Continuing my journey into late Lucio Fulci releases that I started on Cultsploitation with my review of Aenigma, today I look at the Severin Films Blu-ray release of Demonia. Released in 1990, Demonia is one of Fulci’s last films he would direct before his untimely death in 1996.
Demonia sees a Canadian(!) archaeologist named Liza (played by the beautiful Meg Register) heading to Sicily with her colleague Paul Evans (Brett Halsey from The Devil’s Honey) to uncover some ruins, but Liza is told by Evans not to look at any other point in history as that’s just a waste of time (seems counterintuitive but what do I know, I’m no archaeologist). Of course, this wouldn’t be a horror film without Liza not heeding the warnings from pretty much every single person in this flick and she heads into the creepy monastery where a bunch of Satan-worshipping nuns were strung up and crucified many years ago. Liza finds the skeletal remains of the nuns and somehow unleashes their spirits, who proceed to run amok and kill all sorts of people in various gruesome ways.
Demonia is the kind of film that has all sorts of stuff happening, yet still feels like a drag. With a runtime of 88-minutes, I found myself looking at the clock waiting for the film to start getting good. There are moments of typical Fulci brilliance, with a couple of fantastic-looking kills where the practical effects shine. However, for every gnarly tongue nailing, we get two fake cats being thrown at an obvious fake head. You have to ask yourself how they thought some of these close-up shots of the effects were okay to keep in the film. Some of the blame can be placed on the editing, as it is mentioned in one of the special features that Fulci had no hand in it and a lot of the practical effects were poorly edited together. Whether that is entirely true is up in the air, but Fulci isn’t usually known for poor practical effects, so I assume there is some truth to the matter.
Another issue with Demonia is the ending, or shall I say lack of an ending. In what can only be described as completely nonsensical, the film throws all sorts of random scenes at the viewer that when pieced together don’t work as a coherent story. Our main gal Liza may or may not be possessed. The nuns may or may not be getting revenge on the townsfolk who murdered them, as they spend more time killing people that aren’t even connected to their past plight. A boy is kidnapped for no reason, only to be let go so he can witness a practical effect that manages to be both poor and great looking. Also, not related to the ending, but what is up with the campfire sing-alongs in this movie? They happen twice and run for a few minutes each; it’s obvious that it’s just one long scene broken up into two. Unless everyone just brought one pair of clothes? Yeah…that’s probably it.
Severin Films has restored Demonia using a newly discovered original camera negative which was found in a Collevecchio convent. Scanned in 4K, the results are quite nice. There is still some damage and debris here and there, but I never noticed any compression issues. I did notice a weird visual oddity that appears during some scenes. It looks like they shot the camera through a screen door. I assume this is something that was in all releases and not a problem with the transfer.
The Blu-ray offers both English and Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Like usual with most of these Italian gems, I chose to watch the film in English, which is of course dubbed. The main two actors were speaking English so their mouths tend to match up quite nicely with the dubbed audio. Other Italian actors don’t fare as well, which just makes the experience that much more enjoyable. English subtitles are included for the Italian track along with English SDH subtitles.
Extra features include a 33-minute Skype conversation with uncredited co-writer/assistant director Antonio Tentori. He discusses working with Lucio Fulci throughout the years and what it was like working on the low budgeted Demonia. The next feature is a 15-minute interview with camera operator Sandro Grossi who gushes over Fulci and how he knew all the little intricacies of making a film. Although, I do have to point out I don’t entirely agree with him when it comes to camera work, especially in regards to Demonia, as a lot of shots are out of focus. Next is an on set interview with Fulci shot during the setup for the quartering scene (4-minutes). He discusses a bit about Zombie and hardly anything about Demonia. Rounding out the features is a trailer that manages to spoil all the kill scenes in 1 minute (an impressive feat), and an audio commentary with Stephen Thrower.
NEW Holy Demons: Interview with uncredited Co-Writer/Assistant Director Antonio Tentori (HD-ish; 33:17)
Fulci Lives: Interview with Lucio Fulci on set of DEMONIA (unrestored HD; 4:29)
NEW Of Skulls and Bones: Interview with camera operator Sandro Grossi (HD; 14:59)
NEW Audio Commentary with Stephen Thrower, Author of Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci
Original Trailer (HD; 1:05)
Although this film is hailed as his last great movie, there are a lot of problems that make it a hard recommend. Sure, we get some cool special effects (albeit very poor-looking at times) and some naked nuns; very nice-looking all the time. Still, the film drags on, and the nonsensical ending will leave you scratching your head. Do I suggest buying it? Well, if you’re a completionist and want all of Fulci’s films on Blu-ray, Severn Films’ release is a great value. Everyone else might want to check out the movie before plunking down the change.