[30TH ANNIVERSARY!] CREATIVE PROFESSIONALS CELEBRATE ‘NIGHT OF THE DEMONS’ (1988)

 

 

 

 

Due to the video home rental market boom, the 1980s was the greatest time for horror movie film makers and fans alike. Risks could be taken without huge losses to movie companies, because video rental stores would buy up almost any title they could get their hands on. Put some eye-catching art on the cover of the video box with a snappy tagline and you got yourself a winner, and NIGHT OF THE DEMONS had the best of both.

 

 

I was probably ten, maybe eleven years old, when I saw that image of Angela in full monster make up on the VHS cover of NIGHT OF THE DEMONS, with the tagline — “Angela is having a party, Jason and Freddy are too scared to come… But you’ll have a hell of a time” — and I knew I had to see this film. Luckily, none of the video stores in the small town I grew up in gave a fuck up about a small child renting a rated R horror movie. What I witnessed that night, and many nights to come, is one of the most spectacularly fun horror movies ever made, and the older I have become the more I appreciate this fine piece of scary cinema.

 

 

There are so many wonderful aspects of NIGHT OF THE DEMONS, that the more I think about it, the harder it is to wrap my head around how great it truly is. The punk-rock and death-rock soundtrack, the incredible practical effects that supplied me with endless nightmares as a child, the comparisons to ALICE IN WONDERLAND, the underlying socio-political commentary, and the horror movie tropes that were created and destroyed all make NIGHT OF THE DEMONS so incredible.

 

 

The recent announcement of Scream Factory’s 30th anniversary, 4K collector’s edition of NIGHT OF THE DEMONS, has me over the moon with excitement. It is currently available for pre-order, and will be released on October 23rd of this year. This is not only a 4K restoration deluxe limited edition steenbok blu-ray, but you also have the opportunity to pre-order an exclusive limited edition Angela action figure created by NECA and exclusive limited edition lithograph of their newly commissioned cover art. My inner fanboy just squealed out loud! As excited as I am over this amazing release of a beloved classic I knew that others must feel the same way. I reached out to various creative professionals to find out their feelings on NIGHT OF THE DEMONS, and here is their responses.

 

 

NATHAN ERDEL (writer, HEADLESS)

 

NIGHT OF THE DEMONS… from the amazing, underrated, evocative, animated opening credits to the final gag/knife-twist ending, Kevin Tenney’s ’80s romp may be THE most essential Halloween-set film, and that includes John Carpenters seminal, eponymous slasher (one of my favorite films of all time), due to it’s absolute celebration of the holiday. DEMONS is a treat, from start to finish, and is both a joyous “dead teenager” movie and a gorehound’s delight. It’s packed with memorable characters and set-pieces: Angela and Suzanne’s trip to the convenience store, Angela’s dance to Bauhaus’ “Stigmata Martyr,” Suzanne’s lipstrick trick, Stooge and his somehow endearing punk-but-romantic personality, Hull House itself… as well as some memorable quotes (everything from “Do you guys have sour balls?” to “Eat a bowl of fuck, I am ready to party!”) and some absolutely amazing, practical gore effects. In short, while Carpenter’s deadly serious knife party stands the test of time as Halloween’s go-to filmic mascot, NIGHT OF THE DEMONS is the drunken party animal ready to take the Samhain festivities to the next level.

 

 

HEATHER BUCKLEY (producer, THE RANGER)

 

The most important part was the counterculture.

 

Angela: (“Such a weirdo!”) one of the most perfect gothgirls in cinema (Nancy from THE CRAFT is tied with her for first). Angela’s cross earring switch from good to better (hail Satan) — I wear my silver upside-down cross in her honor. And. That. Dress —  something only Lily could have worn in LEGEND.

 

And don’t forget maybe the best line in all of cinema: “Eat a bowl of fuck,” proclaimed by Stooge — the stickers on his boom-box meant we listened to much of the same music: TSOL, Fear, Dead Kennedys (but not Poison) and based on the 1988 release date, Corrosion of Conformity was still a hardcore punk band. And his spray-painted anarchy sign on the back of his shirt. Red and blue stripes on the side of his head. Yes 100% media punk. Why have I not spray painted anything on the back of my battle vests. Why am I too busy to do the important things in life?

 

While everyone else learned about Bauhaus through THE HUNGER, it was NIGHT OF THE DEMONS for me; “Stigmata Martyr” during the strobe-infused-haunted-house dance sequence — Joe Augustyn, Producer and Writer, had always wanted them in the soundtrack. I know because I asked him when it was shown at the Exhumed screening in Philadelphia. It was also the music Augustyn loved, which means infused into this production was a post-punk heart (a beautiful heart). At Irving Plaza in NYC when I finally saw Bauhaus perform Stigmata Martyr, how could I not remember where I first heard it and why that meant so much— to watch a genre that you love to find the music of who you are.

