Demons (1985)

This movie made no fucking sense and for that, I loved it. I tend to enjoy movies that leave me with more questions than answers if it’s done right. And Demons was definitely done right. The plot itself is pretty ridiculous and I’m not even sure if I could sum it up for you accurately. Basically, all these people get invited to a movie screening and chaos ensues. People start turning into demons and it’s a fight for survival by everyone else.

I really enjoyed the makeup on the demons, it was unlike most zombie makeup I’ve seen. They have these thin spidery veins on their faces and fucked up eyes. There’s a really cool shot of them coming up a staircase and their eyes are reflective and shining yellow. It’s probably one of the more well-known shots in the film (I think it might even be one of the posters for it but don’t hold me to that).

The score was pretty hilarious and added to the cheesiness of the whole movie. It was a lot of 80’s metal, like Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, and Saxon. It made the action a lot more intense and ridiculous but also made it a lot more unique since you don’t typically find this music in movies. For me, it made the movie a lot more memorable because it was so different than the music I’m used to hearing in movies.

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*spoilers from here*

Okay, so I’m gonna try and make sense of what happened in this movie. I still have a lot of questions that I know will never be answered (except maybe if [when] I watch Demons 2 but I could be wrong) but a basic overview of the events of the movie couldn’t hurt. So the movie begins with the female lead, Cheryl, running through a train station thinking she’s being followed. A man wearing a weird Phantom of the Opera style mask hands her a ticket to a movie (??? there’s nothing on the ticket, just a theater, I don’t even know how they know it’s a movie, to be honest). She gets another one for her friend and convinces the friend (Kathy, I think) to come with her. Cheryl and Kathy go to the theater together and maybe around 100 or so people are there(I mean really, did they expect the theater to be full by having Phantom hand out cryptic golden tickets to people?). They all file into the theater and in the lobby is a display with a knight on a motorcycle and a silver mask (see picture above). A woman decides to put on the mask for fun, which just seems disrespectful but whatever, and it cuts her on the cheek. No big deal, though, right?

The movie begins and it’s a horror movie about some teens who go into a catacomb-esque place to search for the tomb of Nostradamus. They find the tomb and in it is a mask, very similar to the one put on by the woman in the lobby.  One of the guys puts it on, it cuts his face, and he turns into a demon and starts killing all his friends. Meanwhile, the woman who put on the mask isn’t feeling well and goes to the bathroom. In a super disgusting scene, she pokes and prods at the scrape until it bursts open like a pimple, spewing greenish fluid and blood everywhere. She then becomes the first demon and it’s pretty much downhill from there.

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If you’ve ever seen a zombie movie before then you know what happens next. One by one people start becoming infected and the others begin to realize that something isn’t right. The audience members try to run out of the theater but they find the doors to be locked and bricked in from the outside. They barricade themselves in one of the levels of the theater (this place is fucking huge) and some try to find their way out of the building through back hallways, ventilation ducts, etc. They even think that it’s the movie that’s cursed and storm the projection booth, only to find that its run automatically. Creepy Phantom guy appears once or twice more but that’s all we hear from him.

While this chaos is going on, we cut to a group of punk teens who are roaming around the city. To hide from the cops, they manage to find a way into the theater, not knowing what has happened inside. I was super confused as to why this was necessary. They all just end up in the same spot everyone else is at. I think maybe it’s because one of the demons escapes from the door they come in through? But I feel like that could’ve been done another way. I don’t even know at this point, there were so many things that just left me confused. Anyway, our main characters, George, Cheryl, Kathy, and Ken, try to find ways out of the building. Kathy is killed by one of the creatures and the others stab her (I think) in order to stop her from killing them. Then her spine splits open and a legit demon comes out of her body. This is the only time this happens, like everyone else just gets kinda zombified but she turns into an actual demon, I really just don’t know. Ken is killed by that demon, if memory serves (If you follow me on Twitter you’ll know that I watched something like 10 movies within a couple days so they’re blurring a little bit, and I don’t have a terrific memory to begin with).

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George and Cheryl end up in the lobby and George decides to get on the motorbike from the display (which apparently has keys and gas but whatever), grab the sword from the display, and just start mowing down all the demons in the theater. Weirdly enough, this seems to work, and in an awesome metal-fueled scene of mayhem, George kills the majority or maybe all of the demons. Then, the fucking ceiling breaks open and a helicopter falls into the theater. The pilot is a demon and George quickly kills it before using a grappling hook that was in the helicopter to pull him and Cheryl up onto the roof. Oh right! Phantom comes back when they’re on the roof and they kill him. This movie was pretty chaotic…I apologize for getting sidetracked so easily. George and Cheryl make it to the street and find that the demons have escaped the theater and wrecked havoc on the city. They get picked up by a family in a jeep who are really chill about the whole zombie apocalypse thing for some reason. They’re given guns to shoot any passing demons and take off into the night. In a sad turn of events, Cheryl becomes a demon and they shoot her and throw her out of the jeep.

