Could lightning strike in the same place twice? Lamberto Bava and Dario Argento must have thought so. It only took them a few months after the release of Demons to start work on a sequel, hoping to mirror the success of the first film. How did they plan on doing so? By remaking the first film.
Released just a year after Demons, in 1986, Demons 2 sees the return of Lamberto Bava in the director’s chair, working from a screenplay credited to Argento, Franco Ferrini, Dardano Sacchetti, and Bava, himself. The previous film had set up a sequel at the end, where the demon-possessed zombies of the first film escaped the doomed theater and spread across the city of Berlin, and it is implied that civilization itself is collapsing. Bava and company decided not to build on this. Instead, Demons 2 takes place in an apartment building in Hamburg. The events of the first film are alluded to, but that’s about it.
The residents of said apartment building are going about a normal evening. They are introduced to viewers one after the other and, just like in the first film, it isn’t necessary to keep track of who they are or what are their backstories. This is a large ensemble that exists to either be possessed by demons, be their fodder, or fight them off. That is it.
We meet a young lady (Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni) who is throwing a birthday party in her apartment; a young couple (David Edwin Knight and Nancy Brilli) expecting their first child; the building’s doorman (Lino Salemme, returning from the first movie but playing a different character); a gym rat and personal trainer who’s a take charge kind of guy (Bobby Rhodes, also returning as a new character, and lasting much longer than he did in Demons); and a young boy (Marco Vivio) home alone and watching scary stuff on the television, as is tradition; and many, many more.
What is on TV is key to the slapdash plot of the movie. Like in the first film, events on this show precipitate what happens to the cast. In one of the coolest f/x shots I’ve ever seen, a demon in the TV show climbs out and attacks not the boy, Tommy, but the woman throwing the party, Sally, who happens to be watching in her bedroom after throwing a Lesley Gore-ian fit at her guests, and the movie is off and running.
The possessed transform into slimy, toothy creatures with claws and a predisposition for human flesh. In fact, the makeup effects are identical to what viewers saw in the first flick, courtesy of Rosario Prestopino, also returning from the first film.
It’s now up to all the people in the building to try and survive this supernatural onslaught of enraged killers. Well, why don’t they leave the building? They try, but all avenues are blocked, just like the first film. If one is picking up on a theme, here, that’s no surprise. Demons 2 really is just Demons in a different dress. Not an ounce of effort was put into making this a film unique from the first, and that’s okay. It’s not as if Demons was a tour de force of cinematic expression, and this sequel is an insult to art. This is a gory horror flick, and Bava and company decided to give audiences more of what worked. I’m sure they did it for the money.
There’s not much to criticize about the plot, because there hardly is one. The acting is fine, I guess, since most of the cast was tasked with getting eaten. We’re here for the spectacle and the gore. There is a lot of both, but the gore, still extant, has been toned down a touch from the first film.
It’s clear early on that this film owes everything to the first movie. It’s inescapable. It is impossible to watch this movie, having seen the first, and not make comparisons. They track far too closely.
The remaining question, then, is: is this a zombie flick? The possessed are never referred to as zombies, and are very much of supernatural origin. The vast majority of zombie flicks, when they provide an explanation for the zombies at all, have corporeal origins, usually due to government shenanigans. The creatures in this movie are people possessed by demons, but the possession spreads by bite, just like zombies. They travel in hordes, and hunger for human flesh. To me, the supernatural origins are beside the point. Like Demons, Demons 2 is a zombie flick, and my opinion MATTERS.
Just as much of a thrill as Demons, hurt slightly by being a retread of familiar material, Demons 2 is a great October watch. One can check their brain in at the door and enjoy.