Title: Night of the Demons (1988)
Directed by: Kevin Tenney
Starring: Linnea Quigley as Suzanne
Amelia Kinkaid as Angela
Billy Gallo as Sal
Tagline: “Angela is having a party…Freddy and Jason are too scared to come. But you’ll have a hell of a time.”
By Shelley Stillo
Pre-screening memories: When people ask me to recommend a legitimately scary movie, I’ll usually say Nightmare on Elm Street or Night of the Demons. Trouble is, I don’t remember the first thing about Night of the Demons. Sitting down to write these pre-screening memories has revealed to me that I can honestly only conjure up one scene from the entire movie. And what I remember isn’t really scary. So why has this film stuck with me all of these years?
It may be because I also remember it as one of the naughtiest films I’ve ever seen. I don’t remember why, but I do know that my prudish 12-year-old self was shocked by this film. And if there is any stage when fear and sex combined are going to make their strongest impression, it would be the preteen years. I’m not sure, given the fact that I’ve oft thought about this film, why I haven’t taken the opportunity to revisit it before. One reason might be that, as I got older and started enjoying my horror with company, I was afraid the film would be even naughtier than I remembered, and lead to an embarrassing group viewing experience. (This has really happened to me–more than once–with the odd anime screening).
The one scene I do remember from the film does nothing to underscore either the films’ scariness nor its naughtiness. It is a “Twilight Zone”-style morality moment that occurs at the end of the film. At some point in the movie, we are introduced to an elderly man who plans to put razor blades in his apples on Halloween night. In the final moments of the film, his wife decides to bake him an apple pie. He realizes, with shock, horror, and dismay, that the pie has been made of left over apples just as several razor blades cut through his throat. How he managed to chew and swallow the razor blades without noticing them, and while leaving them intact enough to cut through his flesh, is anyone’s guess. When his wife smiles at the end of the film, we realize that she has killed him on purpose, likely as revenge for his feeding razor blades to the kids in the first place. I’m sure, as an avid watcher of weekly television horror and sci-fi programs, I didn’t find this moment in the least scary, but I was satisfied with the joke.
New memories: Immediately after I re-viewed this film, I was fairly stunned that I’d remembered it at all. It was still plenty naughty, maybe a little more than other ’80s horrors (though certainly no more naughty than Revenge of the Nerds), but it wasn’t scary, or even that interesting. It has a very standard plot: a group of teens, featuring all the typical players — the good girl, the ‘greaser,’ the token black guy, the goth girl, the slut, the party couple, etc. — break into an abandoned funeral parlor to throw a Halloween party. They decide to hold a seance and unknowingly unleash a demonic force that commences to possess the party guests one by one. Who will survive to party another day?
I kept thinking about the movie though. It would have been easy to say “well, what a 12 year old found appealing in 1988 just isn’t appealing anymore.” But I couldn’t just leave it at that because this movie continues to have a very solid reputation among horror fans; yes, even those who have seen it recently as adults. I kept trying to think what could make this movie “hold up” for so many people. One reason is certainly the appearance of horror goddess Linnea Quigley in the film, who teases here certainly capitalize on her tombstone striptease from Return of the Living Dead. But I think the real appeal of this film is how it simply embraces the genre, its heights and its foibles. It never moves into the realm of horror comedy, but it doesn’t take itself seriously. Without pretension, it uses the tools — self consciously, I’m beginning to suspect — the genre provides and runs riot with them. So, unless you’re trying to recapture an experience that is 15 years gone, and mostly forgotten, it is easy to get into the spirit of the film and go revel in the fun. It’s not a film that exceeds genre expectations, but its not a soulless regurgitation of them either.
Would Shelley still accept the invitation to the party? Find out here, or listen below: