on 7 May 2012
It's become somewhat obligatory to begin an Arrow Video review by mentioning that, yes, they haven't had the greatest track record in Blu-ray history. Most of their Dario Argento releases were given a middling reception. DNR here, rampant machine noise there, and in one infamous case, the wrong aspect ratio. Then there was that whole mess with 'The Beyond'...
But guys, come on. What about 'Vamp'? Or 'Maniac Cop'? 'The Exterminator'? 'The Funhouse'? 'Red Scorpion'? 'Dawn of the Dead'? All winners in my book, and that's even without taking the generous application of extra features and superb packaging into account. Arrow's DVD releases, aside from a couple of NTSC-to-PAL issues, are almost always of exceptional quality too.
So 'Demons' and 'Demons 2', then. Announced back in 2010, and beset by delays ever since, a lot's been riding on these bad boys. But now they're finally here! The results are in! Exclamatory!
What's the first thing you're gonna look for in an Italian horror movie's Blu-ray transfer? That ghastly machine noise, of course! The stuff's been playing havoc with Arrow and Blue Underground's output for what feels like forever. It is to these cult favourite studious what the Alien is to Sigourney Weaver... or something. Bad metaphor.
Anyway, there I am, starting up 'Demons' and preparing myself for a digital hail storm. But as the opening train scene gets underway... nothing. Perplexed, I stick my face up against the screen. Nope. No machine noise here. But what's this? My... could it be... film grain? It is! And, get this, it's only a fine layer that remains stable throughout, never becomes bothersome, and merely adds a rich, filmic texture.
Crazy, I know! And the same can be said of 'Demons 2' (albeit a little more rough around the edges). Both films boast a surprisingly high level of fine detail, and what with this being Italian horror, you can expect a lot of leering close-ups demonstrating the added boost of these hi-def upgrades. I could count maybe two shots where it looked like over-sharpening had taken some kind of effect. Otherwise, get ready for a very cinematic experience.
Even better, edge enhancement (my main bug bear) is virtually nonexistent. A barely noticeable slither of ringing in a few scenes may well be apparent, but that's par for the course these days. Elsewhere, colours remain natural, with skin tones looking healthy and those gaudy neon light effects coming off stronger than ever.
The main weakness with both transfers, however, is black levels. They're neither as deep and inky as you'd like to expect, and various compression artefacts can be seen swimming about during some darker moments (this applies especially to 'Demons 2'). Still, crush is never an issue of concern, so please don't consider this a deal-breaker.
Not much can be said about either film's mono audio tracks, really. Available in both Engish and Italian, they're basic, loud, punchy, and they get the job done. I'd rather have this than a hollow 5.1 remix. Quibbles arose over Arrow's decision to go with the mono US dub instead of the stereo European dub, but aside from a few choice (and frankly hilarious) changes to dialogue and musical cues, it doesn't seem to have made any notable difference. Hearing the opening lyrics of 'White Wedding' suddenly repeat themselves was a bit odd, though... not sure what the story is there.
Sadly, extras are just a bit of a mixed bag.
In 'Dario's Demon Days', Dario Argento shares his thoughts on the two films. Although quite informative, Argento doesn't appear so much uninterested as he does shot in the neck with a horse tranquiliser. He also looks like he wants to murder the interviewer. But that's Dario!
'Top Italian Terrors' and 'Bava to Bava' sees genre favourite Luigi Cozzi brought in to discuss the history of Italian horror, ranging from Mario Bava classics to the splatterfests of Lucio Fulci. Not a whole lot to do with 'Demons', it must be said, but at least Cozzi is engaging. No mention of 'Alien 2' and its ilk, either, much to my chagrin.
'Defining an Era in Music' allows composer Claudio Simonetti a brief opportunity to give us some insight into the thought process behind the first film's unique score - a boisterous mix of synth and metal. Simonetti is great company, and keeps the discussion lively, although fans may be a little concerned to learn of his hopes for a 'Demons' remake (eek).
'Creating Creature Carnage' has to be the pick of the bunch. This is a lengthy (20ish minutes) and honest interview with special effects designer Sergio Stivaletti. The man clearly has much passion for his work, giving frank appraisal of his designs, including the weaknesses of certain 'Demons 2' effects.
