RETURNING to the fray for another round of celluloid carnage, we take a look at the obscure sequel to a film remembered by no one: 1994’s Night of the Demon 2.
In an entertainment industry slowly adapting to digital distribution (legal or otherwise), it’s difficult for the younger generation (myself included) to relish the cavalier joy of renting out a clamshell VHS from the local Blockbuster and indulging in 90-odd minutes of splatterhouse nonsense. The 1980s were the kernel for the “Video Nasty” – a term drummed up by concerned moral guardians on a wave of general hysteria – and films like Cannibal Holocaust and I Spit on Your Grave entered the social consciousness as depraved monstrosities ill-fit for audience viewing.
Think of the children, indeed, but most direct-to-video releases did not achieve such notoriety. Night of the Demons 2 is a prime example. A largely forgotten sequel to a largely forgotten slasher flick, Night of the Demons 2 continues the vaguely defined story of the demonic Angela (Amelia Kinkade, self-proclaimed pet psychic), a restless spirit who, in the original film, had her party soundly pooped when a séance went horribly wrong.
In the sequel, she returns for no reason to enact vengeance on people with no connection to the original event, all of whom attend a strict Catholic boarding school. A group of teenagers with attitude – lead with more cleavage than brains by Shirley (Zoe Trilling) – all resolve to hit up Hull House, the site of the original’s massacre, accompanied by Angela’s doormat sister Melissa (Merle Kennedy). Also it’s Halloween and ghostly shenanigans ensue. Obviously.
Despite its standard-issue premise, Night of the Demons 2 does manage to conjure up some surprises, most of which are manifested in the no-nonsense Sister Gloria (Jennifer Rhodes). Rhodes, an accomplished character actress with a string of appearances in film and television, had her celluloid turns in the 80s and 90s largely restricted to B-grade slasher fare like Slumber Party Massacre and Body Count. Here, she imbues Sister Gloria with fiery charisma, piloting her in perpetual cockblock mode and always – always – wandering the school grounds with a ruler in her hand.
Sister Gloria – and her superior, Father Bob (Rod McCary) – are the clearest demarcations of the film’s tonal forebear: Evil Dead II. Eschewing the horror aesthetic of your typical slasher, Night of the Demons 2 unabashedly lunges for camp and trash, hurling boobs and decapitations (but mostly boobs) at the screen with gleeful velocity, especially as the hi-jinks escalate. It’s impossible to take a pastor named Father Bob seriously, and the film knows it, depicting the man as a tired, overworked authoritarian who’s secretly sick of all these damn kids.
But that’s just one example in a film that happily subverts expectations of the genre. From the hilariously awful opening featuring Jehovah’s Witnesses – played with the conviction of finely polished oak by their performers – to the moment Sister Gloria whips out nunchuks (pun intended) made out of rosary beads and goes to town on the demon horde, the film plays fast and loose with genre conventions. It’s campy, trashy nonsense, sure, but the film never fails to acknowledge itself as exactly that.
The result is a surprisingly entertaining romp, its clichés and stereotypes turned inward as a reflection of its own absurd self. Take Perry (Robert Jayne), a gibbering neurotic whose unshakeable belief in demonic forces and exorcism leads him into repeated chastising from Father Bob and Sister Gloria. Characterised as a hilariously lame, do-gooding nerdlinger, his inadequacy flies out the window when he fills up super soakers and water balloons with holy water. And it works! It fucking works!
The rest of the cast are similarly charismatic and game for self-parody. Trilling’s performance in particular is a treat, despite her only real requirement being to show off her breasts at every opportunity. Her Shirley is a venomous super-bitch – an even more despicable Regina George – whose sole pleasure in life is, apparently, making everyone feel like liquid shit. Trilling chews scenery with aplomb, both in human and demon form, stopping the whole film for a gratuitous dance that culminates in her breasts transforming into claws and crushing her beau’s hands.
It’s one of the more striking, gross-out visuals in a film that’s surprisingly restrained with its effects and ‘scares’. Hull House is a suitably cobwebbed abode of the kind you’d see in a Scooby Doo episode: A cartoonish mansion drenched in pseudo-eerie spooks. The demon make-up isn’t terrible and, as the film ramps up, the comparisons to Evil Dead II become self-evident and (almost) justified.
But you’re not watching Night of the Demons 2 for its quality. It’s a B-movie through and through, the kind that Roger Corman would slam out on a shoestring budget in a fortnight, but it’s a damn entertaining ride once you recognise its tone for what it is. It takes a while to settle, with a first act bogged down by lengthy dialogues.
Knowledge of the first film (which I lack) certainly helps, the characters are stock at best and the script is technically rubbish, but it’s a 96-minute blast of shameless nonsense, the kind you’d watch at the strike of 12 on a stormy night. Grab a group of snarky friends, snag some booze and boot up Netflix for an evening of tongue-in-cheek silliness.