The piece below was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of the actors currently on strike, the art being covered in this piece wouldn't exist.
The rollicking straight-to-video sequel to the cult classic original shines on blu-ray.
Is this the Undisputed II of horror movies?
That’s a rhetorical question, because I wouldn’t bring that hallowed DTV continuation up if it weren’t legitimately comparable, so Yes. This is the level of quality (especially in comparison to time and resources) that we’re dealing with when talking about Brian Trenchard-Smith’s follow-up to the Kevin Tenney 1988 original. Springing from another Joy Augustyn script, Night of the Demons 2 not only does the smart sequel work of expanding on the rules and mythology of the (fortunately nebulously-defined original), but also manages to pull the same trick of hewing just close enough to horror formulae that its diversions are delightful surprises all while delivering a better-developed cast of characters and jaw dropping make-up and monster effects.
Set six years after the original, this sequel follows Melissa “Mouse” Franklin (Merle Kennedy) – sister of Angela Franklin (Amelia Kinkade) who disappeared on her ill-fated Halloween party – and her classmates at St. Rita’s Academy. A Catholic boarding school for “troubled students,” St. Rita’s is little more than a reminder to the orphaned Mouse of her status as an outsider no matter where she is, and is a breeding ground for spiteful socialites and cruel pranks.
When head bully Shirley (Zoe Trilling) ropes Mouse and some other students into a particularly nasty practical joke, the group winds up at Hull House, and this is where the film starts to zag. The teens bug out instead of dismissing the creepy shit that starts to pile up, but the unsavory spirits manage to follow them back, and then the film starts to make a genuine meal of its two main locations and the various character combinations that it established in the first act. Head nun Sister Gloria (Jennifer Rhodes) is a particular standout as one part Trunchbull, one part Father Merrin, and one part Abraham van Helsing. But Cristi Harris as Bibi ably shoulders Scream Queen duties and Amelia Kinkade gets to cement Angela as a scenery devouring horror icon.
In addition to better character arcs and more interesting ensemble dynamics this time around, the other big ace up the movie’s sleeve is how it leans into the humor that was slightly more of a garnish last time around. The comparison to Evil Dead 2 vs. the original isn’t quite perfect, but it’s not far off the mark, either – especially given the manic energy that Trenchard-Smith brings to bear as the film sprints toward it’s Russian nesting doll of a finale. The movie not only concocts compelling set pieces with complex in-camera effects gags across an impressive variety of settings, but can turn on a dime from hilarious punchline to obscene gross-out sequence without upsetting the tonal balance.
If it sounds like I’m heaping a lot of praise on a direct-to-video “horny teens getting gutted by demons” sequel, that’s because spending enough time in the horror genre shows you just how poorly this concept can go when it’s in the hands of people who don’t give a shit. However, partly due to a solid foundation from the writer of the original and partly thanks to a professional and talented director who really knew how to squeeze a dollar, this is a film that improves on the original in nearly every way.
The other way in which Night of the Demons 2 ups its game is in lead makeup artist Steve Johnson’s frankly insane practical creature and effects work here. The original was infamous for having truly dynamite prosthetics (no surprise given Johnson worked on An American Werewolf in London and Big Trouble in Little China and would go on to do Blade II), but what the sequel accomplishes is nothing short of extraordinary. Not only because the budget and time were so limited, but also because not as many studios were pushing the envelope in the Fangoria-style “let’s see how we can top ourselves from last time” approach to horror gore in the mid-90s.
There’s also an extended gore gag based around an inversion of “copping a feel” that’s one of the grossest and funniest scenes of its kind. It’s real hard not to admire a movie that’s so insistent on piling the cherries on top.
Another area where Shout Studios put a lot of obvious effort, the new transfer (taken from the interpositive) isn’t quite able to escape looking like a straight-to-video movie. However, it looks like a pretty damn great DTV film, impressive texture and atmosphere popping in spite of the overall “brighter” look. There’s more impressive visual flair than some horror films I’ve seen from the past year or two, and you’ll be treated to a murderer’s row of questionable hair styles and oozing orifices in glorious high definition. The audio is DTS HD stereo and is crisp and clear throughout.
This is a real meal, with two feature-length commentaries (one from the cast, and one from director Brian Trenchard-Smith and Director of Photography David Lewis) and several lengthy interviews with cast members and filmmakers. The format isn’t flashy, but it’s got great insights and stories as well as breakdowns of some of the nuts-and-bolts behind the film’s incredibly impressive make-up and in-camera effects.
Audio Commentary – with actors Christi Harris, Jennifer Rose, Darin Heames, and Johnny Moran.
Audio Commentary – with Director Brian Trenchard-Smith and Director of Photography David Lewis.
A Tale of Two Demons (70 min) – in-depth interview with Night of the Demons director Kevin Tenney and Night of the Demons 2 director Brian Trenchard-Smith.
Trick or Treat, Sucker (25 min) – Interview with actor Amelia Kinkade.
Red Curls and Screams (21 min) – Interview with actor Cristi Harris.
Monster Mayhem (48 min) – Interview with creature effects designer and make-up artist Steve Johnson.
A Sequel With Guts (13 min) – Inteview with producer Jeff Geoffray.
Night of the Demons 2 Workprint (96 min) – standard definition workprint of the film.
Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery
Night of the Demons 2: Collector’s Edition is available for purchase on blu-ray now from Shout Studios and Scream Factory.
Get it at Amazon: Night of the Demons 2 Scream Factory Blu-ray
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