Rounding out the package are three audio commentaries (two for 'Demons', one for the sequel) which I have yet to listen to (sorry!), and an enjoyable booklet written by Arrow regular, Callum Waddell. The artwork deserves a special shout out too. I'm all for championing the use of original poster art, but Jeff Zornow has outdone himself this time.
Obviously, I can't comment on the new comics, as they aren't included with this edition.
The films are utterly bonkers. You'll either get them or you won't. Regardless, the transfers are mostly excellent, with only a few very minor niggles keeping them from greatness. As ever, Arrow haven't skimped on the extras, and while they don't all hit the mark, they're certainly interesting enough to warrant a watch.
Whether you go for this edition, or the separate releases (out later in the month), or even the DVDs, you're bound to be impressed by the package Arrow has put together for both 'Demons' films.
Oh, and let me assure you, the steelbook is VERY shiny indeed.
on 9 May 2012
To begin, this is a review for the Steelbook product and not the film. I will also stay away from the "No Poster / No Comic / No (whatever else you want)" Debate - it will be judged on it's own merits.
All things being equal, this is a fantastic Steelbook Set the big DVD/BD distributors would be proud of; they could learn a lesson or two from ArrowFilms. I'm not having a go at the film, but many higher quality films would beg for a release like this from Arrow.
What we get from the start is an in-your-face cover, front and back, an excelent presentation of whats waiting for us inside. But before it can be opened we have to remove the slipnote (contains details of the set) that is glued to the case, because if you don't you'll tear the top (which has "Limited Edition" written), and bottom (the film rating). I'm in two minds about this setup - although i don't know what you can do to make it better, because once you unglue the slip it doesn't look nice. What do you do with it? Put it back like it was - not so visualy pleasing, fold it up and put it inside the case, or glue it to the back? My solution was to glue it back on, but not quite as it was from the start. I noiced that if you unglue just the top or bottm you can open the case. So i unglued the bottom, folded it to the back and used a "sticky dot" to hold it together at the beck. This way i still have the top flip that has "Limited Edition".
But for now that's enough of arts and craft.
Before we get inside there is one more thing. I found it slightly amusing when audio commentaries are called "audio recollections" on the slip :)
Inside the steelbook we find a booklet, NoteAd, and two BD's. ArrowFilms could have gone cheap by putting the two movies and special features on one disc, but thankfully each movie has it's own disc and unlike most ArrowFilms releases this BD is locked to Region B, so those outside this region will need a multi-region player (easy enough to find and not expensive.)
The booklet was a enjoyable to read, which surprised me because i found most of ArrowVideo booklets tedious, but it was way to short. Way....way.....way to short, and most of what was written were quotes.
Also included in the set was a NoteAd for "Street Trash" showing one of the characters melting.
ArrowFilms gives us a fantastic transfer, who knew such horror would look so nice. You can of course, as others have, pick apart the transfer and get into the nitti gritty of it all. But i'm watching this in the real world (not watching it with a fine brush and magnifing glass), and in the real world there is nothing wrong with how the feature looks like. The same can be said in regards for the sound. Unfortunately there isn't some sort of 5.1/7.1 mix, which if done properly would enhance the film with its atmospheric collagE. What we do get is a 2.0 LPCM MONO in English/Italian.
There are also substantial on-disc features as well, DEMONS gets 2 audio commentaries (audio recollections as they call it) along with three featurettes, where as DEMONS 2 gets one audio recollection ;) but it has the best featurette (Bava to Bava).
So.... to steelbook or not to steelbook? To me price was the major factor in my decision to get the steelbook DEMONS / DEMONS 2 over the individual limited edition slip cases. My set was 14.16GBP, but as of writing the set is 25GBP where as the individual sets are 12 for DEMONS and 11 for DEMONS 2. I could live without the poster (all my other posters are still in their cases) & comic (read it once and never see it again) - I just wish the booklet could have been more substantial in the steelbook :(
It's fantastic to see ArrowFilms giving us another quality release that kicks arse over most of what we get from the big boys, as well as a choice between a Steelbook set or SlipCase; but whichever set you decide to purchase a quality product you'll have.
