After streaming 3 movies from the early 2000s, I can only conclude that these enthusiastic directors were inspired by all my faves from the 80s—Evil Dead, Demons, Night of the Demons, etc. Hell, that’s why I watched the movies. So, did any of them satisfy my hopes of something in that style that was not a remake?
DEMON SUMMER (2003)
Demon Summer has a homebrewed indie horror feel, but I must say, the first few minutes caught my attention instantly, because the group of kids in it has a very 80s look and vibe, plus a genuine sounding, faux 80s hair band song plays in the background.
When the kids steal a book (and liquor) from some homeless guy in the woods, I was hoping things would launch into an Evil Dead kind of scenario, but it appears the filmmakers did the easiest thing they could afford—they just had these kids hang out in the woods for a majority of the film, drinking, talking about sex and relationships, and goofing on each other. While the actors are clearly amateurs, there’s something endearing about their performances, and I was able to laugh at their banter a few times. There’s just too much of it and nothing else happens for a majority of the film.
Eventually, the kids sit around a campfire talking about an old legend of some dude who read from a demonic ritual book, kind of like the book they stole! So naturally, they read from it. The fire suddenly flares up, and one guy keels over and foams at the mouth. After that, he begins acting really weird. I had high hopes when we first see him become a demon. This is the movie’s single, fantastic scene that breaks from the “point camera and film scene with no thought to lighting, camera angles, etc.” issues that plague the movie. He’s in a room with his girlfriend, he smashes a lamp, blue and red lighting drenches the screen, and in between flashes of lightning, we see he has become a hideous demon.
If only the director had been able to retain the vibe of this moment.
Instead, we get more talking, a comic hick detective and cop duo is introduced, and once in a while, the demon kills another person. The attacks are over too fast to keep up a satisfying horror tone, but I am impressed that there’s a daylight scene in which the demon takes down two of the guys, including a fist through the chest.
Finally, in the last 15 minutes of the film, we are treated to some stylish horror music as the friends come face-to-face with the demon, all at once, in the woods. He starts to take them down one by one. There’s only one time he passes on his demonic possession, by puking green slime all over the face of one of his victims. But after that, the movie quickly comes to a close. Bummer. I was rooting for the movie to surprise me, but the only moment really worth seeing is the first introduction of the demon.
THE DEMONS AMONG US (2006)
Imagine a filmmaker creating a wickedly awesome horror flick for fans of Evil Dead then completely obliterating it in an apparent attempt to be fresh and original, and you have The Demons Among Us. It’s as if an artist was compelled to mark his territory, so he pissed and shit all over his own masterpiece.
The storyline promises to be about a dude who comes to the country to get away from it all and is then thrust into a nightmare of people turning into demons. On the bright side, the main guy is adorable and spends most of the film in his jammy bottoms and a tank top, plus the demons are freaky looking and there’s plenty of gore. The down side is everything else.
The Demons Among Us is so schizo that when I tried to watch it with two other people, they eventually out-voted me and I was forced to turn it off and finish it by myself later. The film constantly goes from black and white to color to half and half. The visuals never come into focus, combining choppy editing, shaky cam, extremely dark footage, random split screen, and a variety of spastic music video techniques and gimmicks, which causes every moment of the film to be an aimless assault on the eyes. It’s seriously video gibberish.
And forget a clear plot. There are endless “delusion” and dream sequences, as well as some religious imagery. There’s some sort of film studio “subplot” that I didn’t understand in any way (had no interest in understanding, actually). It seems to have no relevance to anything else that’s going on, feels low budget amateur bad, and ruins whatever atmosphere the demon part of the film manages to create.
The main guy does finally have his demon-slaying moment, but the sequence is set to an awful song that doesn’t do the horror aspects of the film any favors.
I mourn the simple but incredibly effective demon film that is lost deep underneath all the self-indulgence of this creation.
THEY MUST EAT (2006)
The demons are definitely the highlight of They Must Eat, which has a shot-on-video look and feel.
The plot is simple and straightforward, giving it ample opportunity to just impress us with the horror. A guy’s girlfriend gives him the boot, so he goes to stay with his uncle for a while. He immediately begins to hear monsters sounds coming from a vent. He also gets glimpses of something running around the house and sees blood streaks on the floor. He soon catches his uncle in the act of hacking up bodies in the basement. Turns out, his uncle is in charge of caring for and feeding the demons, it’s a family curse, and now he is going to be responsible.
Unfortunately, the film becomes quite routine from there. The guy finds people to lure into the house for one reason or another then kills them. There’s plenty of gore, but no suspense or scares. While we get to see the demons often enough—their makeup is fantastic, and one is even called Telly Savalas because of his bald head—they are not the focal point. If they had been running amok terrorizing everyone, things could have been quite scary. Instead, the movie is predominantly about their keeper killing people, and the conclusion is quite anti-climactic.