Horror Movie Dictionary: Demons

“The sleep of reason gives birth to monsters!”

That line is from Lamberto Bava’s Demons (the movie-within-a movie part), where teens are puttering around a cemetery and come across an ancient tome (spoiler alert: never, ever open ancient books and read out weird incantations. It didn’t work for the folks in Evil Dead either).

The “sleep of reason” bit is something we lifted for fair use in our Really Awful Movies Podcast intro (we actually reached out to the distributor to get their approval, which surprised the heck out of them as forthrightness isn’t the order of the day online). The dialogue from the film is a variant of a phrase, The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, an etching by Spanish romantic painter Francisco Goya, part of his series called “Los Caprichos (The Caprices).” (William Blake’s “May God us keep From Single vision and Newton’s sleep” is its anti-quote).

Demons is a film that inspired our line of merchandise, and graphics for this very site’s banner. At first, we deployed our other favorite, Bill Lustig’s Maniac, but Demons seemed more appropriate as the series’ combination of silliness and disgusting gore really resonated with us.

Demons is a near-perfect movie, especially for the ethos of this site, and associated podcast. It’s as enjoyably stupid, gory, weird, and violent as any movie in the horror pantheon. It has a plot that is so ridiculous it could’ve only been conceived by Italians. And it also has a cochlea-assaulting soundtrack of 80s cheese metal that is the perfect tonal accompaniment to skidding around on a motorbike hacking zombies.

The etymology of “demons” is from the Greek, daimōn meaning “deity, genius.” So, it took a few thousand years for the word to go from the sublime to the ridiculous. Still, with its power to entertain decades later, Demons is a popcorn movie in the truest sense, especially as it’s set in a movie theater.

Summer of 84

Over at Film School Rejects they asked if we are “approaching 1980s nostalgia fatigue.” We not only approached it, we settled in and signed the lease. Summer of 84 is another exercise in warm blanket era-sentimentality, a la Stranger Things, The Goldbergs and even before, on a popular Friends episode.

When it comes to our domain, horror, the 80s were something of a Golden Age so it’s not surprising filmmakers are longing for its return (Or maybe it’s all relative. The 90s ushered in a Dark Age.)

Summer of 84’s cultural touchstones include the usual suspects — Ghostbusters, MTV, and Reagan (what’s odd is that people are always time capsule-constrained to their decades. In the 80s, this site’s authors ingested a diet rich in 70s music and film, but if our lives ended up on screen, somehow it’d all be headbands, key-tars and Goonies).

Summer of 84 features four teen friends, roughly, the fatty, the nerd, the vaguely cool one, and the delinquent, and good-natured ribbing since lost to the Age of PC.

When their suburban town is rocked by a report of missing boys, a la the John Wayne Gacy case, one member of the crew casts suspicion on the local cop. The group then does some Hardy Boys inductive reasoning to dredge up clues to get their man. Their team also includes an eye-candy babysitter (too post-pubescent to run with this baby-faced crew, but providing good female energy) and their investigative reporting features nascent camcorder technology, and the even more inevitable Spielberg name-check.

With zippy dialogue and easy camaraderie, Summer of 84 whips along solely on its considerable charms, before completely unraveling in an exasperating anti-climax and embarrassingly stupid voice-over.

Merely snipping 10 minutes from the finale would’ve done this film wonders. But Summer of 84 is the work of three directors, so they were probably drawn and quartered in narrative direction.

Write (or direct) what you know is true for any era. And you could call the spate of 80s-styled horror movies by Generation Xers wistful thinking.

*** (out of 5)