The Demons Series

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Arguably one of the most successful and popular Italian horrors, Lamberto Bava's 1985 splatter fest Demons set the benchmark for Italian horror in the 1980s winning both praise and criticism for the film's innovative take on the horror genre. A runaway success internationally, Demons spawned a sequel a year later and quickly captured the imagination of international distributors who were keen to capitalise on the success of the Demons films. As a result many films loosely connected to Demons and Demons 2 were distributed internationally as Demons sequels to cash in on the popularity of the original films. This was particularly apparent in Japan where a further five films were dubbed as Demons sequels.

Demons and Demons 2 are the only two official films of the Demons series although there is some debate over whether either Black Demons or The Church should be considered as the official third part of the series. Contrary to popular belief, Demons 3: Black Demons was never intended to be an official sequel despite being commonly believed to be such - perhaps due to its release as such in Italy as opposed to Japan. The Church however, was originally intended to be an official sequel but director Michele Soavi's view that the Demons films were "pizza shlock" led Soavi, Argento and Ferrini to make a stand alone film instead.

Although the three films billed as Demons 3 arguably have ties to the Demons series despite being unofficial sequels, Demons 4-'95 were purely billed as such to appeal to the Japanese market and have very little in common with the original films. These films were never intended to have any relation to the official Demons films and were purely dubbed as such to cash in on the original films in much the same way as Profondo Rosso was dubbed as Suspiria 2 in Japan to cash in on the popularity of Suspiria. However, despite the majority of the unofficial Demons sequels being dubbed as such only in Japan, many of these films are now known in Europe and America as Demons films due to the confusion over the multiple names given to these films internationally and the difficulty of obtaining information/copies of these films before the rise of the internet and DVD releases. 

I myself found the many films dubbed as Demons films to be confusing and sought to find out what films were considered as such and if any of them were true sequels to Lamberto Bava's landmark films. This brings me to this blog post which I've written to help clear up any confusion over the official/unofficial Demons films. I hope that I can shed some light on the Demons debacle and I'm going to try and continue that now by listing all of the films considered as Demons sequels by their titles chronologically. I'll tell you a little bit about each film and perhaps why they're considered to be part of the series. Enjoy!




Demons (1985)

The film that started it all, Demons was a project conceived by Lamberto Bava and Dario Argento back in the mid 1980s. Argento's protege Michele Soavi served as an assistant director on Demons which is significant as his future films were dubbed as Demons sequels perhaps due to this connection to the original Demons film. Demons differed considerably to the horrors that dominated the Italian market at the time, it was a move away from the giallo and the heavily eroticised horror thrillers that were becoming extremely popular at the time. Instead, Demons embraced the trend for excessive eighties horror that had become a staple in the American market and sought to put an Italian twist on proceedings by utilising veteran director, Dario Argento and writer, Franco Ferrini. The result was an over the top, no holds barred horror which became a smash hit internationally. The film tapped into the culture of fear of the 1980s and ran with it and did so in an incredibly fun, gross out fashion setting proceedings in a mysterious movie theater that becomes overun by terrifying demons who infect movie patrons after one tries on a mysterious mask in the cinema foyer. This simple but highly effective idea was a massive success and as a result, the appetite for further Demons films became strong and Bava and Argento were keen to replicate the magic they had created.


Demons 2 (1986)

Lamberto Bava and Dario Argento were keen to replicate the success of their 1985 smash hit Demons and quickly started work on Demons 2 in 1986. Building upon ideas in the original Demons film, Bava set his follow up in an apartment building and used a similar set up of a group of people trapped in a building taken over by demons. The second Demons film utilises a similar premise of a Demon entering into the real world through a screen, this time through a television as opposed to a cinema screen in the original Demons. As well as Demons 2 being from the same team behind the original Demons films other similarities between the two films include the return of Bobby Rhodes as bodybuilder, Hank, a soundtrack made up of popular music - this time using new wave music as opposed to the heavy metal of Demons and the two films being both set in Germany.



Demons 3: The Ogre (1988)

Demons 3: The Ogre was part of a series of films directed for Italian television by Lamberto Bava in 1988 under the title Brivido Giallo. Despite being directed by Lamberto Bava himself, Demons 3: The Ogre is not considered as a continuation of Demons and Demons 2 although his involvement with the two original Demons films was used as a selling point for the film - see the poster below. Funnily enough, Demons 3: The Ogre is about a demon/ogre that terrorises a young American horror writer and her family when they move into a cursed Italian villa that has the power to manifest protagonist Cheryl's nightmares into reality. Demons 3: The Ogre is surprisingly well done for an Italian made for TV movie from the late 1980s and could have probably done without the connection to the original Demons films as it works well as a stand alone, supernatural horror film.



Demons 3: The Church (1989)

The Church was originally conceived as the third part of the Demons series before Argento protege and director, Michele Soavi, decided that he wanted to move away from the outlandish silliness of the Demons films and make a more sophisticated stand alone film. However, despite having no connection to the original Demons films The Church was still billed as Demons 3 in certain countries, notably Japan, and had similar sounding titles in others referred to as Cathedral of Demons and Demon Cathedral in certain international markets. Although The Church has little in common with the original Demons films, there are some similarities between the two films for example Asia Argento is in both Demons 2 and The Church, both The Church and the original Demons films take place in Germany and feature monstrous beings that torment the lead characters. However, the overtly religious tone and iconography used throughout the film alongside a move away from the splatter style gore and green bile of Demons and Demons 2. The Church shares more in common with Soavi's follow up film The Sect which was billed as Demons 4 in East Asian territories.


