Like many of my fellow rudderless wastrels, when I’m not sleeping or out trying to earn a crust, I spend quite a lot of my time playing in a rock band. In fact, the fetid cliché of the bedsit-dwelling, beer-swilling headbanger fits me so well it might as well be one of my old socks, and I can think of few more pleasurable ways of spending 90 minutes than being pummelled by power-chords, double kick-drums and machine-gun vocals. Somewhat tragically, rock ‘n’ roll means far more to me than God ‘n’ country.
So just imagine how happy I was to switch on my DVD player the other night and discover that Lamberto Bava’s mid-80s Italian monster-fest, Demons, boasts one of the most horns-raising soundtracks I’ve ever heard. It’s wall-to-wall 1980s heavy metal of the type best described as “kick-ass”.
Motley Crue, Pretty Things, Saxon – they’re all here, blasting away in the background as a bunch of rubber-faced monsters (and rubber-faced actors, too, come to that) tear each other limb from limb in a glorious orgy of outrageous bloodshed.
Oh, and don’t think me some kind of gore-crazed sicko for saying that with such a smile. Rest assured, Demons is so shoddily made it could be an unwanted stepsister to Umberto Lenzi’s Nightmare City, a film whose monsters are so preposterous they look like Ribena’s Pure Blackcurrants after a car accident. It’s difficult to take such films at all seriously.
But anyway, this soundtrack. Hair metal’s all too readily derided these days, when in reality it’s the philosopher’s stone of musical alchemy. Pop knack, big riffs and production wizardry are the ingredients and what a chemical marriage they make. OK, so it’s not Bob Dylan. It’s not Ennio Morricone either but – sod it, this is my column – as far as I’m concerned, filling an otherwise dodgy horror film with glorious, life-affirming rawk is a masterstroke.
Though that said, if you’re not a fan of trashy heavy metal or tomato ketchup-gore, you probably won’t stay the course with Demons. My girlfriend, who’s more of a Bon Jovi than a Slave Raider kind of gal, turned to me 40 minutes into the film, a look of despair in her eyes, and sobbed, “Why, why, why is this so bad?”
Why indeed? Well, the film’s plot would barely take up the back of the proverbial fag packet: a bunch of stock characters watching a horror film in a cinema fall prey to a curse, mutate into vampire-like Demons, and rip each other apart for no good reason over the course of an hour and a half.
And it’s staggeringly poorly acted, too, though as Donato Totaro points out in Eaten Alive, Bobby Rhodes, who plays Tony the Pimp, is superb. He’s got the classic blaxploitation hero down so well that his performance is like watching Fred Williamson starring in a biopic of Isaac Hayes. Thoroughly badass, one might say. But other characters just stand around with gaping, suppurating wounds, mumbling, “I’m scared” and looking more wooden than the Cutty Sark.
Mind you, that’s all part of the fun, isn’t it? And what fun it is, with the ridiculous carnage and screaming soundtrack building and building until the climax, where we witness a man riding a motorbike up and down the aisles of a cinema, wielding a scimitar, and beheading an endless stream of Demons to the foot-stomping strains of Fast as a Shark by Accept. Bava, the director, doesn’t need to top this moment for spectacle, but he does so by crashing a helicopter through the roof of the multiplex, bringing the film to its conclusion. Genius? Not really, but certainly satisfying.
You might be surprised to hear that Demons was produced by the legendary Dario Argento, who really should have known better. Though I hear he made a pile of cash from this shining pile of beer ‘n’ pizza schlock, so who am I to judge? He got £2.99 out of my wallet for it at any rate.
So. Demons. It’s not high art, but then who needs high art when you’ve got rock ‘n’ roll? If you can get your hands on it, crank it up. Dude.