When you think about movies that aren’t totally terrible candidates for a remake, you wouldn’t be unwise to tap into the vast sea of limited-release and direct-to-video horror flicks that came out in the late ’80s and ’90s. A lot of these low-budget movies had interesting premises or clever twists but suffered from low production values, bad acting, or side effects of the mountains of cocaine that surrounded the greater Los Angeles area from about 1975 to 1994.
One of these movies is the 1988 non-classic Night of the Demons, a campy, surreal take on the demonic possession subgenre that threw sex, Halloween, funeral parlors, teenage bitchery, and one well-placed tube of lipstick against a wall and waited to see what stuck. The flick was fun but underseen, so why not remake it with updated effects and a contemporary attitude?
Just watch the remake and you’ll see why not.
Unfortunately, the new Night of the Demons just misses the mark when it comes to either making improvement to or even simply capturing the wacko spirit of the beloved original film.
The basic premise is pretty much the same: A wacky goth-adjacent girl named Angela has a party in a creepy old house (in the original it was a funeral home, here it’s just some big old mansion, from what I could tell) and soon enough the partygoers get possessed by – you guessed it – A COMET!
Sorry – that’s Night of the Comet. No, it’s definitely demons.
Anyway, in this version of the tale Angela is played by Shannon Elizabeth, the chick from American Pie, Scary Movie, Cursed, and other stuff. I don’t know why, exactly, but I’ve always been rooting for Shannon to be taken seriously and break out as a legit starlet. Sadly, this is not her ticket to the A-list.
Central among the assorted partygoers is Maddie, played by Monica Keena. I similarly used to hold high hopes for Keena, as she appeared in some awesome stuff early in her career (Undeclared, Ripe, Snow White: A Tale of Terror, Dawson’s DON’T YOU JUDGE ME Creek). She also notably fended off both Freddy AND Jason solely with the power of her exposed cleavage, but I’d rather not get into that.
Along for the ride with Maddie are a few easily-forgotten bimbo-types in competing “sexy cat” costumes (which they at least have the decency to take a potshot at), a few bumbling potential date-rapists, and DEAR GOD WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED TO EDWARD FURLONG??
I’m sorry. I know Edward – like many folks inside Hollywood and out – has been through some shit. I don’t mean to draw undue attention to him strictly based on his physical appearance, so I’ll just say that The Kid from Terminator 2 has certainly grown up … and out.
Once shit breaks loose (there’s a voodoo curse on a bunch of skeletons in the basement; Edward Furlong will be killed by a blowjob-happy drug lord if he doesn’t sell a mule-load of drugs at the party; chicks in slutty costumes get slutty) you’d expect that the movie would really take off … but unfortunately after about 45 minutes the movie dies on the vine. Though it has some of the best makeup effects I’ve seen in ages (seriously – some of these demons would make the best Proactiv spokesmodels EVER), the plot is weeeeeak. Half of the movie feels like it takes place in one room, with Maddie and Edward scribbling things on the wall. Not exactly the thrilling camp classic we were hoping for.
Monica Keena wonders why her cleavage isn’t working this time
Does the movie recreate the infamous Linnea Quigley “tit lipstick” moment from the original? Yes. In fact, they go one further by making the adventurous little cosmetic reappear somewhere equally as uncomfortable. There’s also a game of spin-the-bottle that makes the very true point that guys are total pussies when it comes to same-sex kisses, and one moment where one of the fellas tries to process something demony that he’s just witnessed demonstrates a great knack for comedy.
But otherwise the movie’s dull and mechanical. It’s all played a little too lightly to inspire any real tension or fear, and none of the characters is memorable enough to really make a mark. Most of the performances are upstaged by the awesome makeup, which might be a good thing since I have a feeling that for most of the film the demons were played by doubles. (I just can’t imagine Shannon Elizabeth rattling around 3 rooms of an old house for several weeks with horns on.)
Bobbi Sue Luther
There’s also a lot that’s not explained. What the hell is Monica Keena dressed as, anyway? How did Angela fund this party to begin with, and what’s up with the bitch that stole all her money (the always-dependable Tiffany Shepis)? And since when can demons fake a sunrise? Once the energy from the actually rather fun Halloween bash of the opening scenes wears off, the realization that we’re stuck alone in this house to watch the main characters slog through exposition and clumsy plot devices is a serious buzzkill.
In the end, despite boasting a handful of recognizable faces, a fair amount of ghoulishness, and a peppy can-do attitude, Night of the Demons just can’t match the cheese-fueled charm of the faulted-but-fun original. Maybe if I had first caught this one at a slumber party when I was 12 I might feel differently, but as it is I’d stick with the 1988 version.
RATING (OUT OF 5):
Night of the Demons is available Unrated for tittehs (some that devour lipsticks, some that don’t), drinking, drugs, and gratuitous Edward Furlong.