Friday, October 31, 2014

The Remake Comparison Project - Eat a Bowl of F--k, I'm Here to Party!


Jason and Freddy were too scared to watch Night of the Demons 1988 and 2009, but Cody and Priscilla braved through it for Remake Comparison's sake.


NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (1988)

When deciding what movies to watch for the October Remake Comparison, we knew the movies should have a connection to the Halloween holiday. Rather than go for the very obvious, Priscilla and I chose a pair that seemed like a much more fun option to both of us. We decided it was party time.

It's Halloween night and a goth teenager named Angela is hosting a party. Although Angela is considered weird by her high school peers and is rumored to practice witchcraft, her holiday celebration is an event that appeals to teens across the spectrum of types and cliques.

Attending this soirée will be Angela's boy-loving, makeup obsessed sidekick Suzanne, dressed in some sort of cutesy pink outfit; son of a preacher man Rodger, dressed as a pirate; party animal/punk rocker/slob Stooge, who adds a pig nose to his regular get-up; toga-sporting Helen; couple Max (dressed as a surgeon) and Frannie (as a mediocre Peter Pan); rich boy Jay, who's too good to wear a costume; Jay's new girlfriend Judy, dressed as Alice in Wonderland; and Judy's troublemaking ex (they went on one date) Sal, who still has a thing for her and finds out about the party at the last minute from Judy's bratty little brother, who he steals a mask from. Hostess Angela wears a black wedding dress.

It's his personal fashion sense, but Jay's clothes could double as a Miami Vice costume.

I can never guess what Suzanne is supposed to be dressed as. A doll? Hrm.

The film makes it clear to us that Judy is our heroine as soon as she is introduced, sweetly trying to help an elderly man who was just the victim of two pranks in a row. The youth-hating old jerk doesn't appreciate Judy's kindness, but she tried. Apparently she's a helper in general, because it's also mentioned that she took part in a benefit drive for the homeless.

When Stooge and his pals start picking on the old man, it makes me feel bad. Then, less than a minute later, I wish they'd have picked on him some more.


Good girl Judy is at first hesitant about going to the party and hanging around the likes of Angela. She was planning to go the high school Halloween dance, but Jay talks her into changing their plans, because who could possibly throw a better Halloween party than Angela? "It's like Christmas to her."

There is an odd step taken when the camera lingers on Judy getting ready to change into her costume while talking to Jay on the phone. There's a glimpse of her bare butt, then she's walking around in her bra. Come on, movie, don't creep on your innocent heroine! The scene is capped off by her brother jumping out of her closet to scare her and commenting that she has "bodacious boobies".

Her brother Billy is impossible. Not even their mom seems to be able to keep him under control.

It takes a while for the characters to reach Angela's party, nearly 20 minutes of the film's running time, with that time being spent establishing the characters and how they're connected to each other. The Judy/Jay/Sal triangle; Angela shoplifts snacks from a convenience store while Suzanne distracts the clerks with her skimpy skirt -

Speaking of creeps, Suzanne sure knows how to work them in her advantage!

- Rodger, Stooge, and Helen drive out to the party together.

Stooge questions why he's hanging out with Rodger and Helen, but the better question is, why would they ever want to hang out with him?

Why would anyone want to hang out with him? The guy's a nightmare. And the group as a whole doesn't seem to be very tight at all, since one group couldn't bother to offer some help when the others had a flat tire on the way to the party. It's weird that they'd want to hang out.


Everyone eventually gets to the venue, a place which is both off-putting and a draw, considering the date. The infamous Hull House, a crumbling mansion on the outskirts of town, right next to the cemetery.

A stunning bit of movie magic is how isolated the filmmakers were able to make Hull House seem, when the shooting location was in fact right in downtown Los Angeles, at the corner of a busy intersection. On the screen, it plays like the middle of nowhere.

Thanks to an old book Max once checked out of the local library, he knows a whole lot about Hull House and the land it sits on, and he's very willing to share his knowledge. Hull House used to be a funeral parlor, until one Halloween night the necrophiliac mortician and his family were butchered in a murder/suicide, the crime scene such a gory mess that authorities were never able to determine which of the corpses was also the killer.

