Saturday, March 29, 2014

DEMONIA (Lucio Fulci, 1990)
During a seance, archaeologist/occult enthusiast Liza Harris (Meg Register) has a vision of 5 nuns being crucified by a mob of torch-bearing villagers in a crypt. When she reports it to her contemporary, Paul Evans (Brett Halsey, of Fulci's "Touch of Death" notoriety) he dismisses it as hocus-pocus and chastises her for such silliness. Shortly after, they and a group of fellow Canadian archaeologists travel to Sicily, where they are currently digging around some ancient Greek ruins. Upon arrival, they are greeted by one of the locals who warns them that the other townsfolk are less than keen on the idea of having anyone poking about the ruins, what with there being a cursed medieval nunnery nearby and all. He warns them of the possibility that the villagers might even kill to keep the dead in their place, but this does little to deter the crew.
In a sort of daze, Liza wanders over to the monastery and starts poking around. An imperfection in one of the murals leads her to start hammering away at the wall (like a true archaeologist would) and behind it she discovers the crypt from her vision, complete with the corpses of crucified nuns. As she sleeps that night she dreams of Paul trying to warn her to stay away from the crypt, but she tells him she can't. Methinks she be possessed.
Either intrigued or bored (or possessed!), she goes to the local library to do some research into the history of the site, but finds the records missing. There she encounters a mysterious older woman who tells her what's missing from the books: in 1486, five nuns entered into a covenant with Satan and sacrificed an infant. The villagers caught on, dragged the nuns down into the crypt, killed them, and sealed their bodies away from the world. Liza's was no chance discovery; she's come back to finish what the nuns started. See? Told you she was possessed!
Besides the fact that Demonia looks like it was shot on tape, it's not as bad as I anticipated upon looking at the DVD cover. In true Fulci fashion, it's incredibly slow-paced, often cheesy, and delightfully gory. People get ripped in two (up the middle!), impaled on beds of spikes, harpooned, and mutilated by angry cats. And so forth. Bless you, Lucio. Keeping in style with his later films, the ol' soft focus lens is frequently put to use. Brett Halsey aside, Italo horror connoisseurs will recognize actors Al Cliver (Zombie, The Beyond) and Lino Salemme (Demons, Demons 2). Again, Fulci makes an appearance in his own film, as a police inspector.
Demonia does have it's share of shortcomings, make no mistake. It's one of Lucio's most derivative efforts, with scenes recycled from his previous gems, City of the Living Dead (the seance and fainting thereafter), The Beyond (crucified corpses), Manhattan Baby (the spike trap in the crypt) and The Psychic (hammering through the wall - though in this instance it looks as though he ripped it off of Dario Argento's Deep Red). As previously mentioned, the sluggish pace gets annoying at times. At least 40 minutes' worth of unnecessary dialogue and Liza wandering about in a daze could have been trimmed. Some of this excess footage actually provides unintended laughs. While Liza lies in her tent, trying to sleep, the rest of her team sing an irritating Irish song by the campfire. She and I must be on the same level, because as the song goes on her facial expression progresses from annoyed to angry to "I KILL YOU!!" Then they start up ANOTHER song and she looks absolutely...horrified. Laughed. My. Ass. Off. I wasn't crazy about Demonia but I've seen much, much worse.