Kevin Tenney’s Night of the Demons is, without a doubt, a B-Movie. It doesn’t pretend to be anything else. That’s sort of what makes it work as well as it does. Night of the Demons is a lower-budget horror feature that just wants the audience to have fun, which is incredibly refreshing. It doesn’t really need to offer anything more than that.
This is, of course, a far cry from The Exorcist, the so-called end all/be all of demonic possession films. And while the slapstick antics of The Evil Dead are fairly close to the style and tone of Night of the Demons, there’s a technical element to Evil Dead that really elevates it despite its goofiness. It may sound like I’m being negative toward Night of the Demons to say it doesn’t have any of that, but it’s not a bad thing. It may seem and sound generic at first, but this is an interesting feature that does its own thing in the most obvious way possible.
Night of the Demons re-envisions the demonic possession movie by effortlessly blending together the core elements of possession with the haunted house and slasher genres as well. The characters are about as far from Exorcist or even Evil Dead as you can get. They definitely feel like they would be right at home in a later Friday the 13th sequel.
It’s set on Halloween. In an old, haunted house. The cast of characters are just shy of being stock characters, for the most part, but they all have enough over-the-top qualities to really give them personality. These are all things that we, as an audience, have seen over and over again in horror movies. But we’ve never seen them quite like this.
One of the more unique, interesting things that Night of the Demons has going for it is its female antagonist—which was not unheard of at the time, but was a rarity, especially since most films with women as the monsters were slashers where the audience was led to believe a man was the killer up until the surprising twist.
There’s none of that here. Angela is front and center the whole time. While she is not even the first to become possessed in this first movie, she became the figurehead of the franchise. Amelia Kinkade reprised the role for both Night of the Demons 2 and 3.
The cast all know exactly what kind of production they’re in and ham it up to the perfect degree. Kinkade and Linnea Quigley in particular stand out. But the major thing working in Night of the Demons’ favor is the makeup.
This is a practical effects extravaganza, with the demon makeup looking almost like a disease that grows gradually throughout the feature. The final results are impressive, a truly demonic and toothy mess thanks to FX maestro Steve Johnson and the image of Angela in her fully-formed possessed state and grinning at the camera has become iconic among fans of cult classics and B-Movies.
This isn’t quite as gory as Evil Dead, it’s over-the-top absurdity works a little bit differently. It’s not so heightened to have as much spraying blood as humanly possible, but it also doesn’t pull any punches. Just because it doesn’t paint the room in blood doesn’t mean Night of the Demons is not a gore fest. It definitely is. The carnage just keeps building as it goes, with each scene a little more extreme than the last.
I can’t even really look at the ending to this day. There are gags that are less gory but still visceral that have stuck with fans for years, amongst them the infamous lipstick through the nipple scene. These are the insane, absurd sort of things that happen here. It’s truly a feature where anything goes.
Night of the Demons is a popcorn movie, through and through. It’s not realistic and it’s not particularly deep, and that’s what makes it work. It’s a spectacle of late 80’s entertainment. It invites you to have fun with it and it would be a challenge not to.
This one was a staple of what was at the time a booming video market. It’s one of those covers that stood out to every kid browsing the horror aisle of the video store, wondering just how gruesome and terrifying it would be. There’s something in the campiness and the gory nature of it that make it so far from the typical possession stories of post-Exorcist fare that make Night of the Demons a breath of fresh air.