Demonia (1990)

See?  I told you I’d get back to Italy before this month’s out.

This time, I’m looking at Demonia.  It was directed by Lucio Fulci, who is often considered one of the better Italian horror directors.  In fact, I’m itching to do his Zombie so look for that in the near(ish) future.  Unfortunately, where Zombie is considered a really good movie, Demonia is often cited as one of Fulci’s weakest.  And to be honest with you, despite the name invoking imagery of demons and various demonic stuff, the movie is a little more witchcraft, ghosts, and a touch of satanism as opposed to the other movies this month.

Gosh…  I guess this movie just fails on all levels.

To be honest, I picked the movie because I’ve seen the trailer and I have seen a handful of Fulci movies, so I wanted to do something of his and this started to rise to the top of the list.  Fulci is pretty good at gross-out horror, but not entirely a gore porn hound that we see all too often in the 2000s R-rated horror movies.  He often goes for a little of weirdo metaphysical stuff like other dimensions and gates of hell opening and so forth.  He usually finds a way to make sure something eats somebody as well as people having stuff jammed in their eyeballs.  It’s his thing.

Kinda like it’s my thing to mostly sit around the apartment eating cheese and watching movies that would drive many people nuts on a whim with no real benefit (certainly monetarily) other than I’m bored and mostly a loser.

The movie begins in 1486 Sicily.  There is some creepy room with crosses in it and a hole in the floor that is revealed to be the home of a whole buncha skeletons.  Villagers are dragging a group of nuns into a room kicking and screaming.  The villagers are all carrying torches and shit, so I assume nothing good could possibly come from this for these nuns?  So the nuns are each being crucified to a cross in the creepy room.

My favorite thing about this opening is how full of fervor the villagers are when they are dragging the nuns into this room, but after they do their job and crucify them, they just walk off calmly like it’s 5pm at the rock quarry and it’s quittin’ time.  You can even hear one of the guys call a nun a bitch under his breath while chatting with his buddy.

Flash forward to Toronto, 1990.  A group of people are having a seance and a girl, Liza, sees a vision of one of the nuns and passes out.  She and her archaeology teacher, Professor Evans,  later go on a dig in the Mediterranean.  Turns out Sicily is gonna be one of those places they are going to visit.  At the dig site, Professor Evans is looking for Liza and is a bit concerned when he learns that she’s gone up the hill and is really interested in the ruins of an old monastery.   Evans constantly tells Liza that her ghost stories and old folklore is not very scientific of her to be so interested in, but he is also giving uneasy glances at the old monastery.

The mayor of the town the monastery is near, comes for a visit and tells him that he shouldn’t ask any locals for any assistance with their dig.  They don’t care much for outsiders, and another colleague of Evans who also explains the locals are so superstitious that they will even possibly kill someone to protect their culture.  Evans just brushes it off as stupid and their culture is dumb, but Liza is fascinated by the stories concerning the monastery.

Not willing to leave it well enough alone, Liza snoops around the monastery alone.  She goes inside and finds a room with what looks like a bunch of open coffins.  And where there are open coffins, there are also skeletons.

I will admit that this movie is paced at a very slow rate.  I’m 20 minutes into this movie and there’s not too much to say.  It’s a lot of nuns getting crucified, then archaeologist man trying to tell curious woman to be more scientific and fuck off with all these superstitions and silly bullshit like seances.  That’s really it!  Normally, the earlier parts of the movie is where I spend about half my word count in one of these articles on the first act of the movie.  Here, that’s not been too much of a problem.

Anyway, a local named Turi, played by Lino Salemme (who was just seen at this blog two weeks ago in Demons – he played Ripper, the man who snorts cocaine out of a Coke can – cocaine from a cokecan…  Heh).  He tells Liza she isn’t going to find anything here, at least nothing of interest.  She tells him to get fucked and as he leaves, he says that they will pay for what they’re doing at the site.

