My Top 8 Horror Films: Demons 2 (1986)

TW: Graphic Horror & Discussions of Disturbing Topics (Rape in Film) {1}

  1. I don’t describe rape, nor does the film depict it. No film I’ve chosen for this list does so. It’s part of a discussion on the ethics of horror films, in this case.

The first foreign film on my list, this entry doesn’t particularly say anything useful about society or have a moving message about life. Sometimes, that’s ok. That is to say this movie is fucking bonkers, barely makes sense, and is violent and gruesome to such absurd levels that you really have to wonder why it exists. Well, it just does, and it’s a goddamn thrill ride of horror and death and bright red blood if that’s your sort of bag.

This and the first film, Demons (1985), were co-written and produced by Dario Argento of Suspira (1977) fame. Both were directed by Lamberto Bava, who worked under Argento and Ruggero Deodato as an assistant director for a few of their projects before venturing off to direct his own. If you’ll note, Deodato was the director infamous for Cannibal Holocaust (1979). You know, just the movie that got the director arrested on obscenity charges and had to prove in court that the actors in his movie didn’t actually fucking die; that film is still banned in some countries. It’s not really worth finding or watching in my opinion, fyi. I’ll get to that later. I like to think that Bava looked at the masterful tension in Argento’s movies and the gore in Deodato’s movies and thought, Watch this shit, fuckers. I like Demons 2 over Demons because it seems as though Bava saw Demons and didn’t think he went far enough, which is insane to me. But here I am.

Get a load of this: Demons 2 takes place in a high-rise apartment building when, while locked inside her room during her own birthday party, a young girl watches a movie wherein the characters in the movie within the movie accidentally awaken a demon; the awakened demon notices the birthday girl and springs from the TV, attacks the birthday girl, and turns her into a demon. Chaos erupts as the entire apartment complex is overrun by the tenants turning into demons. The main characters are a young, married couple who try to escape the onslaught. The wife is pregnant, and that’s a whole thing. There’s a subplot about a group of body builders who attempt a futile, last defense against the demons. That’s it. No explanation for what caused the demons to enter the human realm, aside from what I said earlier. The demons share several properties as they can infect others and turn them into demons as well. Other than that, the demons can be killed, albeit its’s extra difficult to do so, but they are incredibly strong, fast, cunning, and grow claws and fangs. It’s badass to see a different interpretation of ‘zombies.’ You only get so many before that gets played out as well: 28 Days Later (2002), Land of the Dead (2005), Dead Snow (2009), etc.

Anyways, the movie is an assault to all your senses. Because it was filmed in Italian, the English dub is off and awkward. But I like that because it only makes the film more unsettling and otherworldly. The sound the demons make are loud and creepy, as though their screams were altered with reverb, echoing, and deepening effects. Every wound festers and bleeds profusely without end. There’s one scene where the woman fights a mini-demon that had just torn itself out of a child; it squeals in this unnervingly high pitch as the room it chases said woman in is dark, save for strobe and neon lights that flash erratically. It’s a batshit insane scene that you have to see to believe.

Let me make it clear that I’m not a fan of ‘torture porn’ films like Hostel (2005), The Devil’s Rejects (2005), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), The Human Centipede (2009), or A Serbian Film (2010). Or several movies labeled as part of the New French Extremity, such as Martyrs (2008) or Irréversible (2002). I’m not interested in being entertained by artistic representations of violence that seek to blur the line between reality and fiction for shits and giggles or some fucked up notion of art. Though Demons 2, and other movies on this list, feature violent and graphic scenes and images, I like them because they make no attempt to be real; they create a world that doesn’t necessarily exist in our timeline and, thus, the artifice maintains a wall between horror and disgust or repulsion (for me at least). And even then, that’s questionable {1}. I don’t need to see rape or torture or hate crimes happen in a movie to reflect upon them. I can just watch the news or read the comments section of any article or video to see how shitty everything is. In a way, horror films live along this spectrum of what you can bear to see and feel. It’s why I appreciate horror movies as an intellectual subject and form of entertainment: every horror film makes an argument of what is scary, why, and how to convey it. We, the viewer, decide if that’s worth anything.

In his horror film The Green Inferno (2013), Eli Roth perpetuates harmful stereotypes of indigenous peoples as savages and cannibals, as inspired by the likes of Deodato. When called out for it by activists, Roth responded with: “The idea that a fictional movie about a fictional tribe could somehow hurt indigenous people when gas companies are tearing these villages apart on a daily basis is simply absurd.” He then went on to say: “I wanted to write a movie that was about modern activism. I see that a lot of people want to care and want to help, but in general I feel like people don't really want to inconvenience their own lives.” Thanks, bro, for really sticking it to the true monsters. Like comedy, you can’t just joke about anything, regardless of intent for commentary. Horror, or any art about difficult subjects, must mean something, right? Carl Phillips, in his collection of craft essays The Art of Daring, says, “Poetry is, after all, the transformation of experience, not the transcription of it.” I think the same can be said of horror films. Depicting something disturbing for the sake of it has no inherent value. Not all social mores should be pushed. Roger Ebert implored that no one watch a horror film called Chaos (2005) because, “The movie denies not only the value of life, but the possibility of hope.” I agree. The makers of the film wrote a letter in response, saying: “Real evil exists and cannot be ignored, sanitized or exploited. It needs to be shown just as it is…” Ebert answered with, “In a time of dismay and dread, is it admirable for filmmakers to depict pure evil?… I believe evil can win in fiction, as it often does in real life. But I prefer that the artist express an attitude toward that evil. It is not enough to record it; what do you think and feel about it?… While it is true, as you argue, that evil cannot be ignored or sanitized, it can certainly be exploited…” I agree with that sentiment as well {2}. Perhaps an important question is: at whose expense is the horror? If the horror only ‘transcribes’ or records oppression or violence without really saying anything about it, then why make it? That happens everyday. Maybe where I draw the line is garbage to others, and I can respect that. Absurdist, ridiculous shit is what I’m into, whether it be comedy or melodrama. Just as long as it’s not participating in historical modes of oppressive imagery or actions. Is that too much to ask?

All of which is to say that Demons 2 is corny, ridiculous, unnerving, chilling, cringy, and entertaining. It doesn’t have much to say about anything meaningful {3}. But it’s not at anyone’s expense either, per se {4}. Is that worth something? I don’t know. Is cartoonish violence to inspire horror in a playful and entertaining way ‘transformative?’ I don’t know. Maybe I’m thinking about it the wrong way. There’s a scene where a demon grabs a dude’s dick through his sweat pants. It’s both disturbing and absurd. I like that. I’ll explore that more in the next film.

No god nooooooooo!

No god nooooooooo!

  1. I’m looking at you, Game of Thrones.

  2. I don’t necessarily agree with everything in Ebert’s response, though.

  3. At least, I should clarify and say I don’t watch or enjoy it for any bigger purpose; obviously, you’re free to draw your own conclusions.

  4. I can accept being wrong on that.

Reyes Ramirez