The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Night of the Demons

Night of the Demons, released in 1988, is the kind of horror film that doesn't get made a lot these days. In the '80s, many fright flicks had a sly sense of humor running underneath the gore and terror. They were fun, and their goal was to give you that unique, dual giggle/gross-out sensation. Directed by Kevin S. Tenney (Witchboard), Night of the Demons is perhaps even more perversely humorous than most of the era, and it's certainly more perversely gruesome. The movie is being released in an extras-laden Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack on February 4 from Scream Factory.

Angela Franklin (Amelia Kinkade) is a high school student who plans to throw a one-of-a-kind Halloween party for her peers. The location is Hull House, an abandoned mortuary. A handful of teens show up. The eerie ambiance of the place is absorbed, and a makeshift dance floor is erected. Then Angela hauls out the big guns; she decides to conduct a séance. She summons a demon, which promptly possesses her friend Suzanne (the great Linnea Quigley). All hell breaks loose, as everyone scrambles to get out of Hull House before they, too, fall prey. Once Angela gets a demon inside of her, all bets are off.

Night of the Demons has a wicked, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. One has to marvel at the creativity of the shock scenes, which often start off comically, only to abruptly go to some unabashedly freaky places. One of the highlights (minor spoiler alert!) is a bit in which the possessed Suzanne draws all over her naked body with lipstick, then shoves the tube into her breast. That's just one of many memorable moments. There's some subtle spoofing of both high school cliques and horror movie conventions in Night of the Demons, too. The screenplay, by Joe Augustyn, has fun imagining what would happen if the goth kids, the jocks/cheerleaders, and the geeks all got together in the same place where a horrific situation was taking place. It even subverts your expectations, based on fright film logic, as to which characters will die and in what order.

Director Kevin Tenney composes shots and moves his camera in inventive, ambitious ways that give the film a distinctly off-kilter feel. There's an amazing shot in which we see all the characters, each reflected in his or her individual shard of a broken mirror, whose pieces rest on the floor. The way Tenney films the possessed Angela floating down a hallway – filmed from ground level as she hovers over the camera – is very creative, as well. The attention to creating unsettling visuals is impressive. Had Tenney ever made a film that became a genuine box office smash, he might have gone on to have the kind of career Sam Raimi has. He is clearly an underrated horror auteur.

No one is going to mistake Night of the Demons for an all-time classic. But is it a blast? You bet it is! Gross, funny, and full of superb makeup effects, this is a ghoulish treat for fans of the severely demented.

Blu-Ray Features:

Scream Factory will release Night of the Demons in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack on February 4. And allow me to call attention to the exciting words printed in big red letters on the back of the box: “The Complete Unrated Version With Extra Gore and Violence.”

The bonus goodies start with two audio commentaries. The first is from Kevin Tenney with actors Cathy Podewell, Hal Havins, and Billy Gallo, plus FX artist Steve Johnson. The second has Tenney with executive producer Walter Josten and producer Jeff Geoffray. The former features reminiscences about the filming, while the latter goes into production aspects.

Next up is “You're Invited,” a fantastic 71-minute retrospective documentary. Almost all the major players are present, including noted “scream queen” Linnea Quigley, who offers an especially witty recollection about her first appearance in the movie. (It's an extreme close-up of her rear end.) The actors talk about how they got cast, while Tenney and the producers reveal that they were forced to change the title from Halloween Party to Night of the Demons when the producer of the Halloween franchise threatened to sue. The creation of the animated title sequence is explained, while the final twenty minutes are devoted to the makeup effects. Steve Johnson, who was responsible for it all, is hilarious discussing some of the challenges he faced working on a low-budget movie after coming off Ghostbusters.

The rather lively Amelia Kinkade gets her own short documentary in which she relives memories of the filming, reflects on her encounters with fans at horror conventions, and talks about her passion for protecting animals. Allison Barron, who played another of the teens in trouble, appears in a 3-minute segment in which she shares photographs she took on set and during promotions for the movie.

Also on the Blu-Ray, you will find a red-band theatrical trailer, plus a trailer for the home video release and some TV spots. Of particular interest is a humorously dated promo reel made to encourage video retailers to stock the film. The promo touts the fact that Night of the Demons earned more at the box office than other, similar movies like Heathers and Lair of the White Worm. Capping the disc off are behind-the-scenes, makeup, and promotional photo galleries.

Picture and sound quality on the disc are tops. Night of the Demons marks yet another first-class release from Scream Factory. Get it.

For more information on this title, please visit the Scream Factory website.

Night of the Demons is rated R for sequences of violence, sexual content, and language. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.

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