So make your choice!
on 28 May 2014
Brilliant edition from the amazing arrow films! Some interesting interviews,SUPER CLEAN BLU RAY TRANSFER! Both have loud and clear English/Italian audio. Boxing is beautiful. Deffo my fav steelbook. Both films are great especially the first which is just a Classic!
on 25 April 2012
I am so glad that Arrow decided to release these on Blu-Ray. As a child of the 80s Demons is the ultimate 80s horror film for me. If you asked me to name a film that prefectly represents 80s horror it would be the first film that comes to mind. I still remember renting it as child on VHS and being absolutely blown away.
Yes it's cheesy, yes the dubbing and acting aren't the best, but it is incredibly original, stylish and iconic.
I never dreamed this would get a blu-ray release and whilst I love the usual Arrow limited edition packaging, the steelbook casing is pretty sexy and truly makes this a collectable item. I know people in some quarters are moaning that this doesn't include the Demons 3 mini comic, but to be honest I can live without that. I would have read it through when I first opened it and would probably never look at it again. For me, and from a limited edition collectable point of view this is the much more desirable product. People are knocking Arrow for it, but at least they are giving you the choice.
I cannot wait to get stuck into the extras as there was a multiple talent involved in the making of this movie.. Bava, Argento, Sachetti, Stivaletti Also keep an eye out for a couple of cameos from Italian horror/giallo regulars starlets Giovanni Frezza and Nicoletta Elmi. Highrise Productions extra's are always excellent and regular contributer Callum Waddell really knows his stuff.
This is the release I've been waiting for since buying my first Arrow release and cannot wait to turn the lights off and watch both back to back with a bucket of popcorn and a couple of friends. It will be just like old times, I just wont have to use the tracking button!
on 23 March 2016
One of the Best SteelBook from Arror Uk of Demoni 1/2 direct by Lamberto Bava (supervisor Dario Argento...)
on 18 April 2012
DEMONS and DEMONS 2 are great, gory, cheesy 80's Italian horror films. If you like that kind of thing, then you'll love these as well. If you want reviews of the films, check out the Internet Movie Database or a ton of other sites, and you will find more info.
My review, is specifically about this Steelbook version of the films. Sadly, this release has a couple of issues fans should be made aware of:
1) Partway through DEMONS, there is a break in the film, and an on-screen title comes up that says "End Of First Half", before continuing on with the rest of the film. This moment occurs, as the cinemagoers destroy the projection booth, and stop the film they've been watching from being projected. This issue does NOT exist in other versions of DEMONS I've seen, so I am a little shocked about this moment appearing in this release. It really breaks the tension of the moment, and it's a shame that Arrow have decided to include this in their version of the film. There's no real point or purpose, and it takes viewers out of the enjoyment of the movie.
2) More importantly, the Steelbook will NOT include the two-part DEMONS 3 comics, that come with the regular DVD or Blu-Ray releases of the films.
Arrow has decided, that the comics won't fit inside the Steelbook case, and as such, purchasers of the Steelbook will miss out on these. Purchase the standard DVD or Blu-Ray releases, and you will get them!
There's a lengthy discussion over on their official forum, but if I'm honest, this is a bit sneaky of them, possibly to get hardcore fans to buy both the Steelbook and the seperate DVD/Blu-Ray releases. (I'd like to think it isn't, but it's not a good P.R. move for them to make the Steelbook set less collectible, by excluding material included in the individual releases.)
There are lots of ways in which the comics could be included, or made available to those who purchase the Steelbook, but Arrow have decided that it isn't happening - despite some serious protests on their site from forum members and collector's of the film.
Thus, if you want the DEMONS 3 comic-books (Part 1 comes with DEMONS, Part 2 comes with DEMONS 2), then you'll need to buy the films individually on DVD and/or Blu-Ray. The downside, is that I have the Steelbook on Amazon Pre-Order for £16-99, (it's now increased to the ridiculusly high figure of £25!). and buying DEMONS on its own on Blu-Ray is £16, with DEMONS 2 coming in at £11-99. As such, you're technically paying £10-99 for the two-part comic book!
As much as I want to support small, niche distributors of low-budget world cinema, Arrow's decisions has angered me a great deal. Offering to produce a collectible Steelbook version of the set is great. Limiting it to 5000 copies, which is my understanding of it, is great also. Taking out some of the extras that are included with the regular DVD and Blu-Ray versions, however, is not!
