The 1980s gave horror fans a lot of fun, cheesy B-horror movies. Aside from the obvious picks like Evil Dead, Re-Animator, and Return of the Living Dead, there was Killer Klowns From Outer Space, The Blob remake, Class of Nuke ‘Em High, and Chopping Mall. Don’t forget about Night of the Comet, Alligator, and Brain Damage. Plenty of poorly received movies from the decade found cult status years later. One of those movies, Night of the Demons promised a party that was ‘too scary for Freddy and Jason’. Maybe Night of the Demons wasn’t quite that scary. And its cult status certainly isn’t universally agreed on. But after over 30 years can we at least figure out if this teen horror is ‘so bad, it’s good’ or just a bad movie?
It’s Halloween night and high school weirdo Angela Franklin is throwing the mother of all parties. She’s picked the perfect venue in Hull House, an abandoned local mortuary that may be haunted. It’s all fun and games to kick off the night. But when Angela convinces the group to summon spirits with a séance, they inadvertently release an ancient demon from the crematorium. As the demonic forces possess the teens one by one, the chances of anyone ever escaping Hull House grow increasingly slim.
Night of the Demons Is Dumb Fun In spite of Its Own Limitations
By and large, Night of the Demons is derivative fare that wears its desire to be Evil Dead or Return of the Living Dead on its sleeve. Director Keven S. Tenney and writer Joe Augustyn dutifully mix 80s teen sex romp and B-horror movie antics into 89 minutes that somehow feels longer. Technically, not much in this teen horror makes sense. Are there demons? Or ghosts? Augustyn’s screenplay is light on rules. And it’s even lighter on character development. But Tenney compensates with plenty of gratuitous nudity. Like Return of the Living Dead, Night of the Demons takes a tonal shift late in the movie that feels less earned. Even if Living Dead was a fun, silly movie, it still invested a bit of time into its characters – something absent here. There’s also a wraparound segment with an old man that doesn’t fit into the main story.
…Tenney takes far too long getting to what you came to see. But once it gets rolling Night of the Demons gets weird in all the right ways.
Yet in spite of all its flaws, Night of the Demons is still a very dumb, fun, and cheesy horror movie. You could say it works in spite of itself. On one hand, Tenney takes far too long getting to what you came to see. But once it gets rolling Night of the Demons gets weird in all the right ways. A strange Goth dance to strobe lights and Bauhaus’ ‘Stigmata Martyr‘ actually feels a bit unsettling. All of the practical gore effects are quite good including a neat and unexpected peekaboo trick with a lipstick roll. Even the title demons look impressive … just don’t expect to ever feel scared. Had Tenney excised a bit of the teen sex exploits from the first half, Night of the Demons may have actually achieved a bit of urgency.
Night of the Demons Filled With 80s Stereotypes In Place of Characters
Either people in the 1980s were really weird or filmmakers didn’t get out much. Yes, high school students are goofy and prone to making stupid decisions. But Night of the Demons features a cast of characters so unbelievable that they’re more like cartoons than people. Augustyn’s screenplay includes a lot of characters for this sort of movie and they’re painted in pretty broad strokes. Hal Havins (Stooge) and William Gallo (Sal) are your classic ‘fat’ and ‘very Italian’ stereotypes, respectively. And then there’s the straight-arrow, Final Girl, played about as ‘square’ as you can get by Cathy Podewell. In the 1980s, horror movies didn’t have many good role for Black actors and Augustyn saddles Alvin Alexis (Roger) with some borderline stereotypes. A handful of other actors are on hand to up the body and count and gratuitous nudity.
But Night of the Demons features a cast of characters so unbelievable that they’re more like cartoons than people.
Only Amelia Kinkade and 80s Scream Queen Linnea Quigley (Innocent Blood, Return of the Living Dead, Silent Night, Deadly Night) register as Angela and her sex-starved best friend Suzanne. Both actresses look a little too old to be playing high school girls – but the same applies to most of the cast. Not that it really matters. Quigley popped up in these sorts of B-movies for a good reason. She had a distinct way of delivering her dialogue and wasn’t shy about doing nude scenes. Not surprisingly, Quigley offers up plenty of the latter here. While her filmography is a bit more sparse as compared to Quigley, Kinkade is perfect as the eccentric Goth girl, Angela. She’d even turn up for two of the belated sequels.
Night of the Demons May Not Be a ‘Good’ Movie, But It’s a Fun 80s Horror Movie
Clearly, Night of the Demons tries very hard to be the next Evil Dead or Return of the Living Dead. And it falls short of those ambitions. There’s plenty of things wrong with this 80s teen horror B-movie. It drags on too long and, occasionally, takes itself surprisingly a bit too seriously. Nothing about the story is particularly original. And its cartoonish characters and gratuitous nudity haven’t aged well. Nonetheless, Night of the Demons is still a fun, silly horror movie that holds up to repeat viewings. Though Tenney doesn’t really do anything cutting edge, he still gets plenty of mileage out of what is an admittedly great premise for a gory teen horror movie set on Halloween night.