The legends of horrible occurrences go back further than that, though, all the way back to the times of early settlers. The local Indian tribes wouldn't cross the underground stream that surrounds the property, believing the land to be unclean. Their fears were confirmed when a brave got lost in the area, crossed onto the bad land, and turned cannibal. In modern times, a brick wall was built over the top of the underground stream to mark it. It's said that evil spirits can't cross over running water, so if a person besieged by the evil that inhabits Hull House can manage to get over the wall and thus cross the stream, they will be safe.

Someone will have to do just that by the time this night is over.

The party starts off like any typical teenage gathering. The kids down alcohol, dance, and eat the shoplifted snacks.

The movie excellently captures the look and tone of a Halloween night in small town America during this first third or so, and thus is, in my opinion, one of the most perfect choices you can make for an October viewing.

It has the Halloween vibe at first, but I feel like it soon fades away. After a while, I have to remind myself that it's taking place on Halloween night.

Then, things take a turn for the supernaturally spooky when Angela suggests they hold a séance, a notion Frannie supports, saying they should have a past life séance. This involves the group sitting in front of a full-length mirror, staring into it until it clouds over black, and then within the mirror they'll see images of their past lives.

A full-length mirror just happens to be there in the house. I wonder if Angela knew it all along.

Most of the partiers don't take this seriously, which angers Angela, who takes it very seriously.

Angela doesn't hold back when showing she's annoyed, either. These people really are pretty awful to each other even before the horror kicks in.


The group stares into a mirror, it clouds over black, and then Sal breaks everyone's concentration with an exclamation of surprise at the fact that the mirror actually did cloud over. Everyone looks away... and while they're not looking, the face of a demon appears in the mirror. The only person who catches a glimpse of the demon is Helen, who is so scared by the sight that she accidentally causes the mirror to topple over and shatter.

Soon after the mirror breaks, banging sounds begin to emanate from the basement. These sounds are coming from inside the crematory chamber. The chamber door bursts open and an otherworldly P.O.V. races through the house, going upstairs, bringing with it a cold and a stench of the sort, according to Angela, that accompanies demonic infestation.


It may have been a fun idea to party in Hull House on Halloween night, but it wasn't a smart one. The legends are true, this land is inhabited by demonic spirits, and the house itself is possessed... Not haunted, possessed. And on Halloween, these spirits are able to roam free. Now that they're loose, they begin to wreak havoc on the youths who were foolish enough to come to Hull House on this night, tormenting, terrorizing, and murdering them, possesing their bodies to use in their homicidal fun and games.

Just as the possession starts, with Suzanne being the first to get possessed, the teens split up to do their own things, unknowingly making themselves easier prey.

Max, Frannie, Jay, and Judy go exploring around the house, looking for some privacy - as typical horny horror movie characters, Max and Frannie attempt to have sex in a coffin they find. Too scared to stay any longer, Rodger and Helen try to leave - but find that the gate has disappeared, there is no break in the brick wall for them to pass through.

Removing the gate is just one trick the property plays. In the house, lights switch on and off on their own, doors refuse to open, they lock and unlock at the whim of the house. The demonic spirits are in control of everything, which makes it very hard to be a person fighting for your life in Hull House.


The possessed act differently at different times. Sometimes they seem like their former selves, just slightly off-kilter. For a while, Suzanne's preoccupation with her looks is enhanced to a crazy degree, she can't get her looks right...

And what she does with her lipstick stays in the mind of everyone who watches this movie. 

Especially women, I guarantee!

Suzanne paints her face up, runs the lipstick down her chest, then sticks it into her breast through her nipple, the lipstick just disappearing into her boob.

I can clearly remember the first time I ever saw this scene, watching Night of the Demons as a young kid with my grandmother and mother in the room with me. That made it weird enough to be watching Suzanne draw on her breast with the lipstick, but then it got even weirder.

I didn't watch the movie back when it came out, so I have no idea what kind of impact that specific part would've had on me back then. But seeing it as an adult still made an impression. As I was watching it, I couldn't believe what was going on. It's just something you don't ever expect to see.


The demonic spirits also make the possessed act provocatively, most notably in the famous scene which features Angela doing a sexually-charged dance to "Stigmata Martyr" by Bauhaus.