 

Two words: Steve. Johnson. As a rabid Fangorian my rock stars were the FX artists and I knew his work through my drawing-monsters-in-my-bedroom-total-outsider-relentless-horror-periodical pursuits. When the demons-hit-the-fan, everyone is beautiful. Great razor monster teeth, lots of gum showing; reptile skinned goth-demon girl, a punk-demon boy. I would want that make up and Mindy Clarke’s in RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART III. (BTW Mindy is yet another Steve Johnson punk monster. Would she hang out with Stooge?)

 

As a kid, off HBO I had taped the animated sequence onto one VHS so I could just replay that part alone and on another the whole movie taped. I watched both tapes repeatedly. It’s an ’80s zine-graphic version of NIGHT ON BALD MOUNTAIN from FANTASIA set to some of the best synth around. The perfect Halloween opening for the best Halloween movie of all time (and some might say MIDNIGHT HOUR and that is up there; I have it on VHS of course).

 

And lastly it is a Halloween horror movie. It has a Halloween party and Halloween costumes. It has old school decorations — classics like the joined skeleton hanging on the walls and garland, black and orange. The credits transition from a flaming graphic Jack-o-lantern to a real one (not on fire) tied atop a punk car. Anytime any media can provide me with Halloween decorations I am in.

 

So there it is—Punk. Goth. FX. Those credits. Halloween decorations in a fucking haunted demon house. Is this the best thing ever made? This is the best thing ever made.

 

 

 

GREG GUNTER (actor, BEAR CITY trilogy)

 

“Relax! I just want to look good for the BOYS!”

 

30 years since NIGHT OF THE DEMONS? That’s the age of the “high school” actors when the film was being made! Who better to embody a naughty teen than one who lived it twelve years prior & can send it up thoroughly?

 

I was fresh out of college a year when NIGHT OF came out, and it’s one of those camp classic horror movies that’s still a joy. Each actor excels in their purposely clichéd roles. You have the seemingly Sweetheart Jock, your Bad Girl in pink, your bad Goth Girl in black, your … Greaser? – perhaps a bit off for the ’80s – but he rounds out the bawdy cast nicely.

 

There’s The Innocent dressed as Alice from ALICE IN WONDERLAND, the obvious heroine of the group, who, like her costumed ideal, eventually travels a hallucinogenic world meeting demonic types only instead of Carroll’s warped denizens, director Kevin Tenney’s & writer Joe Augustyn’s creatures want to thumb your eyes out. A black teen wimp, the most skittish party patron is also perhaps its most canny. Clearly intent on NOT being “first kill”, Rodger plays the survive-at-all-cost mode to the hilt with a satisfying turn at the end.

 

A dear girlfriend from Germany who loves her some bears reminded me that Stooge, the Cro-Magnon pig-masked brute was one of the first horror big boys that teased sexuality, however swinish. His beastly behavior heralds his fast demise, but for the man-bear-pig-minded, he’s temporary eye candy. And true to eighties form, all the young female cast members are stacked; it must have been a pre-requisite for casting. The young men, who meet their grisly end at the Hands of Hell are equally fetching; a shrewd formula especially for those that want to see the popular & adolescent impure receive their satisfying and delarcious due. What’s with the dragon & the wrap-around neck serration? FUN!

 

Over-the-top line-shoutings of dreadfully gelastic text & disgustingly precise special FX make NIGHT OF THE DEMONS a perfect flick to watch in a pile of pals, or a Halloween date night. Every third line is force-fed to the audience as if all the characters except terrified survivors Judy & Rodger are on GHB. It’s as if they took lessons from the CARRY ON crew.

 

“Festering fuckwads! You cannot take this bitch anywhere, man.”

 

 

HARRISON SMITH (director, DEATH HOUSE)

 

To go over the plot of the film and re-examine 30 years of nostalgia is all fit and proper to commemorate a film that made an impact on folks.

 

I would like to look at something as important to NIGHT OF THE DEMONS success and endurance than just its content.

 

It was how that content was distributed. It was a different world 30 years ago. The direct success of this film and its ability to remain relevant after three decades is the way it was released to the public.

 

Thirty years ago a small, horror indie like this was given the chance to grow, and find its audience. There is no way this film would get a theatrical now. If it did, a handful and out in a week tops.

 

There was a time when a movie was released and found its audience over a period of months in theatrical release. That is not the case any longer. NIGHT OF THE DEMONS was allowed to grow and given a real chance to be seen on the big screen.

 

HALLOWEEN benefited from this ten years earlier. So when we look at the anniversary of a film, it’s important to also see the time and circumstances that surround the motion picture. Today’s world is glutted with content and the ability to stream and see anything, anytime and most of all, dismiss films.