Liza gets a feeling that something is behind the wall.  She picks up a pickax and starts tearing through the wall.  She finds a stairway down to where the nuns were crucified.  When her flashlight dies on her, she starts snapping pictures and with each flash, she sees more of the ghastly sight.  Naturally, as anyone would do, she runs away panicked and scared.

She runs right into Evans.  She tells him what she saw, and he’s like, “You’re an idiot girl, with stupid lady bits.  You ain’t see shit.”  Literally, he tells her she didn’t see anything and her brain is playing tricks on her, and they’d all be better off if she just shut her legs and closed her claptrap so they don’t have to be constantly reminded that she’s a dumb broad.  Wait, he doesn’t say that last part about closing her claptrap.  I made that up, but he might as well have said that.

The friend of Evans’ who said the natives are pretty dead set on keeping their shit buried is attacked by a headless naked nun ghost and is killed with his harpoon.  Back at the camp, all these Italian actors start singing Irish songs with Irish accents.  You gotta love the fucking Italians and their horror movies that try so hard to be English.  Anyway, Liza has a dream about Evans begging her not to go to the monastery and her telling him she can’t resist it.  She goes in and witnesses the villagers lynching the nuns.

Alright, so here’s the thing with this movie.  After Liza wakes up from her nightmare, it’s a lot of more walking around and looking at stuff and doing things and asking about stuff.  Liza is ignored by most people because they are all assholes.  Previous Lucio Fulci movies would have not allowed the movie to go nearly 40 minutes without something super gross happening.  At the very least, something somewhat shocking would have happened long before now.

I wonder if this is Fulci wanting something more atmospheric or possibly slower burn type of movie, but this is also the guy who opened Zombie with a reanimated person getting a fucking bullet in the forehead before the fucking credits even begins.  This is the guy who can’t get enough of gouging eyes out or having fake spiders eat peoples’ faces or having a monster priest living in the basement of some house.  There is little more to this movie than Meg Register (who plays Liza) just walking around slowly with either a furrowed brow or a wide eyed gaped mouth look of puzzlement.    It’s little wonder that this movie didn’t get received well.  Fulci is capable of so much more, but this is hardly fit to be filmed.  While there is technically a thing that stands in for plot in this movie, this movie hardly goes anywhere at any kind of speed – and that is saying a whole hell of a lot for an Italian horror movie.

Lucio Fulci is here to tell us that everything is a-okay!

So a few minutes past the halfway point, a couple of the people who are working on the dig are getting fucking loaded inside the monastery.  They start hearing women’s voices and there’s a really bad cut out of a nun casting a shadow on the wall.  Like, seriously, it looks like someone has a cut out in the shape of a nun on a stick and waving it around to cast the shadow on the wall.  Anyway, the paper doll nun causes the drunk bastards to fall into a pitfall with spikes that kill them.

Liza goes to the home of a crazy cat lady who drops some dope info about the monastery.  She tells her about the five beautiful nuns in the convent.  The rumor was that each one of them had their own covenant with the Devil himself.  The townsfolk spoke of wild orgies that would be put on by the nuns.  No one was ever able to say for sure whether or not the orgies took place because the men all vanished.  In a flashback we learn that the nuns killed them and they drank the dudes’ blood.  Also, the nuns who were pregnant from all the sexy shenanigans would give birth and the nuns would burn the babies to death.  The flashback even showed what appears to be a baby’s arm moving in the fire.  The lady finishes the story and tells Liza to just leave it be and get the fuck out of Dodge so no more harm comes to her.

At Evans’ friend’s boat, Inspector Lucio Fulci is investigating the disappearance of the man.  Thinking perhaps the guy is just injured and maybe at a hospital, he plans on having the boat towed to the police station and wait for the guy to return.  That’s when they pull up anchor and find his head attached to it.  At the crazy cat lady’s house, she hears a laughing nun and is soon attacked by her own cats and mauled to death.

Okay, decapitated heads, cats killing their owner, burned up babies…  This is an Italian horror movie of the first order.  Considering the lady got her eyes clawed out, this is now definitely a Lucio Fulci movie as well.  It only took us 60 minutes of an 85 minute movie to get here.