Demons 3: Black Demons (1991)

You would be forgiven for thinking Demons 3: Black Demons aka Demoni 3 was an official part of the Demons series as it was released as Demons 3 or Demoni 3 in Italy itself. However, Umberto Lenzi's 1991 film is not an official sequel to the series and has very little in common with the original Demons films. The majority of the films in this list were set in either Germany or Italy but Black Demons differs as it was set in Brazil and had a distinctively voodoo flavour which sets it apart from the other official and unofficial Demons films. Unfortunately, despite its title of Demons 3 or Black Demons, Lenzi's 1991 film has very little in common with films about Demons and is really more of a zombie film as it features black slaves coming back from the dead to exact their revenge. The other films billed as Demons 3 were made in '88 and '89 yet Black Demons was made in 1991 making it the newest film on this list bar Demons '95 which seems odd as Demons 6 was made 2 years prior which adds to the confusion over the Demons series and were the various Demons films are placed. 


Demons 4: The Sect (1991)

Demons 4 aka The Sect was Michele Soavi's follow up to his 1989 film The Church.  This tenuous link was clearly enough for The Sect to be distributed in Japan under the title Demons 4 despite the film having little to do with the original Demons film or the concept of Demons themselves. The Sect follows on from The Church by having a plot connected to concepts such as good and evil, the devil, religion and the darkness that resides within humanity. The Sect could arguably be sold as a sequel to The Church based on these shared concepts and the heavy religious element of both films but its link to the original Demons films seems to stop at the shared setting of Germany and Dario Argento serving as a producer for all three films.


Demons 5: The Devil's Veil (1989)

Demons 5: The Devil's Veil is admittedly the film I've heard the least about out of all the films featured on this list yet surprisingly, it was a film made by lamberto Bava in 1989 shortly after the release of Demons 3: The Ogre. Demons 5 aka La Maschera del demonio is often regarded as a remake of Mario Bava's Mask of the Demon (1960) however despite sharing similar premises, The Devil's Veil is a stand alone film independent of the original Demons films and Mario's landmark horror but it does share similarities with the Demons films as well as Mask of the Demon, The Sect and The Church. The Devil's Veil features religious themes and features a priest and a monastery setting which inevitably draws comparisons to Soavi's The Church. Unfortunately due to it being a film made for television, The Devil's Veil has minimal gore and has a suitably made for television aesthetic. Still, The Devil's Veil is an interesting film dependent of it's connection to the Demons series and its Alps setting and updating of the premise of the Mask of the Demon is sure to peak the interests of Italian horror fans.


Demons 6: The Black Cat (1989)

The Black Cat aka Demons 6 is another confusingly titled film and is often mistaken for other films, most notably Lucio Fulci's 1981 film The Black Cat. Despite being referred to as Demons 6: Armageddon and Demons 6: De Profondis, The Black Cat has more in common with Dario Argento's The Three Mothers Trilogy and was considered as the unofficial third film of the trilogy before the release of Argento's The Mother of Tears in 2007.

There are some similarities between the original Demons films and Demons 6, a heavy metal soundtrack is used in Demons 6, the use of green bile effects and gross out style violence and gore is very much in keeping with the style of violence in Demons and Demons 2 and lead Demons actor, Urbano Barberini plays our lead actor in Demons 6. Unfortunately, the decline of the Italian film was in full swing when Demons 6 was made and it shows in the cheap looking sets and low production values. The lead villain of the piece, Levana the evil witch, looks more like an evil demon than a vengeful witch but the lack of Demon like behaviour makes her an unconvincing foe and overall, the film feels far removed from the style and ideas presented to us in the original Demons films.



Demons '95: Dellamorte Dellamore (1994)

Confusingly dubbed as Demons '95 despite its 1994 release date in most countries, Dellamorte Dellamore aka Cemetery Man is known as the final part of the Demons series in Japan. Dellamorte Dellamore is the third Soavi film featured on this list and I can only guess that this is the reason behind the film being billed as a Demons film in Japan as the comedy horror has very little in common with the other films on this list. In order to sell Cemetery Man to the Japanese market, the film's horror elements were ramped up and the promotional materials focused on the more horrific elements of the film making it look more in keeping with the original Demons films despite Cemetery Man's unconventional style narrative and set up.




There you have it, my guide to the Demons series and my attempt to clear up any confusion over what films are considered part of it. As you can tell from this post, the only true Demons films are the first two however, it's always worth checking out the films that are dubbed as Demons films as most of them are an interesting watch in their own right. For those of you who want to seek out the aforementioned films they're all available on DVD in the US and UK bar Demons 5 and 6 which can be obtained from the usual dubious sources. 

4 comments:

  1. Great article apart from one error - you mention, on a couple of occasions, that the first Demons film featured a demon entering the world via a cinema screen. This is incorrect. The first demon in the film is created by Rosemary wearing the mask in the cinema (the same one seen in the film) and scratching herself on it. The cut later begins to pulsate, explodes and she becomes the first demon.

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    1. Apologies! You're right - I've obviously got the details muddled in my mind. Now you've pointed it out I remember. Thanks for letting me know and I will fix this soon. Appreciate you reading it.

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