Angela's dance is one my favorite moments in the movie. I always enjoy it when a movie takes time out for a dance sequence, and this one is accompanied by a cool goth rock song.

At other times, the possessed go through hideous transformations and become rampaging, zombie-like creatures that are just out for blood.

Characters also get possessed in different ways. The evil spirit enters Suzanne through her mouth, and she passes it on to Angela through a kiss, who passes it on to Stooge through a kiss. The other way people get possessed? They get murdered, and then their corpses rise as demons.

When Suzanne kisses Angela, the guys watching are completely weirded out. Their reaction, especially considering it was Sal and Stooge - and the latter is a total sleazeball - is refreshing. If that kind of thing happens in a movie these days, the guys are all "Alright!" like pervs. My oh my, how I miss the '80s.

Eventually, the characters are whittled down until Judy and Rodger are the only non-possessed teens left, struggling to survive until sunrise, when the evil spirits will be forced to return to the underworld.

I feel like they were the wrong two characters to survive. She is way too dramatic, and I don't know how much of that is about the acting and how much is the character, but it's way too over-the-top and it gets to be too much. Rodger was alright, but kind of a wimp, and things like saying he knows "how to pray real good" just make it hard to root for him. I do like that it's kind of unexpected that he'd be the final guy, but still...


A film in the tradition of the Evil Dead series, Night of the Demons is a very fun, gory, youth-oriented horror/comedy. That made it quite a change of pace for director Kevin S. Tenney, whose 1986 feature debut Witchboard had been serious and centered on adult characters with complicated personal lives. Written by first timer Joe Augustyn, Night of the Demons had a style very different than Tenney's previous work, being much more concerned with laughs and bloodshed than studying its characters. 

There isn't much to study about the characters, that's really not meant to be a thing here, and it isn't. Some things are a little off, like how hard of a time the demons have getting doors to open and how slow they are. Are they demons or zombies?

Those are some of the things that make me like it a little less than most people probably do, but it does have good aspects as well, and I have a nice time watching it. 

Tenney was certain that it was going to be the end of his career, not trusting that this sort of movie would go over well with the public. Instead, the public ate it up. Night of the Demons was a big hit, quickly developing a fan base and going on to be considered one of the genre classics of the '80s.

It has its flaws, but its success is understandable. It has some cool looking demons, some nice settings, and a fun story.

As delivered by a cast that includes Amelia Kinkade as Angela, Cathy Podewell as Judy, scream queen Linnea Quigley as Suzanne, and show-stealing Hal Havins as Stooge, Augustyn's lines bring the laughs. The scenarios he put their characters through effectively bring the horror.

The acting is pretty bad, even for this type of movie. It's just way too intense, and it becomes distracting sometimes. Podewell is awful... bitchy, whiny, extremely needy and annoying, and she delivers her lines like a spoiled little kid. "Rodge, Rodge!" "Jaaay!". It really gets to me. And even though I like Linnea Quigley, I feel like she was only there for her butt and boobs, and no one bothered to give her proper direction. It's my least favorite aspect of the movie, by far.


Working with cinematographer David Lewis, Tenney made a fantastic looking film, a movie that he believes is the best looking one he's ever made. The tone and style of it allowed them to work in some great camera movements and tricks; sweeping crane shots, Steadicam, 360s, a scene that plays on the reflection of characters in the shattered mirror glass on the floor. Tenney was unleashed, and the result is impressive.

One scene where it looks like Angela is flying through the halls always stands out to me. It's really well done. Same goes for Suzanne making a makeup bag out of her breast. It looks so real that it's cringe-worthy.

The movie's Halloween spookshow perfection begins at the same moment the film does, when the synth-heavy rock score composed by Dennis Michael Tenney kicks in and starts playing over an animated title sequence full of pumpkins, cemeteries, winged demons, skeleton creatures, dark clouds, and lightning.

I love the animated opening. It's very cool and fitting, and the score/soundtrack is a big plus.


As if the demon action wasn't enough, there's also an anthology-esque wraparound involving the pranked old man Judy tries to help early on. This old creep hates kids so much that he plans to bring to life a Halloween urban legend and hand out apples with razor blades inside them to trick-or-treaters. In true anthology fashion, the old man's evil scheme turns out to be his own demise.

