Monday, October 26, 2015

B-MOVIE REVIEW: "Night of the Demons 2" (1994)

It's one of the best straight-to-video horror offerings of the 1990s. And no, that isn't a backhanded compliment. Well, not a major one, at least

The 1990s are often considered one of the worst decades for horror flicks. While most surface-level cinemaphiles see Silence of the Lambs, Scream, The Blair Witch and a whole bunch of dreck in-between, I contest that the '90s were, in many ways, a far better (and certainly, more nuanced) decade for the genre than the '80s. Sure, the Reagan era gave us all-time classic stuff like The Evil Dead, The Beyond and Tenebrae, but a lot of the old guard works -- your Elm Streets, your Friday the 13ths and what have you -- have unquestionably lost a lot of their luster since the heyday of Max Headroom and Pepsi Free. Alas, with offerings such as The Exorcist III, Man Bites Dog, Nekromantik 2 and Audition -- not to mention transgressive stuff like Happiness, Gummo and I Stand Alone that were really far more horrific than most "standard" horror flicks -- there is certainly no shortage of high-quality, above-grade genre works from the decade that brought us Bill Clinton and the Sega 32X. 

Of course, the 1990s will forever be embodied by the "straight-to-video" horror film. If you grew up in the decade, the VHS box-art for stuff like Dead Alive, The Ice Cream Man and any of those goddamn Leprechaun sequels likely remain scorched into your retina -- especially those bitchin' leniticular covers from the latter half of the era. While the overall quality of stuff like The Mangler and Little Witches are suspect at best, you at least have to give the medium some credit for allowing B-grade works to survive in the post-grindhouse, post-drive-in, and really post-cable-television epoch. Had it not been for the glory of those little video cassettes, it's highly unlikely a whole host of great 1980s franchises would have been able to continue. And few series benefit as much from the great video store migration as Night of the Demons

Angela's right: when it comes to 1990s B-horror cheese, few
movies are as scrumptious as Night of the Demons 2
The original NOTD was a very, very good late '80s horror flick that was something of a supernatural Sleepaway Camp-style horror-satire. Looking back on it now, i's a downright fantastic encapsulation of 1980s culture, from the White Rain slicked hairdos to its convenience stores props to its copious use of decidedly un-P.C. humor (none of which would be permitted even in politically-conscious genre films these days, of course.) The effects were great, the acting was a bit better than the genre norm and the script, while necessarily cliched, was also quite energetic and well-paced. It has since become something of a mini genre-classic, thanks in no small part to a great VHS campaign that included, to the best of my knowledge, anyway, the first electronic cardboard in-house advertising display

The 1994 sequel Night of the Demons 2 is very similar in nature, only updated to reflect the quirks and absurdities of the 1990s. Gone are the wannabe punkers and skanky goths with their towering coifs, and in came the pseudo-Beverly Hills 90210 Gap-Tommy Hilfiger mall-display prepsters and the grunge rock dingleberries clad in plaid, leather and so much scalp grease they sort of resemble Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons. Although the producers seemingly tried to give the film a more "timeless" feel by setting it at a Catholic school (where the wardrobe probably won't be changing anytime soon, I take it), it is nonetheless steeped in painfully 1990s aesthetics ... and without really trying, the film does a marvelous job mocking the inanity and vapidity of the Gen X ethos.

So, what is this Night of the Demons 2 all about, you may be pondering? Well, I am glad you asked, seeing as how I wrote an entire article about it and whatnot.  

...and all of a sudden, I am expecting my Google referral queues for the
term "bareback demon sex" to increase three or four-fold overnight
The film begins with two Jehovah's Witness reps ambling into the old Hull House -- the site of some weird ritualistic murders turned mausoleum which, wouldn't you know it, just so happened to serve as the central location in the first Night of the Demons flick. At that point, our  (g)hostess with the mostest Angela -- a suburban Goth chick from the first film who was transformed into a soul-munching succubus via a lesbian liplock from scream queen Linena Quigley - rears her at-this-point-not-all-that-ugly head and offers the male/female pair a slice of mildewed cake (which she oh-so-hilariously describes as "devil's food" with the saccharine gusto of a demonic Rachel Ray.) Of course, things take a turn for the worse when Angela picks up a butcher knife, and decides to start slicing up everything EXCEPT for that damn cake. 

Following the opening credits, we're introduced to the student body (in more ways than one) at St. Rita's Catholic School, as a bunch of pervy male students peep/creep on some girls disrobing across the street. Following some deliciously 90s dialogue (my personal favorite has to be an exchange in which one character chides another for, and I quote, "spanking your monkey") we hop into an extended slumber party sequence, in which the gals recount the backstory of the Hull House (which, rather conveniently, also serves as a synopsis for the first movie.) The spooky yarn is interrupted, however, by Sister Gloria, who runs around swinging her yard stick like Buford Puser and his baseball bat. (That's a reference to Walking Tall, you damn whippersnappers.)