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So I have several questions, but mostly “What the fuck?”. Why did they get invited to the theater and by who? Phantom didn’t seem to be the mastermind behind it. What mastermind hands out his own invitations, after all? How did they have enough time to case the building in brick before the movie started? Did the movie actually have anything to do with the demons? How did whoever put this together rely on someone just putting the mask on? Where the fuck did that helicopter come from and how did it collapse the roof of the building? Does the mask really have something to do with Nostradamus or is that just made up? Why does the motorcycle have gas and keys in it? Why does the helicopter have a grappling hook in it? Why were those punk teens part of the story? What exactly was the plan here? To turn the whole world into demons? Why? What the fuck is going on in this movie????

Now with all this said, I really enjoyed Demons. I  loved that it made very little sense. I loved the makeup and the music and the gore. I loved the simple characters and mediocre acting. Some of the shots were really cool, like the one I included above of the demons coming up the staircase. It’s definitely worth checking out, in my opinion.

The Babadook (2014)

I had several people recommend this one to me for a long while before I actually decided to sit down and watch it. I tend to be very hesitant to watch modern horror movies, as I have this perception that they heavily rely on jump scares and gore and not much plot. After seeing the Invitation, however, this started to change a bit. The Babadook only furthered this change, as it was not at all what I had imagined it to be and I’m really glad I gave it a shot.

I wouldn’t say that I loved the whole movie. In fact, I think that it kind of dragged in the first act and moved slower than a movie should in some ways. However, this is an incredibly well-done analogy for grief and depression. The way that it drags in the beginning even works for this metaphor and wonderfully captures what it feels like to be depressed. Everyone seems to be against our main character, Amelia, even her own son. People in her life who act kindly to her are pushed aside and the ones who are negative or unhelpful are amplified. This gives the audience a sort of second-degree isolation. There’s a particular emphasis on her sister, Claire, who is always talking about herself and is entirely unsympathetic to Amelia’s loss of her husband. Another focus is Sam, her son, who acts out, yells, makes weapons, and generally is a pain in the ass. Amelia is trying to keep her life in order while dealing with Sam’s misbehavior and coping with the death of her husband. The first act of the film serves to build this story and these characters and within the analogy of mental illness, it works perfectly. As a movie, it doesn’t work as well. Personally, I think that the scene of the state officials (they were like truant officers but it was in Australia so I’m not sure exactly what their position was) was unnecessary and I wish we got into the action with the Babadook a little earlier, but that’s just me.

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The Babadook itself was unbelievably cool and very spooky. I think that the idea of the story book was interesting, it kind of plays on the trope of saying a name that unleashes the monster or watching something that puts a curse on you while making it new and unique. I liked that we didn’t get to see every single page of the book. It was a rushed sequence as Amelia sort of fixated on how horrific it was while Sam is getting more and more scared. It was interesting how big of a focus the actual book was, how it turns up later after they burn it, the different pages that appear later on when Amelia reads it again, etc. We also get these strange tv segments that are like silent movie era clips. They slowly show the Babadook more and more in these trippy scenes. The actual appearance of the Babadook is a great blend of children’s book character and fucking terrifying. He takes a couple forms, in a way, but mostly he is in shadow and we only see his silhouette – top hat, hunch, and long claws.

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*spoilers?*

I wanna talk about Sam and the actor who plays him for a moment. His character was really intense and I was super impressed with the actor’s ability. For a child actor, he did an incredible job in an intense and demanding role. Sam screams, cries, sees things, and is violent as well as having very mature and emotional moments with Amelia. He tries to reason with her about the Babadook, begging her not to let it in. He sees the Babadook from the beginning and there are scenes where he is looking at it but there’s nothing there. His arch within the movie makes me think that maybe his behavior earlier in the film was exaggerated by Amelia’s mental illness and when she gets things under control by the end he seems less violent and more agreeable.

Quick aside: there’s this super cute moment almost during the climax (like, close to the climax but not yet) where their neighbor, this sweet old woman, comes over and tells Amelia that she loves Amelia and Sam and that she would do anything for them. To see this woman support Amelia when everyone else was kind of against her was so great.

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Another thing to note in this movie are some of the kinda fucked up scenes. Amelia pulls out her fuckin tooth while possessed by the Babadook. She kills the dog! It’s so fucking messed up. There’s also a scene where Sam has to tie Amelia down in their basement. (Which is awesome, btw, because he does a pretty shitty job of tying her up, which makes sense because he’s like 10). The Babadook itself has some pretty terrifying moments, skittering up walls and crawling places.

Overall I was pretty impressed with the narrative that this movie told. It took the traditional movie monster and curse and reinvented it, using its elements to tell a story about mental illness. The acting was superb, the images were scary but polished, and the story was captivating.

Sincerely,

Your Final Girl

P.S.: I’m gonna stop doing ratings out of a number, it’s too difficult to really capture the movie like that. I think you’ll understand how I feel about a movie after reading the review.