Thursday, November 20, 2014

Night of the Demons 2

(R, Republic Pictures, 96 mins., limited theatrical release date: May 13, 1994)

Do you remember the three signs of demonic possession as outlined in a certain 1980s horror cult film? No, they do not involve water, sunlight and late night foodie calls, I've moved on from Joe Dante films for the time being. No, I'm talking about infestation from beyond the grave, Satanism and the human body as medium for the morbidly deceased. There are three warning signs you need to know if you ever hope to escape a haunted house post haste.

The noise is the first one, preferably the loud shriek of a teenage girl startled by some apparitional premonition visible only to her eyes, the kind which provokes easy cynicism from the hormonal heathens of the world. Yeah, the shriek may be no cause for real alarm, but then there's the chill. As cold as the touch of the Reaper himself, the kind whose only security blanket is one procured for a dirt nap. But death is too late to make similes for, you realize, and thus you take a deep breath through your nose only to catch a whiff of Hell on earth. The foulest stench is in the air, the funk of 40,000 years, and grisly gh...

I'm sorry, I got a little carried away there. No mere mortal can resist a "Thriller" joke. It's human nature, I tell you.

The point is that the noise, the stink and the chill are things which occur in a precise order and constitute the danger of demonic possession. It's advice that the new batch of doomed youths in Night of the Demons 2 should have picked up on before they wind up in Hull House, the infamous slaughter mill where Angela Franklin and friends threw the Halloween party which ended them all.

And by them, of course, I mean it ended Angela and her friends. Or did it?!

Because Amelia Kinkade is back in black bridal garb as Angela and she wants to celebrate her inevitable return to the corporeal world. Sadly, none of her old friends want to come back in limbo, so Linnea Quigley is out of the picture. And the original's director, Kevin Tenney, is also not on the guest list. However, reprising their positions from the last film are writer Joe Augustyn, producer Walter Josten, cinematographer David Lewis, and special effects designer Steve Johnson, so it's not all that mercenary. And yet every party needs a proper planner, so who is the man to take charge of "Night of the Demons 2: Angela's Revenge," so to speak?

Enter Brian Trenchard-Smith, an Englishman who went on to corner the market for Ozploitation from the mid-1970s onward. Critical consensus dictated that Trenchard-Smith comes from the Land Down Under not just geographically, but also aesthetically, until Mark Hartley's giddy Not Quite Hollywood gave the filmmaker a ringing endorsement from Quentin Tarantino and sincere love for the likes of Stunt Rock and Dead End Drive-In, which I also recommend. The 1990s saw him transition into American B-cinema, specifically the straight-to-video sequel mill which led him to Night of the Demons 2 as well as Leprechaun 3 & 4.

Yes, he was the man who brought you a demented dwarf from Ireland bursting out of a horny space traveler's kiwis a la Alien while quipping "Always wear protection."

There is plenty of phallic humor to go around in Night of the Demons 2, which owes as much to the Porky's school of horny hi-jinks as it does to its 1988 progenitor. The male heroes are introduced peeking through binoculars at the neighboring bedrooms of their lady co-eds, thus ensuring the film's Hard-R credentials. Flirtation involves a basketball which dribbles up towards a miniskirt with magnetic force. The baddest of the bad girls herein has heaving bosoms which allow for easy demonic access to attack the nearest lech. And once the horror kicks in, it's easy to go Freudian with the many snakes and tentacles which lash out in anger.

Caught in the middle of all the kinky chaos is Angela's biological sister, Melissa (Merle Kennedy), the designated Carrie White of St. Rita's Academy, a Catholic boarding school run by Father Rob (Rod McCary) and Sister Gloria (Jennifer Rhodes). Rob is a bit more liberal in his attitudes toward reformation than the strict Gloria, demanding that the students have more input into the upcoming Halloween social than Gloria prefers. Not only that, but Sister Gloria has a...well, habit of interfering with the throes of young lust by waving her trusty yardstick in between the students and commanding, "Save a little room for the Holy Ghost."

The campus alpha bitch Shirley (Zoe Trilling), though, defies Gloria by using her banishment from the dance to convince her girlfriends, including Melissa "Mouse" Franklin, to have their own party at infamous Hull House, the last known whereabouts of Angela. The poor orphaned cadet is made the brunt of a cruel stunt involving a virgin sacrifice, but the wicked spirit of Angela intervenes by hiding within a lipstick tube which fans of the original will know where it's been. The students make it back to St. Rita's, allowing Angela the freedom to come alive and wreak havoc among the student body.

Whereas the original Night of the Demons offered a scenario straight out of The Evil Dead, the sequel takes some of its cues from the gonzo school of splatter comedy in the vein of Peter Jackson where the more the messier. The demons in this film are treated more accordingly to the rules of vampire lore, easily dispatched with holy water and melting down into puddles of goop. In undeath, an athlete's severed head can be used as a basketball and Angela can transmogrify to adapt to any scenario, emerging even as a serpent. And there's a little Dead-Alive in Sister Gloria by making her kick ass for the Lord, although there's no explanation given for how she can overcome her own decapitation when she is not one of the demons. Are we supposed to accept her as an angel?

At least Jennifer Rhodes (of Slumber Party Massacre II and Heathers) has a field day with her performance, as do McCory's skeptical minister (a nod to Stir Crazy, perhaps?) and Bobby Jacoby (the prankster kid from Tremors) as freckle-faced demonology obsessive Perry, who makes a case for being the missing Frog Brother. On the opposite end, Cristi Harris gets the film's most warming character as Bibi, Mouse's lone teenage ally who manages to have premarital sex and survive, and there's Christine Taylor, the future Mrs. Ben Stiller, getting called "Marcia" by one of the jerky boys as the vapid Terri. Clearly, she was going places. Also in the cast are Darin Heames, the circumcision victim from Dr. Giggles, as giggling sadist Z-Boy and Johnny Moran & Ladd York as the nominal but not loathable Everydude heroes.

But as is always the case, the villain is the main reason to watch, and "Mimi" Kinkade gets to indulge both her Rue McClanahan lineage and dancing pedigree as the wicked Angela. Whether taunting a pair of missionaries with a cake party at the start of the film or doing a reprisal of her sultry "Stigmata Martyr" showcase later on, she makes a deliciously feminine counterpoint to the wannabe Freddy Kruegers of the horror world.

Your enjoyment of the film depends ultimately upon your nostalgic reserves for the adolescent T&A  comedies and/or the equally puerile Video Nasties from the 1980s. Brian Trenchard-Smith doesn't exactly come close to either Peter Jackson or Stuart Gordon in his disreputable hand, but he doesn't stand in the way of the cheap thrills and is all the more respectable for it. Maybe I should credit him less for the blatant use of stock footage from Tenney's film, but the film is far too much of a lark to be shocking. Night of the Demons 2 stakes its own claim as a good-time bad movie which might not stand up to repeat viewings, but it walks tall and swings a mean rosary. I'll take it over any of the Leprechaun movies.

No comments:

Post a Comment