Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Night of the Demons

There’s always a little bit of trepidation involved when preparing to watch a movie that was finished and shelved for a couple years before finally being dumped onto DVD with pretty much no fanfare whatsoever, particularly when it’s a remake of a moderately popular horror movie from the 80s, which should have at least guaranteed it a minor profit in theaters regardless of quality. It’s that lovely vote of no confidence by the studio that just forces you to assume the worst about the film.

Which means that it’s kind of surprising to discover that the film is actually somewhat superior to the original, making it an extremely rare kind of remake. The last instance I can think of where a remake was better than the original was John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing way back in 1982. I’m sure there’s been one or two since, but none that comes readily to mind. To be sure, that’s as much due to the original film not being very good as it is to the relative quality of this effort, but a win’s a win however it comes.

For those that haven’t seen the original, it’s Halloween night, and popular girl Angela (Shannon Elizabeth, long after her American Pie fame has vanished) is hosting a huge party at some abandoned house where some people died in sepia tones in the prologue in goofy, overly gory ways. After the damn cops raid the place, we’re left with just a few stragglers, who discover a walled off room in the basement, where a skeleton with a gold tooth lies on the floor. When Angela tries to get the gold tooth, however, the skeleton snaps down and bites her, infecting her with a demon that needs to spread to seven people (coincidentally the number of stragglers) before dawn so it can free itself from the house and wreak havoc over the world entire. Trapped in the house now, the remaining people now have to find some way to survive until morning.

That’s not exactly the plot of the original, but it’s close enough to be instantly recognizable. It ramps up the violence and nudity from its predecessor, and while the CG is pretty much always noticeable whenever it appears, it at least provides co-writer/director Adam Gierasch with the ability to include things like having someone’s face outright torn off their head, which I could never bring myself to speak against. It also has the benefit of having much better actors on hand -- sure, Amelia Kinkade was a much better Angela than Shannon Elizabeth is here, but you just can’t top Edward Furlong thoroughly hamming it up and visibly having the time of his life as her drug dealing scumbag friend. Also, while I generally prefer when remakes just use the same general premise of the original, and not remake all the actual big scenes (see the recent remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street to see how terribly wrong that path can go), I will say they do a nice job here updating the lipstick scene. And no, for those of you that haven’t seen either version, I won’t spoil what that is.

The Night of the Demons remake isn’t ever going to be mistaken for a classic, but it’s certainly in the upper tier of horror remakes I’ve encountered. Again, while that’s admittedly because most remakes are awful, it’s effortlessly watchable, and comes so close to being an actual good film that one could easily be fooled into thinking that it was (particularly during the lesbian seduction scene, which was incredibly awkward and fake, but which had two girls kissing and brief nudity so I didn‘t care). Fortunately you have me here to set the record straight, but I feel a little sad for all those poor souls out there that are buying this without having me around to give them fair warning.

Rating: ** ½

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