Sunday, March 6, 2011

Cage Match Review: Night of the Demons (2009) vs. Night of the Demons (1988)

Welcome back to the octagon, friends!

It's been quite awhile since our last battle. But, make no mistake...this one will be just as bloody as when we last met. Now...I'm sure you remember the rules...but, for the uninitiated....the two films must be similar in comparison. Perhaps they share the same actor, perhaps the same premise, maybe similar astrological signs...whatever. Once the similarities are determined then, it is the ultimate duel to the death in our little blood-stained Cage Match.

Today, we'll be taking a look at the tired category of the remake. One film was made back in 1988 in a time when the genre was a bit more genuine and film ideas were a little more original. Fast forward over two decades later to 2009 and you'll see that someone decided to update the original to satisfy a more modern audience. Did they succeed? Well....let us see for ourselves as we bring out both combatants for this brutal review to end all disputes.

And remember.....

There can be...only one!




The first competitor making its way to the arena is...



Night of the Demons (1988)

I remember first renting this film from West Coast Video when I was a kid back when it was distributed by Republic Pictures on VHS. It was such an innocent time when you actually had to purchase a race car shaped rewinder so that you could instantly watch your next video while you rewound the first one in order to avoid the rewind fee. It was a time when Linnea Quigley was incredifuckably hot and her films were merely an excuse to display her fleshy talents. Best of all....it was a time devoid of anything computer related in terms of special F/X and we were treated to good ole' fashioned down home prosthetic latex and fake blood. A cult classic was born.

Night of the Demons thrashed across our screens in ways we've never seen before coming from an American film. Lipstick was looked at differently and the sub genre of demonic possession in films breathed some new life.


The premise is simple. A Halloween party at an old abandoned funeral home. Some teenagers....some female nudity...and some demons. That's about it. Although there were many films that depicted blood-thirsty demons running around at the time, director Kevin Tenney made this his own. His direction lends a certain style that has made the film somewhat iconic within the sub genre. While other films with the same premise are much superior (Lamberto Bava's Demons) it's a film that still stands the test of time and will forever go down as a horror classic.

I recently watched the film in preparation for this death match and was still completely absorbed by its atmosphere. The smoky darkness and the teenage comedy-like pacing help contribute to the film's stark contrast between calm and frantic...an important aspect when watching the film as in moments of complete nervous comfort are broken up by the malevolent demonic frenzy. There's one scene towards the beginning when the character of Angela, played with an intoxicating darkness by Amelia Kinkade, dances in a hypnotic strobe-light as she is overtaken by a demonic force. It's both serene and chaotic all at once and illustrates the perfect balance within those two elements in this classic film. There's even a little side plot about a stingy old man and the classic razor blade in the apple gimmick.


I love this film.







The next film ready to do battle is the remake version...


Night of the Demons (2009)

Unfortunately....this one never had a theatrical run as it was pushed back several times...so, it immediately suffered from low expectations before you even had a chance to crack open the DVD cover. However, once you sit down to watch the film you are treated to a production value that tries its best to disguise the fact that it was dumped off to DVD release. It isn't a bad remake. As a matter of fact...it isn't a bad film.


This incarnation of Night of the Demons is actually a decent excuse to argue the validation of the remake film because it is genuine to the original. Hell.....even Linnea Quigley shows up in a hilarious nod to her introduction scene in the original. This film knows what it is....and I really liked that about it. I also liked how it attempted to be something a little different from the first one.....even though it fell a bit short in execution, I appreciated the intention. Most remakes today don't even bother with the importance of respecting the source material and trying to make something a little different. They're more interested in whoring out the iconic elements of the original without any kind of attempt at making something unique, which always comes across hollow and insincere in the finished product. At least this remake tried.

While Edward Furlong is certainly looking like he should be in someone's dead pool...he does show off some of the acting abilities that has kept him in the game for a while. I can definitely see him making a comeback in the hands of a capable director down the road. I also liked Shannon Elizabeth and Monica Keena (you may know her from Freddy vs. Jason) in their respective roles. Adam Gierasch, who incidentally wrote Hooper's Toolbox Murders and Argento's Mother of Tears, does a good job of maintaining a better than average atmosphere with his directing.


Overall...it's a nice solid attempt at recapturing the spirit of the original.



The Results:

Hot Female Factor: Both films exhibit a decent measure of gratuitous female nudity and while I appreciate the remake's intentions of taking the lipstick scene to a new level...it ultimately fell short in tone and shock value. The first film has ultimate scream queen, Linnea Quigley, the innocent Cathy Podewell as well as underrated hottie Amelia Kinkade and Jill "I don't bend that way" Terashita. The remake has Diora Baird, Shannon Elizabeth, Bobbi Sue Luther and Monica Keena. This one's a tough call...winning by a very slight edge. Winner: Night of the Demons (1988)

Gore: Both incarnations display a scrumptious amount of blood and gore. However, there is one clear difference here that truly determines the overall winner....and that is CGI...or lack there of. While the remake has its good share of gore, there's also a good share of CGI gore...which is never a good thing. The original was made in a time when special F/X called for some good ole' fashioned prosthetic latex and buckets of fake blood...and there's something to admire in that. Winner: Night of the Demons (1988)

Acting: Unfortunately this is the one category that doesn't really fit in with these kind of films. It's more an excuse to capture blood, guts and titties on film. A kind of exploitation film for both generations....so, acting never really plays into both versions. However, having said all of that....Edward Furlong is actually pretty good....and Monica Keena does her thing. So, while you're not really looking for Oscar-worthy material in these films, it certainly is a nice surprise to see an actor doing a little more than just reading lines in your horror movie. Winner: Night of the Demons (2009)

Film Quality: Much can be said for the remake in this category. The film has an impressive soundtrack and actually looks really good for a low-budget remake. It doesn't really have the gloss of a Platinum Dunes remake....but, I liked the overall look of the Night of the Demons remake. The original 1988 version has that cheesy 80's look...which isn't bad in that throwback sense...but, technically it doesn't look as nice as the remake. Winner: Night of the Demons (2009)


Overall Winner: As a stand alone film, Night of the Demons (2009) is a solid foray into mindless demonic possessing fun that is usually reserved for a late night viewing equipped with a bowl of popcorn. As a remake of an 80's horror classic, Night of the Demons (2009) falls extremely short of the cinematic charm and straight-faced cheesy awesomeness that flowed so effortlessly in the original.


Night of the Demons (1988) gets a final score of 8.0 out of 10.

Night of the Demons (2009) gets a final score of 6.9 out of 10.


Winner by blood-drenched decision: Night of the Demons (1988)



Thanks for reading,

bryan.

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