It’s hard to believe that Lamberto Bava’s Demons is now 30 years old. It did really surprise me seeing it stated on the t shirt of the film that I nabbed recently when Goblin played at The Barbican. One of the highlights of the show which saw Simonetti and co playing along to the soundtrack of Deep Red was when they aired some other tracks including the thumping Demons from the soundtrack I have in front of me here. It was the film that really brought Lamberto to the attention of many of us in the UK as although he had made the likes of Macabre and Blastfighter before it Demons got a release over here on video mainly due to the fact that it was always highlighted on the artwork of the film that it was presented by Dario Argento who produced and co-wrote it. Argento himself was a video hit winner here having collaborated with Romero on Dawn Of The Dead and had several of his films such as Inferno, Suspiria and Tenebrae all embroiled to some extent in the ‘video nasty’ furore. One of the remaining video cassettes I would not part with is my albeit trimmed Avatar big box copy of Demons signed by Argento himself. Naturally the film has been superseded with the most recent version (now out of print) by Arrow Films presenting it along with the somewhat batty sequel Demons 2 in superb hi-def Blu-ray in a lovely steel box to boot.
The premise in case you have not seen the film is set in Berlin where a sinister masked figure (actually played by Italian director Michele Soavi) is handing out invites to a mysterious film at a cinema nobody seems to have heard of. Plenty of varied characters from young hip teens to pimp and whores, romantic elderly couples, a group of uninvited hoodlum punks and even a blind guy turn up to catch the freebie not knowing what sort of film they are even going to watch (or hear in the case of the blind guy). It becomes quickly apparent it is a horror film as a group of young explorers discover Nostradamus tomb. With it they find the mask of a demon, of which Nostradamus apparently predicted, would unveil a reign of terror upon us all; “They will make cemeteries their cathedrals and the cities will be your tombs.” One of the explorers picks up the mask and puts it on being told that this is a bad move and will set such calamities in motion. Taking it off he scratches himself which as it happens is exactly what one of the prostitutes had done with a prop mask in the cinema foyer. She is just about to become the ultimate lady of the night and infect the audience in ways well beyond an itchy crotch! Chaos ensues and it’s dashed out exuberantly and with a massive amount of bloodshed which eager splatter fans such as myself revelled in. It’s interesting that Simonetti says on the Arrow film extras that with CGI advancements it would be a prime candidate for a remake. I tend to disagree, the old latex ways of doing things works brilliantly here with blood and pus discharges exploding in welters that coat the screen, yum yum. To find out what happens well watch the film and if you ever get the chance see it in an actual cinema all the better!
The soundtrack is integral and it’s fair to say as Simonetti has, that this is a ‘heavy metal’ film in style which is continuously loud and brash in dialogue and screaming as well as musically. Incidental to the actual score, the film is pumped up by the likes of Go West, Billy Idol, Accept, Saxon and Motley Crue among others. One of the best scenes of slaughter is lovingly dished out as Accept blaze out Fast As A Shark and has to be seen to be believed. Simonetti acting as a solo composer here rather than as part of Goblin replicates this in his pulsating electronic score, which is (getting to the point of the review) being reissued here with plenty of extras by Rustblade.
This takes the form of three sections essentially. The first is the original seven tracks. First up title track Demon sounds like it would have not been out of place in Dawn Of The Dead, in the scene that Peter is examining guns in the shopping centre store, or even a cannibal film. It’s got a tribal sort of beat to it and indigenous sounding chants before the eerie synth clouds it with a thick layer of smog and wafts around with the word ‘killer’ being shouted out. It then goes into a carnivalesque evil clown sort of theme and there’s plenty going on in it, the immediacy and catchiness of it along with the whole soundtrack being designed to haunt and invade your dreams. One of the shorter pieces is ‘Cruel Demon’ to me it is heavily reminiscent of the austere Teutonic sounds current to the time it was made of Laibach. Somehow I am not sure that this is coincidental considering the setting of the film and the cult appeal of the group at this time and it works well as a fragmentary piece. ‘Killing’ seeps in and it has to be said chills the spine before the highly memorable melody via keyboard weaves away and really raises the goose-bumps. It’s got a sense of stalking malevolence about it right up there with the film itself and is horror music personified, essentially scary as anything in Dawn itself. Some flamboyant progressive and elaborate guitar soloing underlies it all very much again in sense with the era. ‘Threat’ is another interlude, low in the mix and spreading contagion through the veins like an attacking demonic parasite. It sets the mood perfectly with some stabbing staccato parts before lingering back where it came from. ‘The Evil One’ has some backward masked sounding throbbing and is like a collection of sounds thrown together, all designed to unsettle. No great sense of drama here it’s just another part to really prey on your nerves before ‘Out Of Time’ raises the hackles with neo-classical violin intro and a pulsating electronic score comes in. This one is somewhat odd and echoes the futurist and new romantic era a bit with a progressive flow reminiscent of the likes of Jarre and Moroder. It’s somewhat out of context with the chill factor and is more of a dreamy retro piece that some (certainly those not au fait with the film) might describe as “cheesy as fuck” Luckily a reprise of the main title will get you back to fright mode even if it is pumped up to more of a full disco mode.
This would be a pretty short soundtrack in its own right but we move on to the other parts to expand things. First we get some alternative arrangements of the tracks including demo and piano versions as well as those done by Simonetti’s Horror Project and his Daemonia band. I absolutely love the Lounge version of the main theme which sounds as it is described, late night, smoking and sultry in silk pyjamas with some smooching female vocals flowing along with the dubby beat. The versions are all different enough to make this versatile although there is no way that you are going to survive without them literally possessing you and them going round in your head for days to come and that’s before we get to the bonus disc.
This is particularly interesting as it allows other more modern artists to make their own interpretations of the central themes. I’m not 100% sure if Oghr is actually Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy but it sounds like it could be as Demon gets puts through a militant industrialist stomp machine complete with rasping vocals in the background. Cervello Elettronico gives ‘Cold Demon’ a futuristic pulsating ambient techno revamp that sounds suitably cold and chilling. What’s particularly good about this is that the tracks are taken in order as they are on the soundtrack itself and re done by the artists as a complete alt soundtrack as such. This expands upon the running times of many of them in the process ‘Threat’ for example by The Devil And The Universe sprawling into a strange electro soundscape with ghostly echoing sampled voices. The odd sounding :Bahntier// give The Evil One a modern Prodigy sounding beat but best of the lot are who use the terrifying aforementioned “cemeteries”speech and other samples from the film on ‘Out Of Time’ giving it a thumping drum and bass heavy makeover. Leaether Strip should also get a mention as they are well known and respected and do a great EBM style Demons Reprise. This should be it but there are actually a couple of remixes of the remixes thrown in for good measure too and you certainly do get a complete authoritative soundtrack and a half here. There’s plenty of different versions to get this in from standard CD without remixes through to steel box with stacks of extras and red vinyl version all of which you will find on the label’s website listed below. To quote the immortal words of Ripper from the film itself “Shut up and get it all, unless you want me to break your head.”