Irrespective of any alleged lack of space, the comics could easily have been included shrink-wrapped to the case. A redemption code could have been included, to allow the comics to be downloaded as PDF files, or to be sent back to Arrow, along with a couple of quid for postage and packing, so that collector's can be sent the comics under seperate cover, if they so wish to have them - even if such comics don't fit inside the case.
This would not have been a Herculean task for Arrow to do, and it would have given the fans who are buying the Steelbook set, an extra reason to support this release, over the regular editions.
I'm sure plenty of people will say I'm making a mountain out of a molehill, and maybe I am. However, if you release a set that is designed to be collectible, and has been designed with hardcore fans in mind, then the least you can do is make sure that those fans get the extras that everyone else gets, rather than excluding them for some arbitrary reason.
For now, though, all DEMONS fans will have to decide whether they want the extra comic-books or not... And if you are a hardcore fan, you almost certainly will. So you are going to face a tough choice: collectible, limited edition Steelbook case, with both films in one case, and no comics, or the standard releases, with the comics, but standard Blu-Ray packaging.
Lastly, the extras on the Steelbook set and the individual DVD/Blu-Ray releases are NOT affected. Whatever choice you do make, you will still get all of the other extras about the film's creation.
ADDENDUM: In November 2013, Syanpse released a Region A/Region 1-locked Dual-Format (DVD and Blu-Ray Combo release) of DEMONS and DEMONS 2, as individual Steelbooks. They cost about £33 each, to import from the USA to the UK, but having now got them, and having viewed them, they now beat Arrow's pathetic Steelbook version into the dirt! Simply put, Arrow's release is now a 1-Star release, by comparison!
The Synapse releases are what Arrow's release should have been, if Arrow could just have bothered to put some effort into things. Synapse's release of DEMONS not only looks more colourful, more detailed, and appears (to the human eye at least) to be much sharper and clearer, as well as the fact it has over 90-minutes of additional material included on it (compared to Arrow's 20-minutes or so), blows Arrow's version into oblivion. The infamous "End Of First Half" title card has been removed, at director Lamberto Bava's request, as he stated that it was an unnecessary inclusion to the film by modern-standards. If you can, and if you are a fan of the film, and if you have the AV set-up to do so, then import the Synapse release, and watch at how DEMONS should have looked! You will not regret it!
Likewise, DEMONS 2 is much better. It still has the two two problematic parts, due to the iffy film-stock the movie was shot on, but they've repaired the worst parts, so that the problems are less noticeable. Again, the picture is sharper and overall is more detailed. Once again, Syanpse's release includes over an hour of new extras, alongside those that Arrow included, so you get even more value for money.
On top of all of this, both of Synapse's Steelbooks look amazing, when you see them in the flesh! They are so beautifully designed, with artwork that looks much more relevant to the films they are supposed to be of.
If you love either of these films, then ditch the now distinctly second-rate Arrow release, and get the Synapse sets. They have proven that with hard-work and time, you can make classic horrors look excellent on Blu-Ray, if you can be bothered to do so!
on 17 October 2012
The original audio sound effects are still there on the Italian track. It's just not a big deal.
Arrow presents, on a very economical (especially at the current £12) blu-ray set, Demoni and Demoni Due in high-definition, original aspect ratio (1.66:1) and Lossless PCM Mono audio tracks in both English and Italian, along with two commentaries for Demoni and one for Demoni Due. Presentation is light years ahead of any other releases with so much more detail and healthy contrast, though I did switch my TV over to a WARMER setting and both look even better. My 5.1 has Pro Logic II as well, so I ran the audio through that and it's clear that the Italian dubs have a much broader stereo spectrum while the English dubs only OCCASIONALLY break into stereo, mostly they are in two channel mono. Both are very strong audio tracks, with little to no hiss perceivable even at quite high volumes.
Aside from those commentaries, extras are short interviews with Dario Argento (writer/producer, legend of course), Sergio Stilvetti (effects man) and Luigi Cozzi (Italian horror historian, filmmaker and proprietor of what was Dario's shop, Profundo Rosso in Rome). No trailers, unfortunately, and no Michele Soavi-directed "Demonia" video with Claudio Simonetti showing off his fun score and serious face. Lamberto is noticeably absent from the interviews.
