Release Date(s)1990 (August 25, 2020)
Studio(s)Lanterna Editrice/A.M. Trading International (Severin Films)
- Film/Program Grade: C-
- Video Grade: B-
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: B-
Many consider the last several films in Lucio Fulci’s career to be the “last great Fulci film.” The truth is, the Italian filmmaking veteran made a range of mediocre but still quite watchable films at that time, some better than others. Demonia is certainly one of the more interesting titles in that it feels like a successor to The Beyond in some ways, but at the same time, can’t quite manage to be nearly as entertaining or as effective. Certain set pieces stand out, but you’re more or less sitting around for ninety minutes waiting for the characters to get to the inevitable.
Things aren’t all bad though. It’s nice to see Fulci as a police detective attempting to put together what’s going on. His typical cameos tend to be only one or two scenes, but in this instance, he winds up being a memorable character. I personally would have liked to have seen a film specifically about this detective solving a series of murders in this small town. It certainly would have been more appealing than a generic tale about a woman mysteriously drawn to something evil. The performances are generally lackluster and there are sporadic moments of intense gory violence, but nothing on par with anything from Fucli’s heyday. Regardless, Demonia is still worth having a look at. It’s not a terrible film at all, but there’s nothing here that we haven’t seen before, and in Fulci’s work, seeing things you’ve never seen before is part of what makes it appealing.
Several centuries before, the villagers of a small town crucified and torched a group of nuns who had been carrying out witchcraft activities. In modern day, a group of archaeologists have come to investigate ruins nearby where those events took place. One of them, Liza (Meg Register), finds herself dreaming of the past and drawn to what lies beneath the ruins. Her former professor, Paul (Bretty Halsey), warns her not to trespass there, as do the local villagers. Meanwhile, a mysterious force is brutally killing both the villagers and the newly-arrived archaeologists, and Police Inspector Carter (Lucio Fulci) is investigating. Liza continues to resist the call of these haunted ruins, but she must soon face whatever ghostly forces are waiting for her there.
Demonia was shot by cinematographer Luigi Ciccarese on 35 mm film with Arriflex 35 cameras, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.66:1. Severin Films brings the film to Blu-ray from was it purported to be a 4K scan of the original camera negative. Although it’s an organic presentation, detail and grain are severely lacking. The film is very soft with a diffused look the majority of the time, especially during the dream sequences, and some shots appear to be too dark. Contrast is otherwise fine. The limited color palette is strong with excellent uses of blue lighting gels and occasionally spilled crimson. Flesh tones also look nice. Blacks are deep with some crush, and minor delineation issues crop up from time to time, but it’s an otherwise decent presentation.
Audio is presented in English and Italian 2.0 Mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional English subtitles. The English audio sounds more natural with sound effects and ambience that blends well together. The Italian audio is more pronounced, particularly dialogue and sound effects, which are far brighter in the mix. Your mileage may vary on this one.
The Blu-ray disc of Demonia sits in a black amaray case with new artwork on the inner sleeve. It was also available at the Severin Films website with a limited slipcover, which also featured new artwork. The following extras are included on the disc itself:
- Audio Commentary with Stephen Thrower
- Holy Demons (HD – 33:17)
- Of Skulls and Bones (HD – 14:59)
- Fulci Lives (Upscaled SD – 4:29)
- Trailer (HD – 1:05)
Author Stephen Thrower provides an audio commentary, analyzing the film with his knowledge and occasional sardonic wit. He talks about the cast and crew and the production of the film, in detail. He also compares the film to Fulci’s other works, most prominently The Beyond, and discusses the decline of Italian exploitation. There are a few quiet passages, but as per usual, he’s a font of information. In Holy Demons, uncredited screenwriter and assistant director Antonio Tentori is interviewed in which he discusses his previous exposure to Fulci’s work, interviewing him for radio, collaborating with him, allusions to his other films, the actors, cameos, other crew members, the special effects, post production, and his thoughts on the final film. In Of Skulls and Bones, camera operator Sandro Grossi talks about his upbringing and education, meeting and working Fulci, shooting the film, and fond memories of Fulci. Fulci Lives is a vintage interview with the director, as well as behind-the-scenes footage during the making of the film. The trailer is an HD recreation.
Demonia is one of those films that’s recommended for those who want to see all of what Italian horror has to offer, even the lesser efforts made long after the genre had run its course. Unavailable on Blu-ray until now, Severin Films provides a decent presentation and good bonus materials to back it up.
- Tim Salmons