In 1988, director Kevin S. Tenney turned a screenplay by Joe Augustyn into the cult classic Night of the Demons. Twenty-one years later, director Adam Gierasch and his co-writer/wife Jace Anderson were hired to bring the story back to the screen in their own way.
Facing eviction from her apartment if she doesn’t come up with some quick cash, a party promoter named Angela Feld is hosting a Halloween party at the Broussard mansion in New Orleans.
Among the many people who come to Angela’s party are Suzanne, an old friend of Angela’s who used to sneak into the mansion with her all the time; Lily, who is dressed as a sexy cat, the same costume Suzanne is wearing; and their friend Maddie, who has gotten into the horror roots of Halloween and dressed as a… zombie? A victim of a violent crime? I’m not sure, but her clothes are ripped and she has spots of dirt and blood on her. Lily’s ex-boyfriend Dex, who she still has a thing for, also shows up at the party, appearing to be dressed as a club kid, along with his pal Jason, who wears the costume of a surgeon who has been stabbed with a pair of scissors.
Before the party, Jason could be found policing his neighborhood with a paintball gun, making sure trick-or-treaters properly abided by tradition.
Angela isn’t the only character hurting for cash. Maddie’s drug dealing ex Colin is in deep trouble with Nigel, the club owner/criminal kingpin he works for and gives a cut of his profits to. Colin hasn’t been bringing in enough money lately, so now Nigel is demanding double the amount Colin would usually give him. Colin goes to Angela’s party, sans costume, because he needs to sell a whole lot of drugs within the next twenty-four hours.
Neither Colin nor Angela gets the money they need, because the cops shut the party down soon after it starts. Angela rented the venue, but she didn’t get a party permit, and this soirée doesn’t count as a private party because she was charging admission… Never mind that her business partner ran off with all the money when the cops arrived.
Soon, the mansion has emptied out, only seven people remaining inside its walls – Angela; Maddie, Lily, Dex, and Jason, who had to stick around to find where the hard-drinking Suzanne passed out; and Colin, who needs to go into the basement to retrieve the drugs he tossed down a vent when he saw the cops.
While Colin and Angela search the basement for his stash, they discover a hidden room, in which six decomposed corpses lie on the dirt floor. Much like Hull House in the original film, the Broussard mansion has a dark history, as is teased with an opening sequence that is made to look like a clip from an old silent film. In 1925, Evangeline Broussard fell in love with a man who didn’t reciprocate her feelings. Seeking to win his heart with a love spell, Evangeline delved deeply into magic, witchcraft, and voodoo, eventually making contact with evil spirits who told her to invite six people, including the man she loved, to her home on Halloween to perform a séance, and by the end of this séance he would be hers.
Things didn’t turn out the way Evangeline had hoped. Before dawn on November 1st, she had hanged herself from the mansion’s front balcony, the rope decapitating her. Her six party guests were never seen again. The only person left alive in the mansion was the maid, who had gone mad and was found writing symbols and spells all over the walls of an upstairs room.
85 years later, the corpses of Evangeline’s guests have finally been found. Spotting a gold tooth in one of the corpse’s mouths, Angela reaches out for it… and the corpse, which is almost nothing but a skeleton now, bites her hand. Through this bite, Angela becomes the first of the group to be possessed by a demonic entity.
When the group goes to leave, they find that the property gate has been shut and locked, and they can’t figure out how to get it opened again or any way over the stone wall. They’re stuck in the Broussard mansion for the night. Things go terribly, horrifically wrong from there, as members of the group become possessed one-by-one, demonic spirits entering their bodies through kisses and bites and then transforming them into hideous beasts.
Although Gierasch and Anderson crafted a completely new backstory for their variation on the Joe Augustyn/Kevin S. Tenney “trapped in a house with demons” concept, they do work in several homages to the 1988 original, including naming the party hostess Angela and dressing her in a similar black outfit. The name Suzanne also comes from the first movie, but the character is quite different.
Actress/legendary scream queen Linnea Quigley, who played the ’88 Suzanne, is given a cameo early on, handing candy out for trick-or-treaters in the same costume she wore more than twenty years before.
Like the original Angela, this film’s Angela does get to do a little dancing, but the dance Angela ’09 performs to a song by Type O Negative isn’t nearly as awesome as the dance actress Amelia Kinkade did to Bauhaus in ’88.
The Lily character performs a twist on the original’s infamous “disappearing lipstick” gag, and makes even more gag-worthy by having the lipstick reappear from somewhere else.
Gierasch certainly wasn’t afraid to go for the grossouts as the demons wreak havoc on the small group of partiers. Blood and gore are plentiful, with worms and tentacles thrown in on top of it.
Eventually the human cast is whittled down to just Maddie, Colin, and Jason, who realize they must fight to survive until dawn not just for themselves, but for the fate of the world. The demons they’re dealing with are hardcore evil, so bad that they even tried to overthrow the devil himself and take over Hell, an unsuccessful coup that led to them being bound and cast out of the land of eternal damnation. If the demons can manage to possess seven people over the course of one Halloween, they will be free. But surviving until dawn and saving the world will require quite a struggle.
Gierasch’s Night of the Demons remake is a fine little gory creature feature, although the tone and style of it doesn’t appeal to me nearly as much as Tenney’s goth rock spookshow approach to the original did. While Tenney’s film perfectly captured the atmosphere of a Halloween night, the update doesn’t have that, it just has a vulgar sense of humor and lots of disgusting visuals.
The demons themselves are kind of lackluster this time around, the scenarios involving them aren’t all that great. I’ve watched Night of the Demons ’09 a few times now, and still nothing about the demon attacks have stuck with me as being particularly memorable.
I do enjoy the cast, which includes the likes of Shannon Elizabeth as Angela, Freddy vs. Jason heroine Monica Keena as Maddie, Laid to Rest’s Bobbie Sue Luther as Suzanne, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning’s Diora Baird as Lily, and John F. Beach as Jason… The exception is Edward Furlong as Colin. I’ve always found Furlong to have a very off-putting screen presence. Thanks for nothing, James Cameron.
Night of the Demons ’09 is no Night of the Demons ’88, but if you’re in the mood to watch something involving rampaging monsters terrorizing people trapped in one location, there are much worse takes on the set-up out there.