car thieves driving around Berlin and arguing about whose turn it is to snort cocaine. Not only does this break up the action constantly, but the sub-plot really doesn't go anywhere. The punks eventually end up at the movie theater and are killed by the demons, but otherwise this subplot really doesn't lead anywhere, and is just a waste of time.
Of course, there will undoubtedly be a lot of people who will disagree with me on this. But unfortunately, I feel Dance of the Demons
makes the same mistakes that many Hollywood films today are criticized for making: it's well put-together and it's good eye candy, but aside from that there isn't a whole lot going on to recommend it.
This is an import DVD from Germany in the PAL video format, which means that most people in North America, which uses the NTSC format, will not be able to view this on their TVs without special equipment. The review of the image quality is broken into two sections, one for NTSC televisions (video signal converted from PAL with a decoder card) and one for playback on computer monitors (where the video format is not an issue).
Dance of the Demons
is presented letterboxed at about 1.66:1 and is not enhanced for 16x9 TVs. The framing seems a bit off-center (if you look at the large versions of these vidcaps, you'll see a very thick black band on the right side of the image, while virtually none on the left), but it's usually not noticeable because of overscan.
(PAL-NTSC with Kingmax ZV-DVD decoder card):
Colors appeared a little pale during the first ten minutes or so, then were more or less normal, although the some of the weird lighting effects that are used in many scenes caused some minor color bleed. There was little grain to speak of, and the presentation was quite free of any scratches, specks or blemishes. I noticed some occasional motion artifacts, which seem to be a result of the conversion between formats.
(Cyberlink PowerDVD 3.0):
Monitor playback overall was superior to TV playback. Colors were again strong, but without any evident bleed, and there was no significant grain, nor was print damage any more noticeable. The black level was a little bit inconsistent, sometimes appearing grayish, but that was it.
There are two soundtracks included, an English dub track and a German track, both in Dolby 2.0 Stereo. The soundtrack sounds fine, reproducing all the effects and music clearly, although the bass level seemed a bit low. No distortion was evident. There are optional German and Dutch subtitles included.
Dragon has provided a separate plate of supplements from the domestic Anchor Bay release, which included a featurette and a commentary track with Lamberto Bava, special effects man Sergio Stivaletti, and journalist Loris Curci.
Here, Dragon has provided a trailer, filmographies of Bava, Natasha Hovey and Urbano Barberini, and two interview segments, one with Sergio Stivaletti (although it mostly focuses on his work on movies like Phenomena
and The Church
), and one with Dario Argento, in which he explains why enjoys working on movies made by other people.
Dragon's disc is a nice release of this film, and fans of the movie will no doubt find the disc a good buy, especially if they live in Europe and don't have the ability to play the NTSC Anchor Bay release. Although I have a fairly low opinion of Dance of the Demons
, it's definitely a movie that horror fans should see and form their own opinions of.
Movie – C+
TV Playback Image Quality - B
Monitor Playback Image Quality - B+
Sound – B
Supplements – B-
- Running Time - 1 hour 25 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- 8 Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Stereo 2.0
- German Dolby Stereo 2.0
- German and Dutch subtitles
- Interview with Dario Argento
- Interview with Sergio Stivaletti