If ever there was a guilty pleasure that rewards the patient, it would be Night of the Demons (1988). Viewers who manage to endure the excruciating first 45 minutes of this low-budget flick are rewarded by a story that – finally — delivers everything you expect from a campy haunted-house movie: real scares, some wit and, oh yes, lots of gratuitous nudity.
But the trick is to make it to that halfway point. Director Kevin S. Tenney apparently realized he had a script with a long opening act with very little action, so he employed a variety of offbeat shots, angles, and stage business to enliven things. But there was no escaping a clichéd beginning: Ten kids decide to party in spooky old Hull House. They drink, tell jokes, play music, and make out. Despite Tenney’s best efforts, this half of the movie is as familiar and mind-numbing as it sounds. The acting is amateurish, the dialogue is lame, and the music is, well, 1980s. But then ….
If you are still awake at halftime, you won’t have trouble keeping your eyes open the rest of the way. Everything about Night of the Demons kicks into overdrive – the pace, the suspense, and the shocks. The movie also becomes quite funny: “I’m just warming my hands in the fire,” coos a smiling demon, raising her flaming fingers from the fireplace for a stunned onlooker’s appraisal.
Tenney wasn’t making Citizen Kane, but he did his best with a skimpy $1.2 million budget. One of the producers explains the filmmakers’ attitude on the DVD’s commentary track: “This is a crowd pleaser, it really is. It’s a fun movie. It doesn’t tax you too much … you just watch the pretty naked girls and the exploding heads and the cool shots and the funny cast and just party hearty.” That you do – if you can make it past the midpoint. Guilty Pleasure Grade: B+
Director: Kevin S. Tenney Cast: Cathy Podewell, Alvin Alexis, William Gallo, Amelia Kinkade, Linnea Quigley, Jill Terashita Release: 1988
Watch the Trailer (click here)
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