For the films, well - where to begin? Clearly inspired by the success of Dan O'Bannon's classic rock 'n' roll zombie comedy, THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, Demoni is pure entertainment with rampaging demons, disgusting gore (heavy use of bladder effects and Ultraslime here), a lengthy and wholly decadent sequence involving a motorcycle and samurai sword(!?) in the theatre, and a helecopter that comes out of nowhere to mess with the end of the film for no perceivable reason.
It's probably easier to describe in terms of it's derivative elements: from THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD it takes it's aggressive rock score, meta-filmic narrative device, it's gangs of teenagers who figure into the action as outsiders and mess around in graveyards, it's "Fun Apocalypse" vibe and it's theme tune - Claudio's aforementioned "Demonia" is a great piece of film music, but it's clearly a less "driving" version of the Trioxin theme with a lot of really entertaining Eurodance elements, like robotic loops and samples. From THE EVIL DEAD, it takes it's plot for a "film-within-a-film" involving ancient tomes discovered by partying teens, demonic hands erupting from seemingly "dead" beings, sloppy demonic possesions and multicoloured gore and grue. From C.H.U.D. it takes menacing slow motion, dark, high-contrasty images of villains with glowing yellow eyes - quite a potent image and easy to see why it was the poster for most formats and territories. Now, it's not got anything else to do with C.H.U.D., it ain't serious like THE EVIL DEAD and it doesn't have a great, airtight plotted, script like ROTLD (surely the best aspect of that movie), so it doesn't seem fair to review it against those films. What Demons/Demoni offers is an absurd amount of entertainment - this is a film that wants you to smile all the way through, without offending you as a horror fan by spoofing the genre, and for that it absolutely succeeds. Characterisation is either non-existant or in broad stereotypes, which might annoy you, but the film is so fast moving you don't have a chance to care about that. Like ROTLD, the opening credits are setting up the plot from the first, and there's no let out for dumb subplots (or at least until the punks show up!). The film's score, outside of the Claudio Simonetti title piece, is wonderfully atmospheric and cold - serious all the way. It's in the film's soundtrack songs that the song finds it's fun pace - Motley Crue's SAVE OUR SOULS might be a below-average hair metal song, but it sounds about ten times better in the film-within-a-film here, sure to make you wish you could watch all of THAT movie too! There's a LOT of NWOBHM-era music (that's New Wave of British Heavy Metal, pronounced "Na-wob-hmm?") from the likes of Saxon and Accept and some poppier elements like Billy Idol's "White Wedding" and Go West's yuppie-coke-party anthem "We Close Our Eyes"(!). Both of those pop songs, ironically, are listened to by the "aggressive" punks, while the heavy metal underscores the action in the cinema! (You might argue the coke sniffing punks were listening to whatever music was in the car they stole, or that they fantasised of being at a yuppie coke party). Whether you like this kind of music or not, it really adds to the sense of fun in the movie. Try to imagine the Cinema floor/motorcycle/samurai sword massacre without Accept's inappropriately named "Fast as a Shark" and you'll see what I mean.
Demoni Due/Demons 2 has got an awful reputation but if you liked the first film there is much to love here. Things get off to a confusing, Evil Dead II/Phantasm II type start in not making clear how much if any of the previous film is being built on until it's made clear later on. Well, somewhat clearer in this case. My understanding is that the film on television in Demons 2 is a sequel to a dramatisation (or possibly the actual first film, which is now fiction in Demons 2's world) of the first film. The walled in city environment is the result of the apocalyptic ending of DEMONS. However, some think this movie is just a sequel to the "The Sleep of Reason...Gives Birth to Monsters!"-narrated Evil Dead knock-off in the first movie. I guess you can take it however you want, because it's never made at all clear if the characters in Demons 2 know of the events of the first film as real, or are just watching a movie built around that.