It's one of my favorite things about the movie. What comes next is very surprising.

The old man's comeuppance is incredible.

I did not see that one coming. I only watched Night of the Demons for the first time less than a decade ago, and I remember how cool I thought that scene was. Perfect.

More than twenty-five years after its initial release, Night of the Demons still holds up as a great entry in the horror genre, and one that is well worth watching every Halloween season.

It's definitely a fun movie to watch, and it's one that I like a little more every time I do so. At first it wasn't something that I saw myself watching repeatedly, but now I feel like watching it at least once a year. I kind of wish it felt more like Halloween throughout, but it's an enjoyable experience.



NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (2009)

The Night of the Demons remake moves the setting to New Orleans, and opens at the Broussard mansion in 1925. Some out-of-context flashes of demonic faces lead into a scene of a woman named Evangeline running out onto a balcony, wrapping a noose around her neck and tying the rope to the railing. She steps up onto the railing, and despite the efforts of a man named Louis to talk her down, Evangeline jumps. The rope snaps her neck so violently that she's decapitated, her head rolling down the front steps...

This scene is presented as though it were a scene from a silent film actually made in 1925, which is a nice stylistic touch.

I like the way the scene feels, and like all of the flashbacks to the past, it looks very cool. Even the actors look like they could be in the '20s.

Jump ahead to October 31st, 2010. Facing eviction from her apartment if she doesn't come up with some quick cash, a New Orleans-based party promoter named Angela Feld is hosting a Halloween party at the Broussard mansion.

Among the many people who come to Angela's party are Suzanne, an old friend of Angela's who used to sneak into the mansion with her all the time; Lily, who is dressed as a sexy cat, which is the same type of costume Suzanne is wearing; and their friend Maddie, who has gotten into the horror roots of Halloween and dressed as a...

I'm not sure what Maddie is supposed to be. A zombie? A victim of a violent crime? 

Not a zombie. Probably someone gone mad or something. It's not great, and it's still meant to show some skin, but not as slutty as her pussycat friends. Suzanne's costume is so tight, nipples, veins and stuff are about to pop out any second.

Whatever Maddie is, her clothes are ripped and she has spots of dirt and blood on her.

Funnily, the blood on Maddie's face disappears sometime in the movie, but the rest of her makeup doesn't.

Lily's ex-boyfriend Dex, who she still has a thing for, also shows up at the party, appearing to be dressed as a club kid, along with his pal Jason, who wears the costume of a surgeon who has been stabbed with a pair of scissors.

Like its predecessor, the movie takes time to introduce its characters before they get to the party. The girls chat about costumes, waxing, and Suzanne's history with Angela. Jason is seen policing his neighborhood with a paintball gun, making sure trick-or-treaters properly abide by tradition.

Night of the Demons '88 actress Linnea Quigley cameos, wearing the same costume she wore in the original movie, as a woman handing out candy to trick-or-treaters. Once again, Quigley provides a butt/panty shot, but this time the people who see it aren't horny store clerks, but two little girls... Which is rather inappropriate.

She exposes her butt to two little girls who seem to enjoy seeing it. I don't get it, it looks and feels so weird and out of place. It's a total waste of a cameo. 

Angela isn't the only character hurting for cash. Also introduced is Maddie's drug dealing ex Colin, who is in deep trouble with Nigel, the club owner/criminal kingpin he works for and gives a cut of his profits to. Colin hasn't been bringing in enough money lately, so now Nigel is demanding double the amount Colin would usually give him.


The scene with Nigel is like something out of a Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels rip-off. A Russian female bodyguard sticking a gun to Colin's head, trashy Brit Nigel getting a blowjob all through their conversation. I really could have done without all of that.

That is another scene that is useless and out of place.

Colin goes to Angela's party, sans costume, because he needs to sell a whole lot of drugs within the next twenty-four hours.

I have no idea what made Angela think she'd actually be making money from the party. Between her business partner (or should we call her "the thief"), sound and lighting equipment, decorations, rent and open bar, there is no way she'd even make all that money back by charging $10 a person.