Detective Lucio Fulci, and another detective who acts like a young Italian Columbo (but like a Columbo with severe head trauma), start looking for the killer of Evans’ colleague.  Fulci is starting to think that Turi is the culprit because when talking to the butcher, he gets a weird vibe from him each time the topic of keeping the town’s secrets safe comes up.  Columbo brings up a past disagreement between the two colleagues that implicates Evans.  I’m not sure why this is being focused on because we fucking know it is ghost nuns.

Okay, yes, yes.  In the world of the movie, there has to be something other than “it was ghost nuns”, but why even have that in the movie?  This isn’t a giallo that would naturally have a murder mystery element baked in.  This movie is about ghost nuns.

Alright, we’re down to the finale of this movie that is likely  not going to be anywhere near as exciting as it should be.  Evans is ready to get the fuck out of town because people are dead and he’s being implicated as a murderer.  Liza isn’t wanting to go.  I guess she’s like really into these ghost nuns and shit, but Evans says there is only one thing that he’s staying behind to investigate otherwise he’s gonna beat bricks.

Turi, for some reason, is at the monastery and sees that one of the nuns is not on her fucking cross where she should be.  At the butcher shop he runs, he picks up a knife and decides to… what?  Ghosts can’t be stabbed, bro.  He goes into the meat locker to look for ghost nuns I guess?  The ghost nun laughs at him, because no shit, he’s an idiot and probably still on all the cocaine sucked out of that Coke can in Demons.  Ghost nuns throw meat him, and then nail his tongue to a chopping block.

Detectives Fulci and Columbo are on the scene to figure out what happened to Turi.  Fulci finds him where the nuns left him.  In addition to the body, he also finds a piece of cloth in Turi’s hand that hasn’t been woven in that style for centuries.  Okay, sure, now Fulci knows there’s something really strange going on, but, I ask again, why does this need to be part of the movie?

Oh fuck it.  So the villagers are all amped up again and they plan to tear down the monastery.  Evans wants everyone to get out.  He realizes Liza is missing as is the son of a couple on the expedition.  We learn he’s being dragged away by someone dressed as a nun.  The father is chasing after him and then suddenly is in some sort of elaborate trap that when the son trips the booby trap causes this shit to happen to his dad:

Jesus fucking Christ!

I… I feel like that was a reshoot.  There were no forest near the monastery.  That shit happened so fast and so out of left field that I cannot believe that was always in the script.  It was like someone on set said “Yo, Lucio…  I got mad skills at creating an effect that can tear a body in half.  Can we do something like that?”  And he was all like, “Yes.  Yes we can.” and they did.

So Evans finds a nun walking through the monastery and is pretty bummed out when he realizes it’s Liza.  He’s doubly bummed when she fucking stabs him with a crucifix.  She starts spitting green goo from her mouth and then takes a spot on the empty cross.  The villagers finds her and burns her as well as the rest of the remains.

So I have some questions…

Was Liza possessed by the nuns?  If so, by the nun who left her cross to go kill people?  Was she killed herself by the nun and made one of them?  Were nuns speaking to her the whole time?  If so, why didn’t we hear that?  Okay, I see that after the bodies were burned, Liza reappears in her normal clothes at the foot of the crosses, but is still dead?

Also, this movie is called Demonia.  That title and Lucio Fulci being the director was what got this movie picked for Nights of Demons Month.  Where the fuckin’ demons at, Lucio?  I mean I guess we have that one dude who was in Demons a couple weeks ago.  I guess he gives this movie a sorta pass for the title kinda not living up to its fucking promises.

Oh well.  I’m done with this at least.  Next week is one of my favorite horror movies as a kid.  It was one that a buddy and I rented one night for a sleepover and then rented it again and again and couldn’t get enough of it.  It’s the 1988 classic Night of the Demons!  Come back in a week and we’ll have a nice little chat about it.

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