As fate would have it, Mouse, the most nebbish and nerdy girl in school, just so happens to be the younger sister of Angela, the Bauhaus-loving sex-ghoul from part uno. Following a nightmare sequence in which her older sis yanks her face off, Gloria and Father Bob (essentially, the academy's principal, for those of you not up to speed on your Catholic school administrative hierarchy) talk about the upcoming Halloween dance, and we learn that Angela and Mouse's parents commit suicide shortly after the events of the 1988 original (although it is never explained why, it is sort of implied it had something to do with some kind of supernatural hokum, as you'd expect.)

Sure, it may seem like cheap pandering, but this girl-on-girl action is
actually integral to the plot. Sorta. 
Up next, Sister Gloria criticizes a young couple for making out ("Save a little room for the Holy Ghost," she tells them) and she responds to a student's inquiry as to whether swapping spit is ungodly with the succinct retort "kissing is a sin if it is an upper persuasion for a lower invasion." Following a lame jake about fellatio, we're introduced to a super nerdy kid who is all about demonology, and one of his fellow student brags about his "king snake," which a female coed curtly describes as "an inchworm." Following an intergender tussle at a tennis court that takes a turn for the sexual, Sister Gloria decides to ban a whole heck of a lot of kids from attending the upcoming Samhain shindig. The demonology kid does some sort of abstruse Satanic rite, which causes Angela to briefly leap out of a mirror, but this being a horror movie and all, nobody believe him and the reverend gets pissed a plenty. (Remember kids: if you attend a Catholic school and unwittingly unleash the forces of hell, it's a warning. Get caught with weed or wear your skirt too low, and you're on the fast track to expulsion.)

With nowhere to get their groove on, a dozen or so kids decide to throw their own Halloween hootenanny off-campus, but what do you know, they end up taking the wrong route and wind up at the old Hull House. Despite the place being more dilapidated than most of Detroit's downtown infrastructure, they say "what the heck!" and decide to party hard, regardless. After a few atmosphere shots of cobwebs and peeling wallpaper (an oblique nod to the work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, mayhap?), a blatant Evil Dead cam rip-off zooms through the house, accompanied by this weird burping-growling-gurgling death metal scream. While the mean girl and her neo-greaser boyfriend contemplate sacrificing a feline to the dark spirits (but, uh, not these kinds of dark spirits) another girl walks into a bathroom and retrieves a tube of old lipstick from the medicine cabinet ... because who wouldn't feel comfortable rubbing stuff they found in an abandoned house all over the face? Of course, pending you've seen the first flick, you already know that ain't exactly any old brand of Maybelline, however...

We cut to two kids making out in the abandoned mortuary, with the female kissee stating the episode is "romantic." The alpha bee-otch and her grunger boyfriend decide to forego sacrificing the kitty cat to the devil, and instead offer Mouse as a "virgin sacrifice" to Old Scratch. Strangely, enough, none of the other kids think it is a bit much when they tie down the geeky teen and threaten to plunge a knife into her sternum ... which, of course, was one of those collapsible dummy knifes. Aw man, nothing says "delightful seasonal prank" quite like restraining someone against their will and making them fear for their own mortality? Wait ... you mean to tell me that's actually a serious felony and not quaint, juvenile fun? LET KIDS BE KIDS, I SAY.
How about that; a second base session in which the woman is
all hands!

One character comments on the nasty scents emanating from the basement, remarking the building smells like, and I quote, "Godzilla's butthole." One of the no-goodniks gets freaked out by the old demon-face-in-the-commode routine, while another delinquent gets tongue kissed and subsequently RAPED by Angela while she's in gruesome demoness form. 

The rest of the partygoers get bored and decide to leave, but not before one of them brings up something about demons not being able to cross bodies of water, and what do you know, there just happens to be an underground river encircling the Hull House. When Gloria learns the kids snuck out, she blows a proverbial gasket and Father Bob later admonishes her, stating "there is a fine line between vigilance and paranoia." Meanwhile, at the official St. Rita dance, the students are dancing as typical white people do, which is very awkwardly. One of the girls runs to the toilet to freshen up, and she pulls out the same souvenir lipstick from the Hull House ... only to get raped by some sort of weird demon tentacle that emerges from it. Once she has that gooey eel thing resting safely in her womb, Angela pops out of the tube, I Drema of Jennie style, and proceeds to give her victim a soul-possessing sapphic smooch.

