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This is a pretty cool idea for a movie - the movie within a movie idea is a nice device because it heightens the sense of impending terror as the characters get a little preview of what's about to happen to them and it gives us twice as much violent death as we deserve.
The makeup and special effects looked great. The demons were utterly repulsive with their long fingernails, bloodshot eyes, and mouths vomiting what looks like paint. The transformations from human to demon was fantastic as well, starting with oozing pustules and including a nice long shot where the victim's teeth fall out to make way for scary demon teeth.
The gore was fabulous and disgusting, with people getting their scalps ripped off and eyes dug out, all in the glorious, over the top detail only a vintage Italian gore film can truly capture, all set to 80s rock and roll, lovingly interspersed with the sweet sounds of Claudio Simonetti for whom I expressed my love in my review of Warriors of the Wasteland earlier this week.
Plus there's sexy, old fashioned Italian punks running around and adding absolutely nothing to the plot but so much to the aesthetic of the movie.
There's next to no explanation given for the events of the movie, beyond the secondhand allusions to Nostradamus, who I'm not an expert on by any means but I'm pretty sure never predicted the end of the world by demons. There's also a part where one of the characters says that the movie isn't evil but the theatre is, a statement which isn't expanded on. I'm not adverse to things happening just because but there's a lot of stuff going on in this movie that could have used an explanation. For example, why did the moviegoers find themselves walled inside the building after demons started doing demon stuff? Since the demons do eventually get out of the theatre (for no really good reason), the global effect of the demon infestation would have been the same whether or not the people had been trapped in the theatre.
The characters are all painfully stupid, which is to be expected for this type of movie so I can't really fault it for that. But the demons are also stupid. Like, they jab the eyes out of a blind guy. What the fuck is that supposed to do? I mean, yeah, sure, it would hurt really really bad, but he's already blind so what's the point? Ripping somebody's tongue out would really hurt too and it would be more devastating than robbing somebody of a sense they already don't have.
Once the demons get going spreading their demonism, the movie turns into every zombie flick ever made only with "demons" instead of "zombies" (they act remarkably similar). They're fast moving and psychotically violent so they're more fun than the average zombie but still, the mechanics are the same.
Furthermore, once the main guy (Urbano Barberini) hit his stride, ripping off his sleeves and chopping demons up with a sword, I realized that this was pretty much just Evil Dead but less clever and without the inconvenience of filming in the woods.
Finally, the ending dragged on way too long in order to set up a sequel (of which, I might add, there were eight), when really it could have ended right after the last guy and gal escape the theatre and find that (spoiler) the world is overrun with demons. It goes on like nine minutes after that which is way too long.
Anyway, this movie isn't bad, but it's nothing special and not something I would recommend going out of your way to watch. If you've seen Dawn of the Dead and Evil Dead and can use your imagination to picture them in a movie theatre, you've pretty much seen this movie. That being said, if you're a fan of non stop gratuitous gore with little to no plot, this is worth a gander and is actually available on youtube so you don't have to work that hard.
Directed by: Lamberto Bava. Written by: Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava, Franco Ferrini, Dardano Sacchetti. Starring: Urbano Barberini, Natasha Hovey, Geretta Giancarlo, Paola Cozza, Nicoletta Elmi, Michele Soavi, Alex Serra.