 

We now have so much at our fingertips we no longer wish to give something a chance — whether to build in plot or character development… it either engages us in less than five minutes, or we find something else.

 

Celebrate NIGHT OF THE DEMONS by finding something similar that you normally wouldn’t and giving it a chance to suck you in. That’s the real legacy of this film: its distribution.

 

 

ADAM MARCUS (director, JASON GOES TO HELL)

 

As a teenager I was obsessed with all things Demon, whether it was Bava’s magnificent DEMONS or Raimi’s world-changing THE EVIL DEAD. Then in 1988 Kevin Tenney’s crass, incredibly sleazy melting pot of all things Bava, Raimi, and all those late night Cinemax movies you didn’t want your Mom to catch you watching boiled over into every horror fan’s purview. Its greatness was in its sleaze. It made you feel kinda dirty for watching it, but that was the fun. And it had genuine scares. Scenes that got under your skin… literally! Seriously, ask anyone about where that lipstick went, and you will see a look of confused sexual revulsion on anyone who’s seen this classic. NIGHT OF THE DEMONS is one of those “so wrong, it’s right” kind of experiences. Unforgettable.

 

 

 

MIKE VAUGHN (author, THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO STRANGE CINEMA)

 

NIGHT OF THE DEMONS was a VHS I rented from my local mom and pop back in the day. Fueled by junk food and pure wide-eyed devotion to everything horror we would spend weekends devouring the stacks of movies we rented in my basement. Of course, NIGHT OF THE DEMONS was one such title, and it was love at first lipstick in the tit. The amazing animation is easily my favorite opening to a movie, maybe being slightly edged out by Lon Chaney Jr. singing the opening of Jack Hill’s SPIDER BABY or the monster graveyard romp cartoon that opens ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN. NIGHT OF THE DEMONS is a movie that has held up for me when some titles simply do not. I can still watch it today and get the same chills and thrills as I did as a young man, popping in clunky VHS tapes with my best friend.

 

 

 

HENRY DARROW MCCOMAS (filmmaker, WOLFMAN’S GOT NARDS)

 

The Hull House is an abandoned funeral parlor built on top of an underground stream, a stream you will never see. Legend has it that the evil spirits who haunt the premise are incapable of crossing running water. That line is defined by a giant brick wall that wraps around the house. In its hay-day, the house was the biggest funeral parlor in four counties. But the Hull family had a violent demise when an unsavory family member went insane, slaughtering the entire family (and the maid to boot!) before committing suicide. The event was so gruesome and messy, it was unclear which family member was the murderer and which was the victim. Because of all the blood and guts. Oh yeah and, somewhere between the house and the stream, is an Indian burial ground. The Hull House seems like a fun place to throw a party, if you ask me!

 

NIGHT OF THE DEMONS is a Halloween story. The magical kind that could be whispered back and forth by eager trick-or-treaters who don’t dare to step on the porch of the dark house at the end of the street. It plays like the most fun installment of a horror anthology. The one where you think, “This story was so good they should make a whole freaking movie out of it!” Lucky for us, someone did. What makes it so memorable to me is the delicate balance of tone. The film is funny, spooky, creepy, heroic, and at some points, downright disgusting. But, as it deals with the absurd, it still manages to stay true to its horror roots without being dragged into the undertow of complete camp. I have an example. The first time I saw NIGHT OF THE DEMONS, I was under drinking age at a party. I didn’t know many people, so I found a spot on the couch and started watching this weird VHS that introduced the concept of a nipple that swallows an entire stick of lipstick. I remember looking around in disbelief to see if anyone else was seeing this bizarre image. My mind was blown. As I sipped from a solo cup at a party I wasn’t supposed to be at, watching something I wasn’t supposed to see, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized and creeped out while nervously giggling at the same time. And, from that moment, the film stayed with me.

 

There’s a scene in NIGHT OF THE DEMONS where an old man is being harassed by some punks. The scene turns when you discover this senior citizen is a predator who plans on putting razor blades in apples for obnoxious trick-or-treaters. It’s a great wraparound for the best installment of an anthology but, this time, there are no more companion pieces. That’s because, with NIGHT OF THE DEMONS, you’re getting all the goods in one foul batch. I believe the wraparound serves two purposes. The first is to show that NIGHT OF THE DEMONS belongs in the canon of great Halloween tales whispered amongst curious minds. The second is that its director Kevin Tenney and writer Joe Augustyn’s way of letting us know, at face value, you’re going to have a lot of fun with NIGHT OF THE DEMONS. But with some interest, a beer, and a moment of your time, if you enter the crematorium at Hull House, the movie will seep in and leave an impression.

