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Night of the Demons (2009)


Turning Tricks

Maybe I'm feeling generous.  Or maybe the last thirty-six hours of severe existential depression have numbed me to the point where I can't even work up the will to hate a crappy horror remake.

Perhaps it's something else.

Could it be that Adam Gierasch's Night of the Demons is actually a good movie?  Well, no, but it's not terrible, either.  It's rare that I find middle ground with modern horror films.  Usually, I eiher love them or want to burn every print in circulation.  But this movie is different.  There's a lot of bad here, and not much good; but a lot of the bad is really entertaining.

I only saw the original Night of the Demonsonce, when I was thirteen.  I don't remember a lot about it, but director Kevin S. Tenney spiced up Joe Augustyn's story about teens holding a Halloween seance in an old, scary house with some pretty iconic scenes.  From Linnea Quigleydisappearing a pink lipstick into her nipple, to the end sequence where a cranky old man eats an apple pie baked with razor blades, the movie was truly wicked and somewhat imaginative.

In Gierasch's version, only the lipstick gag survives.  Everything else is a competent mash-up of Evil Dead 2 and Hellraiser: Hellworld, (though "competent" is a strange word to apply here).  This time, the old, scary house is the site of a debaucherous rave thrown by Internet sensation Angela (Shannon Elizabeth).  Her best friend Suzanne (Bobbi Sue Luther) brings along Lily (Diora Baird) and Maddie (Monica Keena), who's trying to get over her drug-dealing ex-boyfriend Colin (Edward Furlong).  The girls meet up with Jason (John F. Beach) and Dex (Michael Copon) at the soiree, and there is much drinking, dancing, and bathroom screwing.

Before long, the cops break up the party.  Our seven heroes evade detection during the raid and manage to stay behind after everyone leaves.  Too bad for them, an evil cadre of seven demons has been awakened from a hidden room in the basement, and if they can possess each of the partyers before dawn, they will gain dominion over our world.  Coincidentally, possession in this universe works much like an STD, and the monsters breeze through most of the kids in about ten minutes via the magic of straight kisses, lesbian kisses and, um, anal sex (I doubt the Jersey Shore gang would've lasted two minutes in this house).

I was surprised at how quickly the film disposed of its characters, leaving only three of them (Maddie, Jason, and Colin) to fend off razor-toothed, oozing creatures for much of the run-time.  Night of the Demonsis the only horror film with a thirty-five-minute climax that I can recall.  A good chunk of this takes place in an upstairs bedroom in which the survivors hole up.  The house, you see, was the site of a similar massacre in the 1920s, and the sole survivor, one of the estate's maids, scribbled protective runes all over the walls.  We're never told how the maid knew to write these symbols and messages; nor do we understand how Maddie is able to read them well enough to provide the demons' elaborate back-story; hell, we don't even get an explanation as to where Edward Furlong has been hiding since American History X, so I guess the message here is "just go with it."

As it turns out, this involves blatantly ripping off scenes from Evil Dead 2.  And I'd have no problem dismissing Night of the Demonsas just the four-thousandth failed experiment in horror-comedy were it not for the sequence immediately following the lipstick-boob scare.  Lily shows her new trick to Jason (one-upping the original film by pulling the lipstick out of her blood-sopped miniskirt) and a moment later, he stumbles out to the living room in a daze.  In a wonderful deadpan, he polls his friends about normal and abnormal behavior.  It's a terrific, unexpected break between scares that's aided by John Beach's resemblance--in appearance and demeanor--to John Krasinski's "Jim" character on NBC's The Office.

In fact, one of the reasons the climax works so well is that each member of the surviving trio has something quirky going on.  Edward Furlong plays Colin as if he'd eaten nineteen sub sandwiches before auditioning for Michael J. Fox's role in The Frighteners.  And Monica Keena does her best Smart-Girl/Tough-Girl impression, fighting through the fact that she looks ridiculous holding a shotgun (her lips' bee-sting-or-Botox look doesn't help).  Night of the Demonsconfirms that the best way to keep people interested in a not-that-great horror movie is to have them watch three complete oddballs try to survive supernatural enemies--a theory I first kicked around while watching From Beyond.

Pretty much everything works here except the whole demon storyline.  Much of that blame falls to the effects team, who alternate half-assed CG morphs with half-assed practical effects, resulting in monster makeup that is fully assed.  I also could've done without the house's backstory, which we see glimpses of in sepia-toned, silent-movie flashbacks (complete with dialogue cards!).  It's kind of clever, but I couldn't shake the feeling that the filmmakers used this gimmick in order to keep their target audience from falling asleep during the few scenes where characters don't sport tattoos and fishnets.

Tangent: If anyone has seen this movie, would you please write inand tell me how old you think these characters are supposed to be? I know most of the actors are in their 30s, but they dress like desperate-to-fit-in 20-somethings and act like teenagers.  I'm puzzled.

What the hell kind of recommendation is this?  It's a solid one.  Why notwatch this movie?  It isn't groundbreaking, but so many elements fail in so many interesting ways that I doubt you'll be bored. The weirdness kept my mind from drifting, and if I have one real complaint it's the lack of gallows humor that made the original's ending so great.

Then again, I'm the guy who was cheered up by the Night of the Demons remake.  So please use your best judgment before pressing "Play".

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