Release Date(s)1988 (February 4, 2014)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: A
One of my favorite things to do around Halloween, as I know a lot of people reading this also do, is to pop in an assortment of great, fun horror movies. As a matter of fact, it’s a ritual I try to carry through the entire month of October. There are lots of horror movies that you can pop in and just have a good time with without having to put too much effort into them, but also appreciating them for being well-made. Night of the Demons is one of those movies.
Kevin Tenney directed Night of the Demons and it was released in 1988. It wasn’t a major box office success despite earning back its budget, but it was a big hit on home video with genre fans. And although it’s basically a clichéd tail about a group of teenagers getting together for a party and everything goes bad for them, it feels a bit fresh in a lot of ways. First of all, the atmosphere and the photography of the movie are first class. You won’t find any wasted shots or anything half-assed, even with its meager budget. Everything’s whole-assed on this one, including Linnea Quigley. It’s also interesting that this party takes place in a funeral home and not a haunted house or castle of some kind. It helps to add more of a creepy atmosphere to it. And the best thing of all about the movie are the special make-up effects, which were influential on movies about possession thereafter. I’m also particularly fond of the animated opening titles, that give off a Creepshow-type vibe to me, which is appropriate.
The aforementioned Scream Queen Linnea Quigley co-stars along with a group of young actors, including Amelia Kinkade. The cast overall do a fine job with the material and seem to be having a good time, which is important, because having a good time is what this movie is all about. You’re not meant to take it seriously, and the only people who should find it genuinely frightening and not understand it would be the very squeamish or the very young, neither of which should be watching these movies anyway. But for the rest of us, Night of the Demons is an entertaining romp, and one of the last truly classic horror movies to ever be made.
The Scream Factory Collector’s Edition of the film on Blu-ray sports a great-looking transfer. Being that the film is dark for most of its running time, you won’t find an enormous amount of fine detail on display. That being said, there’s a very fine layer of grain throughout the film, blacks are mostly good, the color palette is very good, and both contrast and brightness boost the most out of the images. I didn’t notice any digital manipulation or defects of any kind either, which is good. For the audio portion, you get three options: an English 5.1 track, the film’s original English 2.0 track, and a brand new English 2.0 track, all in DTS-HD. For my money, the new 2.0 track really seems to fit the proceedings the most. The original track just doesn’t have a lot of life to it (no pun intended) and the 5.1 track isn’t very aggressive. But as far as quality goes, both the new 2.0 and 5.1 tracks are about the same. The 5.1 track is mostly front-heavy, with score taking a backseat (and some of the sound effects, but not many of them). There’s no dynamic range to it either, but there is some low end to be felt. Both tracks have very clear dialogue, but as an immersive experience, the 5.1 track doesn’t do a great job, despite its clarity. It’s a matter of preference really, and with three tracks to choose from, you should have little to no complaint about what to choose. There are also optional subtitles in English for those who might need them.
For this release, there are plenty of extras to soak into. First up is a new audio commentary with director Kevin Tenney, actors Cathy Podewell, Billy Gallo, Hal Havins, and special make-up effects creator Steve Johnson; another audio commentary with Tenney, producer Jeff Geoffrey and executive producer Walter Josten; the ”You’re Invited”: The Making of Night of the Demons documentary; an Interview with Amelia Kinkade; Alison Barron’s Demon Memories (an interview); the film’s theatrical trailer; its home video trailer; TV spots; a radio spot; the film’s promo reel; a behind-the-scenes gallery; a special effects and make-up gallery; another photo gallery; and finally, a posters and storyboards gallery. All of this should keep you very busy, as it’s all very informative and well put together.
Night of the Demons won’t win any awards for originality, but what it should win awards for are execution and longevity. Most horror films that try to replicate this formula today just fail, and aren’t remembered as well. Basically, what it boils down to is that there’s a lot to love about the film. It’s clever in how simple it is and how it does a lot with what little it has. It may have nostalgia on its side in some capacity, but there’s more to it than that. I think word of mouth is always going to be the best marketing tool for a film like this, and the fact that it has stuck around all this time means it was successfully handed down from one generation to the next. But like I said before, it’s a fun Halloween party movie, and this Blu-ray release should give you plenty of fun times. Very much recommended.
- Tim Salmons