Night of the Demons
Angela Feld is having a hoppin’ Halloween party at a rundown mansion with a dark history in New Orleans. It’s a place where six house-guests mysteriously went missing one Halloween night over one hundred years ago. She’s invited a ton of people, but just as things are getting underway, the police come in and break-up the shin-dig and send everyone home. But as tends to happen in such situations, people get waylaid and before they know it Angela and some of her friends end up trapped in the spooky estate thanks to a stubbornly stuck gate. With little else to do, the group decides to do some exploring and they come upon a secret room in the basement where they discover six skeletons. Realizing these must be the missing house-guests from a century before, Angela’s sense of the macabre gets a little too inflamed and she starts getting too touch-y feel-y with the bodies, only to literally have her ill-fated actions come back to bite her when one of the skeletons takes a chomp out of her hand.
Deciding they can’t do anything about their find til daybreak, the group heads back upstairs to entertain themselves. But it doesn’t take long for Angela to start acting funny, or at least a little more funny than normal. Soon it becomes evident to the rest of the group that their host has become possessed by some sort of demon, but not before Angela manages to halve their numbers. The survivors realize that they have to escape her and her possessed demon buddies in order to make it through the night, but they also know that being pitted against demons that got themselves kicked out of Hell for being more evil than even the Devil wanted to deal with does not bode well for their success.
Ah, the early 2000’s. A time in cinema when film studios first seemed to become besieged with the now recognizable malady known as “Re-boot-itis”, an affliction that still sadly plagues them to this day. Granted, sometimes the studios can turn out some fun, though flawed little outings, like Sorority Row, or When A Stranger Calls. But when it comes to horror films, more often than not they turn out drivel in the hopes of making a quick cash-in on some feelings of viewer nostalgia. Thus, you end up with Night of the Demons, a 2009 remake of the cult classic from the late eighties. Two-thousand-nine seems to have been an oddly popular year for remakes and reboots in general, having given us updates to franchises like Friday the 13th, My Bloody Valentine, The Last House on the Left, The Stepfather, Sorority Row and even Star Trek. But for every well-regarded film like Valentine, there is a half-assed, disappointing dud, and that dud is Night of the Demons.
Don’t look so shocked, you had it coming.
The film starts off with some promise, showing us a nice gory, (though brief) flashback to the events that transpired during the Mansion’s first ill-fated Halloween. But after that the film stalls and falls into the trap of young adult angst, partying and forced teen “edginess” that probably only seemed “edgy” back when you were thirteen. It takes the film a good 20-minutes before any suggestion of substance happens, and even after that you still have to sit through another 10-minutes of more partying and adult whining before the plot finally decides to move forward again. At only 90-minutes, that’s a good third of the film that gets wasted by forcing the viewer to sit through awkward attempts to shock them or watching people drink and pretend to dance. That’s far too much stalling for my taste. If the costumes everyone had been wearing were at least entertaining, I might have given the movie a bit of a pass. But beyond a nice rendition of Jigsaw from the Saw franchise in a very brief “blink and you’ll miss it” cameo, all the outfits, even those of the main cast, seem shoddily slapped together or pulled straight off the “slutty chick” rack at the pop-up Halloween costume store. So I’m deducting extra points from the film for forcing me to sit through all of that and then not even bothering to give me something fun to look at.
The one GOOD costume.
The film’s other issue is that it just ends up being wildly predictable. The plot during the second third of the film does manage to pick up a bit as the possessed Angela goes about infecting her companions with the souls of her demon brethren, but after that the quality of the film shoots back down again. The pacing stalls constantly as the survivors find themselves in the only Safe Room in the whole house, and then the film’s terrible writing makes them continually squander their safety by leaving the room, only to rush back in again. Characters begin making wildly illogical decisions to the point where it becomes infuriating, especially considering that most of them lack any kind of endearing qualities that would make them appeal to the audience or make them want the characters to survive in the first place. In short, the film lacks any kind of scares or tension, and the lack of effort by most of the cast makes the movie feel all the more dull and senseless.
The two things the movie does manage to get right are the atmosphere and the demon designs. The whole film is dark and foreboding, and the haunted grounds always manage to feel moody and claustrophobic, even during the scenes that take place outside. The lighting is also decent, and the color and camera work do manage to add some artistic flair to an otherwise dull production. And contrasting with the party costumes, the demon designs actually look pretty damn good. Angela herself has been given an update of her original design, but all the others are new, and while some are more impressive than others, like the faceless demon, everyone is at least given a unique and creepy look.
Night of the Demons is a disappointment among disappointing remakes. The movie looks and feels like the cheap cash-grab I’m sure it was meant to be, and if the abysmal looking box office numbers are to be believed (64k to a 10 million budget, ouch), then nobody fell for the ruse. The film may look decent and have some nice gore effects and demon designs, but the story is a mess, the pacing is terrible, the characters are unlikable and act illogically, the dialogue is stilted, and the events are so predictable that there’s nothing here in the way of thrills or scares. The sad part is, I think the movie makers realized the extent of some of the film’s flaws, so they tried to add in a healthy dose of gratuity to the mix, either by way of blood, or gore or sex, in an attempt to add a little spice, as it were, but it all feels so forced and ‘try-hard’ that the attempts just come across as feeling tasteless. And considering this is a movie about irredeemable demons, that’s pretty sad. If the film had been given a tighter script and a bigger budget it could have been a fun outing. But instead it ends up being a spectacular miss.
Night of the Demons, both the remake and the original, are available on a variety of streaming services.
They are also available on DVD and Bluray.