Demons / Demons 2
Distributor Arrow Video (UK)
Way back where it all began, a UK distributor by the name of Arrow Video burst onto the HD horror scene with a Blu-ray release of George A Romero's seminal classic zombie shocker, Dawn of the Dead. In what now seems like an eternity ago, this early Arrow release also made for a very early Obscura review showing high hopes for a distributor who appeared to at least take their releases seriously and also deliver a fair amount of effort into their overall product.
Much time has passed since the early days of collecting with various Arrow Blu-ray releases having come and gone, some having seen pretty decent releases, some having seen pretty serious issues with the finished product and with Lamberto Bava's Demons movies having already been held up for well over a year due to difficulties in obtaining a high definition source, fans everywhere were nervously awaiting the latest Blu-ray releases which would again prove to be at least a little controversial once finally made available.
So, to understand the latest horror offering we first need to go back to 1985 where the Italian zombie genre had pretty much run its course. Classic titles had come and gone and apart from a couple of notable US releases, the zombie genre overall appeared to have been running out of steam. This however was all about to change with Lamberto Bava's venture into the genre. Now I know what you're thinking, are these zombies or demons? (a similar argument would eventually surface with Danny Boyle's classic shocker 28 Days Later) well these "demons" certainly appear to share some characteristics with their zombie cousins. Certainly they are able to spread infection through bites or scratches and if you get killed by a demon you ultimately become a demon but whether they are classed officially as zombies? ah who cares, let's just enjoy the movie for what it is.
The first film in the series begins with a private showing of a new horror movie in what must be the creepiest looking cinema in the history of film. Unfortunately for the patrons, the on screen murders soon begin to affect reality and it isn't long before the cinema is full of blood thirsty fast moving "zombie like" demons. Of course there are the usual nonsensical elements present such as how the patrons suddenly find themselves walled into a building they all freely walked into some 20 minutes previously but the film itself is great fun if you overlook the minor criticisms. The second film in the series plays out like an 80's remake of Shivers with the demons this time summoned through a television set and then running riot in an inescapable high rise apartment block. Although considered by many to be a lesser sequel, this one is also great fun if not taken too seriously.
Released with an option of different packaging from Arrow Video which includes a regular edition release of each film and a steel book set of both movies, it is the individual releases which are reviewed here. Unfortunately each film has been released on Region B locked discs so US collectors will need to be multi region capable to make the purchase worthwhile. Each film is presented with 1080p 1.66:1 transfers which actually look excellent. Apparently a new print was struck from the original negatives and the end result was certainly worthwhile. Detail remains sharp with strong colour representation and a decent amount of depth to black levels throughout. The transfers here are most impressive and easily the best that either film has ever looked which will no doubt be appreciated by fans of the films.
So it's fair to say that some previous Arrow releases have certainly had their issues and with this set it may just be the audio which is the potential sticking point for collectors. Firstly the soundtracks used are taken from the original European dub which includes some changes to certain dialogue sequences from the US versions of the films. While purists may be bothered by the changes, the substitutions certainly don't distract from the presentations and are only noticeable if you have seen the films many times before so shouldn't actually be a deal breaker the for regular viewers. Audio is presented on both movies with options of English and Italian Mono 2:0 soundtracks which come across as loud and powerful with reasonably strong and prominent dialogue. The now classic score thunders through your front speakers like never before and although your surround speakers will need to take the day off, for an 80's Italian horror movie this really isn't a bad effort.
One of the things which Arrow specialise in are extra features however this time they appear to be perhaps a little less extravagant than usual. The extras on the first Demons Blu-ray comprise of 2 commentaries, one of which appears to be recycled from the previous DVD release with second being a new track with cast and crew presented mostly in Italian with English subtitles. Thankfully the second track has more information on the film than the first one (which was always considered to be perhaps a little dull.) Following the commentaries there are some interview segments with Dario Argento, Claudio Simonetti who discusses the films score and Luigi Cozzi who discusses his top ten Italian horror movies. In addition to the featurettes there is also a poster and booklet with notes on the movie plus part 1 of a "Demons 3" comic book which is actually written as a prequel to the first 2 movies. Extras for Demons 2 comprise of an interview with Sergio Stivaletti who discusses the special effects in both movies, a second interview with Luigi Cozzi who this time talks about Italian horror movies in general, plus another recycled DVD commentary track with Lamberto Bava. Once again there is also a poster, booklet with linear notes and the second part of the "Demons 3" comic book, so overall not a bad set of features however a lot of the interview footage appears more as a general overview of Italian horror movies rather than anything specific to the films themselves and you can't help feeling that a dedicated making of documentary would have been most welcome.
All things considered both of these movies belong in the collection of any classic zombie/Italian horror collectors and it is fair to say they they have certainly never looked or sounded better than in these presentations. Whether or not they will be bettered by the eventual US release is anyone's guess however for the most part collectors should be very satisfied with Arrows latest offerings which thankfully sees a return to past glory for the distributor.
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