I think that Angela was broke because she was really bad with money.

The party this time around is a huge event with booming music, copious amounts of alcohol, dancing, and people so into their public displays of affection that they're nearly humping right in front of everybody.

Would I have gone to Angela '88's party? Maybe, I went to some things like that in my high school days. Would I go to Angela Feld's event? No way.

I would have gone to either one, or both, back when I was a teenager. Now, I'm really not into big crowds at all. I wasn't sure how I felt about the huge party setting, but since they find themselves alone not long after it starts, I guess it works.

While the party is raging, Maddie has a strange experience in a bathroom - a demonic hand busts through the mirror and grabs her. She escapes, thinking it was just something set up by Angela. But when she tries to show the mirror trick to Suzanne, it's as if nothing ever happened. The mirror is still intact.

At this point, there have been hints that there was some kind of demonic activity going on at the mansion in 1925, but we really know nothing about it, so it feels a bit too early for a "demonic hand" scare. At least, it's too early for it to be effective.

It probably works as a jump scare, not much else.

Maybe if the girls had spent some time setting up the mansion's history instead of talking about their "pink parts"...

Neither Colin nor Angela end up getting the money they need, because the cops shut the party down soon after it starts. Angela rented the venue, but she didn't get a party permit, and this soirée doesn't count as a private party because she was charging admission. Never mind that her business partner ran off with all the money when the cops arrived.

Soon, the mansion has emptied out, only seven people remaining inside its walls - Angela; Maddie, Lily, Dex, and Jason, who had to stick around to find where the hard-drinking Suzanne passed out; and Colin, who needs to go into the basement to retrieve the drugs he tossed down a vent when he saw the cops.

While Colin and Angela search the basement for his stash, they discover a hidden room, in which six decomposed corpses lie on the dirt floor. This discovery leads to the history of the Broussard mansion being fully revealed.


In 1925, Evangeline Broussard fell in love with Louis, who didn't reciprocate her feelings. Seeking to win his heart with a love spell, Evangeline delved deeply into magic, witchcraft, and voodoo, eventually making contact with evil spirits who told her to invite six people, including the man she loved, to her home on Halloween to perform a séance, and by the end of this séance Louis would be hers.

Things didn't turn out the way Evangeline had hoped. Before dawn on November 1st, she had hanged herself and her six party guests were missing, never to be seen again. The only person left alive in the mansion was the maid, who had gone mad and was found writing symbols and spells all over the walls of an upstairs room.

85 years later, the corpses of Evangeline's guests have finally been found. Spotting a gold tooth in one of the corpse's mouths, Angela reaches out for it... and the corpse, which is almost nothing but a skeleton now, bites her hand. Through this bite, Angela becomes possessed by a demonic entity.


When the group goes to leave, they find that the property gate has been shut and locked, and they can't figure out how to get it opened again or any way over the stone wall. They're stuck in the Broussard mansion for the night... and the first idea this group of adults has for how to pass the time is to play spin the bottle.

And here we go... just like I mentioned before, the guys love the girl-on-girl action. They're total creeps reacting to two girls kissing. Only here we have two guys kiss as well. That's pretty funny, and fair.

A spin of the bottle causes Angela to kiss Dex, and the possession begins to spread.

The '88 film showed us that you should never kiss a possessed person.

Things go terribly, horrifically wrong from there, as members of the group continue getting possessed one-by-one, demonic spirits entering their bodies through kisses and bites and then transforming them into hideous beasts.

 

Once the demon action really comes into display, the movie starts going deep into grossout territory. A bit too far for my liking. Lily is possessed when Dex demons out while taking her from behind and slips into another hole with no lube. Demonic anal sex, vaginal blood, tentacles, worms... It's really disgusting.

I suppose they wanted some shocking moments, like the makeup bag boob in the original, but it goes too far, and instead of shocking, it's just nasty.


Although director Adam Gierasch and his co-writer/wife Jace Anderson crafted a completely new back story for their variation on the Joe Augustyn/Kevin S. Tenney "trapped in a house with demons" concept, they do work in several homages to the 1988 original, including naming the party hostess Angela and dressing her in a similar black outfit. The name Suzanne also comes from the first movie, but the character is quite different.

