1985’s Demons was such a success that it only took one year for it to be followed by a sequel. Like the first film, Demons 2 was directed by Lamberto Bava and produced by Dario Argento. (Once again, Argento is also credited with co-writing the script.) Bobby Rhodes appears in both films, though he plays two different characters. And again, it’s the same basic plot: watching a movie leads to an outbreak of a plague that transforms a group of people into a pack of murderous demons.
And yet, despite all the similarities, Demons 2 is a hundred times better than the first Demons. And I say that as someone who really likes the first film. There simply is no comparison between the two. If Demons was a nonstop thrill ride, Demons 2 is a filmed nightmare.
Demons 2 takes place in a high-rise apartment building. In the style of any good disaster movie, the first part of the film introduces us to the tenants and gives us just enough information so that we’ll be able to remember who is who.
For instance, in one apartment, we have George (David Knight) and his pregnant wife, Hannah (Nancy Brilli). In another, we have a woman (Anita Bartolucci) who obsessively dotes on her dog. Down the hall, ten year-old Ingrid Haller (Asia Argento, making her film debut) watches TV while her parents eat dinner. In the basement, a gym instructor named Hank (Bobby Rhodes) shouts encouragement at a group of body builders.
And finally, in another apartment, a teenage girl named Sally (Coralina Cataldi Tassoni) sits in her bedroom and cries. It’s her birthday but her parents are out for the night. Meanwhile, her friends are gathered in the living room and wondering if Sally is ever going to come out of her room. Sally is upset because her boyfriend didn’t come to the party. Poor Sally.
In her sadness, Sally has turned on her TV but she’s barely watching. And what’s on TV that night? A horror movie, one that tells the same story as the one we saw in the first Demons and the one that we will eventually see again in Demons 2 (and also in Michele Soavi’s The Church). A group of teenagers come across a dead demon. When one of them accidentally gets splashed by the demon’s blood, he is transformed into a demon himself…
(If this sound familiar, that’s perhaps because the same idea was later used in 28 Days Later, a film that owns a not insignificant debt to both of the Demons films and Umberto Lenzi’s Nightmare City.)
Suddenly, the movie demon stops and seems to be staring straight at the unseen camera. He starts to approach it, until his twisted face fills the entire TV screen…
Suddenly, the demon bursts out of the TV and infects Sally. Sally finally leaves her bedroom and proceeds to attack everyone at her party, spreading the infection. Meanwhile, acidic demon bile eats through the floor and drips into the apartments below, infecting everyone that it touches…
And I do mean everyone! If there’s anything that truly separates the Demons films from so many other horror films, it’s that literally anyone can be infected. It doesn’t matter if you’re likable or if you’re funny or if you’re played by a familiar actor. If you get infected, you’re going to turn into a demon. Usually, when you watch a horror film, you can sure that children and pregnant women will automatically be safe. Demons 2 wastes little time in letting you know that this isn’t the case as far as this film is concerned.
Demons was pretty much distinguished by nonstop action. In Demons 2, director Lamberto Bava devoted more time to atmosphere and characterization. As a result, Demons 2 features characters that we actually care about and some truly haunting images, everything from Sally’s friends moving, in slow motion, down a dark hallway to Asia Argento watching as her parents are literally ripped into pieces in front of her. If Demons was defined by its relentless heavy metal soundtrack, Demons 2 is defined by the ambient but haunting new wave music that plays through the majority of the film. Demons was an action-horror film. Demons 2 is a nightmare from which you cannot awake.
If you have the opportunity, I would say to watch both of the Demons films. But if you have to choose only one to watch, go with Demons 2.