 

 

AISLINN CLARKE (director, THE DEVIL’S DOORWAY)

 

I was a kid when NIGHT OF THE DEMONS was released, but having a horror fiend as a dad I grew up on old VHS copies of the demon films of the late-’80s and early-’90s — DEMON KNIGHT; Bava’s DEMONS and DEMONS 2; and of course NIGHT OF THE DEMONS. They were films in which young teenagers were in peril, like I always wanted to be – fun, brash peril like messing with the occult and listening to heavy metal.

 

They were all silly and trashy, easy stories with high school archetypes, which, when you’re that age, are unshakeable truths – that’s exactly what everyone who isn’t you and your friends are like. And they get their comeuppance. It’s ironic that parents didn’t want you watching those films, because the films made the same moral points that your parents made: don’t break into funeral homes; don’t go to heavy metal clubs; don’t play with ouija boards. Everybody who does gets messed up by demons. They are simple moral tales and highly entertaining ones at that. I always find it strange that the same parents who feared heavy metal and teenage experimental aberration opening a door to Satan didn’t see that these films fully validate that perspective.

 

Neither the parents’ nor films’ moral instruction worked however: we still did all those things. Or thought about it.

 

NIGHT OF THE DEMONS was the template for teenage fun in small-town Ireland then. In the mid-’90s, inspired by a viewing of NIGHT OF THE DEMONS, we made a ouija board in our attic bedroom, me, my sister, and brother, listening to Slayer or Megadeth or something. Soon, other teenagers would come to hang around when we did it, some would join in, some would watch warily. It was a tall house and we could never hear when my dad called up the stairs, so he would just switch off the electricity when he wanted us. Of course, he wanted us at exactly the most dramatic moment in our séance – the room went dark, fifteen teenagers ran screaming for the door, the handle came off, and we were trapped there! A moral lesson we didn’t take on, as we would do it all again the following week.

 

 

ANTHONY BROWNLEE (producer, FREDHEADS: THE DOCUMENTARY)

 

NIGHT OF THE DEMONS is a film that’s thirty years old and as the horror film lover I am, never officially saw until I was in my late twenties. I would see the cover as a kid in the video store, and I remember it freaking me out to the point I wouldn’t let myself get the film, and as the years went by, I kept letting it slip away until I got wise and instead of renting it, I bought it.

 

The film took me by surprise, its dark horror and its dark humor wrapped so well in a great ’80s slasher blanket. I think what keeps fans coming back for more is the great cast of characters you have that blend so well and the very rare female demon killer you have in Angela Franklin, played so well by Amelia Kincaid.

 

I think the film just relates to horror film goers as it goes to the teenage mindset of hanging with friends, telling ghost stories and doing things you’re not supposed that could potentially put you in danger. The film does well at blending a classic slasher with a ghost aspect and doesn’t take itself too serious, a horror film that knows exactly what it’s doing and was able to capture an audience and keep it for three decades.

 

 

ZANE HERSHBERGER (cinematographer, THE BARN)

 

I remember first seeing news of NIGHT OF THE DEMONS in Fangoria — it was either “The Monster Invasion” column or “The Video Chopping List.” It was a black-and-white picture of Stooge in demonic make-up. I loved the title and that picture and was like, ‘I gotta see this movie!’

 

It finally came to my local video store and a neighbor kid was over for the evening and we watched it. I instantly loved it… him, I’m not so sure about. I had to ride home with him on our bikes (we lived in a rural town), back down a gravel road that cut through the woods to a housing plan where he lived. Fun, scary night.

 

I love the fantastic cinematography and make-up in the film (my favorite demonic look to this day), the atmosphere is incredible, and some laugh-out-loud comedic moments. I call it a perfect film.

 

 

 

DANIEL W. KELLY (author, COMFORT COVE series)

 

In the late ’80s, when we were being bombarded by formulaic sequels to decade-old franchises, my boss at the video store gave me a promotional VHS screener for a movie with a hideous demon on the box and the tagline, “Angela is having a party, Jason and Freddy are too scared to come…” I was at the tail end of my teens and already growing immune to the fear factor in horror movies, but NIGHT OF THE DEMONS lit a fire under my ass — and scorched off all the hairs. Halloween night at an eerie, derelict funeral home and fricking Angela floating through the halls? EEK! The scares are so flawlessly timed that even after dozens of viewings over the past thirty years, every time I watch it I still end up jumping out of my skin, leaving it in a pile on my seat… bald butt and all.

 

 

Jeremy Lowe

Jeremy Lowe (a.k.a, Germ T. Ripper) is a Chicago punk rock mainstay who has been the front man for bands The Rotten Fruits, Modern Day Rippers, Brickwall Vultures, and The Short-Timers. He is also a co-founder of Sexy Baby Records. Before writing for Daily Grindhouse, he wrote for the Splatterhouse 7 blog. You can contact him on Twitter as @rottengerm77

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