The residents of a high-rise apartment building are watching a documentary on the events of the first Demons film. During a scene in a dramatized version of a demon attack, the demon crawls out of a television and attacks a whiny party girl named Sally Day. Sally proceeds to run rampant, turning some of her friends and neighbors into demons and slaughtering others. You can probably guess where things go from there.

As with the film’s predecessor, Demons 2 is an exceptionally good-looking film. It certainly can’t be denied that the makeup and monster effects are pretty impressive and certainly manage to outshine the first film from time to time. The cinematography is similarly impressive, and the production design, while obviously dated these days, is stylish by the standards of the mid-’80s. There’s only one visual misstep, and that’s the case of a “flying demon” that’s more adorable (in a Gremlins sort of way) than scary: whenever that thing was on screen, it took a supreme act of will not to laugh all the way through the scene.

And yet–again, as with its predecessor–it’s hard to walk away from Demons 2 with the sense that the filmmakers (director Bava co-wrote the screenplays for both films with producer Dario Argento and screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti) care more about gross-out SFX, striking imagery and smearing awesome! licensed music all over the soundtrack than they do about telling a coherent story. In fact–and I didn’t think it was possible–Demons 2 has even less of a story than Demons did. There’s about 15 minutes of setup and exposition before the demons show up, and once that happens, it’s pretty much nonstop monsters killing people until the film ends.

The continuity in the film is terrible: at one point, the demons cut off all power to the building, but that only seems to affect primary light sources, TVs, power doors and elevators. Dim or decorative light sources still appear to work. There’s rationales both meta (if the garage was as dark in the film as it would be in real life, nothing would be visible to the audience) and not (maybe the neon beer sign in someone’s apartment is battery-operated), but it’s still maddening. Similarly, the film is unclear on where it actually takes place. Second-unit work seems to suggest New York (an opinion of the friend I watched it with, who actually lived in New York) and all the characters have fairly English-seeming given names (Sally, Hank, George, Hannah, Tommy…). Yet the cars all have European-style license plates and the film’s Wikipedia article states that the documentary airs on “German television.”

And as for characterization and acting, forget it. Only a few characters leave anything resembling an impression (and most of the time it’s negative–Sally is so annoying that I actually was glad when the demon got her), so while the kills are great there’s rarely anything to care about. Even sequences that should generate pathos tend not to, and even when they do, it’s usually by resorting to cheap gimmicks (OMG IT’S A CHILD IN DANGER!!!), not by engaging with the viewer. Few of the performances are memorable (one that is comes from Bobby Rhodes, who plays a character different from the one he played in the first film, but playing it the exact same way) and the dubbed voices are, as usual, terrible.

It’s not entirely fair to say that Demons 2 is little more than the first film with the hair-metal replaced with what was then called new wave (the Smiths’ “Panic” is used in a way that’s almost as clever as the way Wright and Pegg used it in Shaun Of The Dead; other soundtrack contributions came from Love And Rockets, Peter Murphy, the Cult and the Art of Noise), but it can’t be denied that the sequel rarely tries anything that the first film didn’t already accomplish. It’s worth it for the effects, the cinematography and production design (okay, and there’s a scene where demons menage a group of attractive women in ’80s workout gear, but that only applies to me). But overall, it’s maddeningly inessential. People who like this sort of thing may find it to be the sort of thing they like, but even then, it’s hardly required viewing.

My rating: 4 of 10.

91 minutes; in English, with some dubbed dialog. Directed by Lamberto Bava. Starring David Knight, Nancy Brilli, Coralina Cataldi Tassoni, Bobby Rhodes, Asia Argento, Virginia Bryant.

DEMONS 2 poster.

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