In a weird homage to the classic Stigmata Martyr interpretive dance sequence in the first film, Angela decides to do another artsy-fartsy-skank-shake, only this time, she's cutting a rug and dumping punch on her boobies to the dulcimer tones of Morbid Angel. So she disappears right before Sister Gloria can whack her with a three-foot-long ruler, and the girl Angela evil ho-ified in the bathroom decides to flash her ta-tas at her boyfriend, but when he reaches in for a feel HER BREASTS TURN INTO KILLER HANDS THAT SECRETE ACID. Thoroughly melting her boyfriend like a wax candle with her sulfuric aerolas, the nun protectorate weapons up with some rosaries and holy water-filled balloons. After that, a dude receives a hand job from a severed limb, a basketball player has his head knocked clean off his shoulders and, just because, we have some extra lesbian kissin'. Oh, and one of the chicks trading chapstick is none other than Christine Taylor ... aka, Mrs. Ben Stiller, aka Marcia from the 1990s Brady Bunch movies and, if you are SUPER old, Melody freakin' Hanson from the old Nickelodeon program Hey Dude

Angela's final form? Apparently, it's an enchilada.
Angela (complete with a set of chompers that look like candy corn super-glued to a wad of chewed bubble gum) tries to convince Mouse to turn all evil with her, but then some kids show up with holy water filled Super Soakers and spoil all of the fun. Interestingly, the holy water doesn't just kill the demons, it allows the possessed to return to human form ... well, pending they maintained MOST of their limbs before being possessed, anyway. 

So, our protagonists return to the Hull House to do Angela in once and for all. A priest is stabbed and the producers try to trick us into thinking that footage of Angela floating down the halls from the first movie AREN'T being recycled here. There's a great gag with the beheaded basketball player from early shooting some hoops with his own detached noggin, and then Father Bob gets done in by a ghoul lugging around a spiked baseball bat. Before he croaks, he tells the kids to remember the story of Abraham, for some reason. 

A zombie threatens to rape our final girl with his snake dong (it even hisses!) but here comes "Stone Cold" Sister Gloria to dish out some wooden justice of her own, 36 inches at a time. Gloria convinces Angela to swap her for her sister in some virgin sacrifice deal, but instead of stabbing the nun, Mouse takes the blade to her older sister instead. After Angela is melted via a squirt gun, she comes back in her final for, which is some stringy-haired serpent woman. Anyway, the kids kick open a window and the corresponding sunlight creates a crucifix beam which makes Angela explode. The survivors return to the Catholic School, where they act shockingly calm considering all the death, destruction and havoc they were all subjected to just a few hours earlier. And the film wraps up with some random girl opening another tube of lipstick, only to have a computer generated snake demon leap out at us in (not-really) 3D!

No one in their right mind is going to consider NOTD2 something on par with Schindler's List or Goodfellas, but for what it is (and isn't), it's a damned enjoyable little exploitation sleazer that embodies everything that was so great about trash pop culture in the Dunkaroos decade. Forget all of the socially conscious, politically-minded claptrap, this one is all about gross-out special effects, gratuitous T&A and lots and lots of corny sex-humor gags ... meaning, essentially, that it's what happens when The Evil Dead has a one-night-stand with Porky's. The original cheese-fest may have a more palpable air of nostalgia to it, but overall, I consider this one a superior horror offering in just about every way, from the moderately improved latex prosthesis to the slightly better acting and definitely the more innovative, outlandish kills. Even main baddie Angela looks way hotter than she does in either the first or third film in the trilogy ... you know, when her face doesn't look indistinguishable from the puss of the frontman from GWAR, of course. 

The film was directed by a guy named Brian Trenchard-Smith, which just sounds like the ultimate 1990s dude name. He's an Aussie who's probably best known for directing the super obscure cult classic Dead End Drive-In, and helming the third and fourth Leprechaun movies. And weirdly enough, this guy is allegedly masterminding yet another "Shaft" flick, per the IMDB. The writer was Joe Augustyn, who also scripted the first NOTD, as well as that crappy succubus flick Night Angel (I'm telling you, by the time the 2020s roll around, we're going to have damn near every obscure sex-horror-comedy of the late 1980s documented and dissected here at The Internet Is In America.) There really isn't much to say about the cast: outside of Christine Taylor, the only person in the cast anyone normal has maybe heard of is Zoe Trilling, who had a few appearances on Married...with Children and starred in a whole host of late 1980s-early 1990s schlockaramas, including IIIA fave Dr. Giggles. Oh, and Amelia Kinkade, the actress who plays the demonic bride antagonist? She stopped acting altogether in the late 1990s and is now one of America's premiere pet psychics. No, I am not making that up, either

The NOTD franchise did indeed chug along after this one. A Canadian-made sequel came out in 1997 (long story short? it sucks) and a moderately big-budget (And suprisingly enjoyable) straight to DVD remake starring Shannon Elizabeth and Edward Furlong was released in 2010. There hasn't been a whole lot of news about the series since then, but it's unlikely the franchise will remain dormant for too long -- and let's face it, it's only a matter of damn time before this movie, like every other freaking horror flick being made nowadays, gets "re-booted" as a god-damn found footage movie

Alas, there is no denying that NOTD2 isn't good-old fashioned, trashy, cheesy, instantly disposable fun. Not only is it the highlight of a largely-above-average B-movie franchise, it is indeed one of the better made straight-to-video productions, within any genre, from the 1990s. It's not too easy to find on the YouTubes and the DailyMotions and the Grindrs (that is a video streaming service, right?) but I highly suggest watching this one the way God intended -- in a dimly-light room, with only the humble glow of a cathode ray tube television screen and the blinking LCD integers of the VCR frontage distancing you from the gory, glorious magnetic tape contents therein. 

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