What do you get when you combine the masters of Italian horror, twin tales of cursed movies, pre-reunification Germany and a heaping dose of 1980’s charm? Demons and Demons 2, of course! Widely regarded as two of Italy’s finest horror movies, Synapse Films is bringing Dario Argento and Lamberto Bava’s masterpieces to 4K blu ray just in time for Halloween. Is a ticket to this double feature of the damned worth it? Read on and find out!

FEATURE

By the 1980s, there was only one name to know when it came to the world of Italian horror: Dario Argento. Having long since established himself as a master of the slasher proto-genre Giallo, Argento found himself taking a break from directing to write a pair of screenplays for Lamberto Bava, the son of Argento’s contemporary and occasional collaborator, Mario Bava. The end result? Demons and Demons II, two of the most insane horror movies to come out of the ‘80s.

In Demons, a masked mystery man gives out free movie tickets to unsuspecting pedestrians on the streets of Germany. When a prostitute foolishly puts on a mask on display in the cinema lobby, she finds herself cursed to become an infectiously demonic beast, mirroring the plot of the movie showing in the theater. What follows is a night full of blood, gore, cocaine, and switchblade-wielding pimps as the theater-goers band together to fight off a growing number of demons before they get attacked and become demons themselves.

In Demons II, the cursed movie airs on broadcast TV and spreads the demon infection through an apartment building. What follows is a night full of blood, gore, birthday cake, and tiny child demons as the tenants band together to, um… fight off a growing number of demons before they get attacked and become demons themselves.

Italian pulp horror was never known for plot and the Demons duology is no exception. A cursed movie causing an outbreak of zombies demons is little more than a plot device designed to get us to as much horror and 80s heavy metal as we can stomach. The set pieces are bonkers and the gore is plenty and that’s all we need from these films, especially with each barely clocking in at 90 minutes. These movies have it all- Demon hookers, samurai swords, 80s punks, motorcycle chases, rebar impalements, demons bursting from the corpses of demons, and all the bile, blood, and more pus than you can shake a squib at proving that sometimes all a movie needs to be good is to be a whole hell of a lot of fun.

PICTURE AND AUDIO

Both features are presented in all new restorations from their original 35mm negatives by L’Immagine Ritrovata. Images are clear and the color pops, especially in the neon soaked streets of mid-80s Germany. Black ares hang together well with no noise and there are only a few faults in the image for Demons II owing to technical difficulties in the original filming process.

Demons also features Arrow Film’s recreation of the US cut from the new 4K remaster and both films feature English 2.0 tracks remastered by Synapse Films.

EXTRAS AND PACKAGING

Demons 1 & 2 comes in a standard clear two disc case with all new artwork on both a limited edition slipcover and a reversible sleeve that can be flipped around to showcase the films’ original art. Inside the package you’ll find reproductions of the movie ticket from Demons and a birthday invitation from Demons 2, each featuring technical information about the transfers, as well as a fold-out poster featuring art from Demons by heavy metal airbrush artist Wes Benscoter.

Moving on to the discs’ bonus features, this release is packed, apparently licensing and maintaining the majority of features from Arrow Films’ stunning UK releases for the benefit of American audiences while adding new content of their own.

You’ll find three audio commentaries across the two discs in this set. Commentary by the hosts of the Hells Belles podcast on Demons and the track by film critic Travis Crawford on Demons II are definitely worth a listen but its Demons’ commentary track by director Lamberto Bava and other choice crew members that stands apart. In his commentary, Bava dives deep into the meanings and metaphors in his film, often talking about it in the same reverance you’d expect if Fellini ever had a chance to record commentary for La Dolce Vita. To hear Bava speak about the meaning behind the aforementioned samurai sword, lining up the film-within-the-film with plot twists in the main narrative, or why the choice to feature demons and not the then-popular Italian zombie is a thing of beauty and highly recommended. In addition to the commentaries are a pair of lengthy visual essays. “Produced by Dario Argento” by critic Michael Mackenzie places Demons I and II within the larger scope of Argentos work. “Together and Apart” by critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas explores the themes of technology in the Demons films. Rounding it all out you’ll find the typical archival interviews, trailers, and festival appearances that tend to get collected for boutique releases like this. All in all, a meaty collection of extras that will satisfy anyone interested in these films.

VERDICT

Demons and Demons II are widely regarded as some of the best that Italian horror has to offer. While the films may not always make sense and lack what most people would call a story, its hard to argue against them. There’s something special in Italy’s answer to The Evil Dead and the passion these movies were made with is evident from the start. While these films have already been released on 4K UHD overseas by Arrow Video, Synapse’s new transfers give American audiences the chance to experience the best versions of these movies without paying extra to get them through customs. Add in hours worth of bonus content and you’re left with one of the stand out boutique horror releases of 2021 and an easy recommendation for any horror hound.

Demons & Demons 2 Blu-ray Two-disc Limited Edition

$59.95
8.5

Feature

7.0/10

Picture and Audio

9.0/10

Extras and Packaging

9.0/10

Overall

9.0/10

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Michael Lisenberry