The setup is thus - a ridiculously busy apartment block (which features a late night gym and a TV studio) in Munich (as opposed to the first film's Berlin), is teaming with people. There's a teenage birthday party, a prostitute visiting a punter, a young (yuppie?) couple expecting a baby, a family unit (with a young Asia Argento), a boy left alone for a night, a woman with a magic dog (you'll see what I mean) and a bunch of hardbodies. Various characters watch that Demon movie I was talking about, until Videodrome-style, a demon crawls out of the screen and scratches our birthday girl and the epidemic begins again. Plotting is similar to the first film, but a bit more grounded and less wild. The few scenes outside the building serve no purpose but to explain where the boy's parents are and should have been cut. I'm sure there's a better reason these scenes were shot but it's not in evidence in the final film. I can see why people take issue with things like the scene clearly aping Joe Dante's GREMLINS, which does go on a bit too long, but for every scene like that, there's something great to make up for it: as a counterpart/companion to the first films' iconic "yellow eyed demons come up the stairs" shot, here our young boy Home Alone peers down the stairway of this tall apartment building, to see an army of snarling, moaning demons rushing up in slow motion, their sounds echoing distantly, as an endless parade of them moves up about 10 floors simulataneously. It's a splendidly nightmarish image, and more genuinely frightening than anything in the first film. Soundtrack is very different this time - Simon Boswell has done decent work (his Hardware score for example) but the theme here just doesn't work for the film or really on it's own, to be honest. The soundtrack is no longer NWOBHM but New Wave/New Romantic/Gothic. Some people hate this kind of music, but I love it, especially when used here - Italian/German teens dancing to "Panic" by The Smiths about 10 minutes before demons show up and ruin the party? Great! Fields of the Nephilim used while the grubby punks drive around is a hell of a lot more appropriate than their equivilants' music in the first movie and The Cult's "Rain", while a bit too similar to their breakout "She Sells Sanctuary", is a great song and works brilliantly in both it's appearances in this film - it's just a shame it gets cut off a bit too quickly as the sound editing is a bit...blunt.
Ironically as this film features the same influences as it's predecessor, plus Gremlins, it actually precedes sequels to those same influences and uses the same ideas. GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH, of course, also took place in a high-tech skyscraper with an implausable amount of things happening in it and RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART II also used actors from the first film in new roles (Demons 2 brings Tony the Pimp back as the Gym teacher and one of the punks back as a security guard) and there's even a sequence in an elevator shaft that's very much like the next year's DIE HARD. It's better though, because it has Demons in it. It's not as good of a movie as the first, but it's a lot of fun and well worth your time.
Overall, this package was a steal at the price I got it for and even the standard Arrow booklet was excellent - usually when I see Calum Waddell's name on the front of it, I brace myself for an average, verbose, class-centric nothing writing with little insight. Here, he doesn't tell much, but it's a nice nostalgic view of the VHS era.
on 31 March 2013
Demons is one of the best modern style horror movies ever made. The second demons is not as great but it's close to it. The second doesn't have the great hard rock soundtrack that made the first so chilling. And hard rock back then was really good as opposed to the snarling growling junk of today. There is a slight damage problem with demons 2 that is from the master print. other than a few scenes the movie looks great. these movies look as good as they did when first shown on the theaters. They are not available in the u.S. yet so I went ahead and got them from amazon.uk. You have to have a all region player over here to watch them though. Not in Europe though. The movies themselves are incredible visceral horror films in which demons overrun a theater and a highrise condo building respectively. These films only get better as time goes by because they came first and all the video games in the world won't take that away from them.
on 21 February 2015
This is a steal at this price, I thought Amazon must have missed priced the box set. I must have for any 80's horror fan, beautiful steel box and bluray, extra sharp picture quality. As always, fantastic service from Amazon.
on 7 May 2012
Demons is a very cool and very unique horror movie from 1985, its not often a movie gets over run by demons, its usually zombies or vampires!! The story is weird but very cool and is set in a strange movie theatre were demons come to life just like in the movie showing in the theatre, its all top budget for the time with awesome make-up effects and bloody gore everywhere!! If you love horror then this is a must in your collection, the picture on the bluray looks really good as it has been mastered in Hidef and there is some cool features, the perfect package and a great resurrection of a cult 80s movie.
Demons 2 looks just as good as the original on bluray with a great picture and loads of bonus material, the story follows on from the original but takes a different direction, this time its set in an apartment block and the demons are once again summoned to wreck havoc, great horror movie sequel with a similar budget, lots of cool bloody gore effects and classic demons, not quite as violent as the original but still a worthy addition to any cult classic horror collection, great transfer, the demons live on.
This is also one awesome steelbook and a fantastic collectable!!