I'm just so glad there was no Judy in the remake, that's one character who should never ever be part of any movie. One was already too much.

Like the original Angela, this film's Angela gets to do a little dancing, but the dance Angela '09 performs to a song by Type O Negative isn't nearly as awesome as the dance actress Amelia Kinkade did to Bauhaus in '88.

I like the style of this dance scene, and the fact that they start levitating after a while. It looks great.

The Lily character performs a twist on the original's infamous "disappearing lipstick" gag, and makes it even more gag-worthy by having the lipstick reappear from somewhere else.

It doesn't look as good and it's nowhere near as effective, not to mention the way it ends, which is extremely gross. They should've skipped this one altogether.

Eventually the human cast is whittled down to just Maddie, Colin, and Jason, who realize they must fight to survive until dawn not just for themselves, but for the fate of the world. The demons they're dealing with are hardcore evil, so bad that they even tried to overthrow Satan himself and take over Hell, an unsuccessful coup that led to them being bound and cast out of the land of eternal damnation. If the demons can manage to possess seven people over the course of one Halloween, they will be free. But surviving until dawn and saving the world will require quite a struggle.


Luckily, Maddie just happens to able to decipher the secrets of the demons very easily. She's played by Freddy vs. Jason heroine Monica Keena, and filmmakers seem to love handing her ridiculous lines. "Freddy died by fire, Jason by water, how can we use that?" "Demons are made out of ancient elements, iron's an ancient element, rust corrupts it..."

And I thought it couldn't get any worse than the infamous Freddy vs. Jason line... I was wrong. Though I think she does a better job overall in this movie.

Gierasch's Night of the Demons remake is a decent gory creature feature, although the tone and style of it doesn't appeal to me nearly as much as Tenney's goth rock spookshow approach to the original did. While Tenney's film was able to capture the atmosphere of a Halloween night, at least for some of the running time, the update doesn't have that, it just has a vulgar sense of humor and lots of repugnant visuals.

The movie isn't awful, but something just doesn't work. I don't know if they were trying too hard or what, but it feels off to me. It does have some creepy looking demons, and some nice jump scares, but I can't really define what the problem is. It certainly doesn't have the same tone as the original.

Their makeup is cool, but the demons themselves are kind of lackluster in this and the scenarios involving them aren't all that great. I've watched Night of the Demons '09 a few times now, and still nothing about the demon attacks have stuck with me as being particularly memorable. I also didn't like the choice of putting songs over attack sequences.

One of the biggest problems I have with the remake is that after the 60 minute mark, it drags quite a bit. The change of pace is palpable. Once Maddie, Colin and Jason get in the bedroom upstairs with the protective spells written on the walls, it just takes forever to unfold. And when blood starts running down the walls, they'll use their clothes to stop it from covering the spells, but not the bed sheet? Hrm.


I do enjoy the cast, which includes the aforementioned Keena, Shannon Elizabeth as Angela, Laid to Rest's Bobbie Sue Luther as Suzanne, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning's Diora Baird as Lily, and John F. Beach as Jason... The exception is Edward Furlong as Colin. I've always found Furlong to have a very off-putting screen presence. Thanks for nothing, James Cameron.

The acting is pretty decent, and certainly better than what we got in the original. Furlong is not bad, but the way he looks and sounds is just very bleak. He looks like trouble though, and when Maddie was telling Suzanne all the reasons why she dated Colin, it seemed to me like that's actually Keena trying to explain why she is or was romantically involved with Furlong.

Night of the Demons '09 is no Night of the Demons '88. It's a mediocre variation on the set-up, but it's not bad. If you're in the mood to watch something involving rampaging monsters terrorizing people trapped in one location, it fits the bill, but it's definitely not a movie I would enthusiastically recommend and not one I have the urge to rewatch.

It's just hard to compare the two movies. Even though there are similarities, they each have a completely different tone and approach. I don't hate the remake, and I feel like I need to watch it more times, since I've only done so twice, but it's not a great movie. I do remember being very shocked when it seemed like there were no survivors, when I watched it for the first time, and what happened next was a nice "twist", but other than that, there just isn't a lot that I remember. It doesn't have a lot going for it.

 

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