Two “Nights” Gonna be a Good Night.

There’s a scene in both the 1988 version of Night of the Demons and its 2009 remake (just released on home video) that perfectly demonstrates not only the difference between the two movies, but also the difference in general of the approach of horror movies in the last two decades.

If you’ve seen either one, you know the scene to which I refer: a young woman, possessed by a demon, inserts a lipstick into her breast through its nipple. In 1988, that’s the entire scene. But in 2009, the scene is extended to include its bloody exit through… her other end.

As gory as 1980’s horror movies may have been, it seems that in the 2000’s filmmakers have to take it further and go completely over the top. That’s the primary difference between the two versions of Night of the Demons: the new one is faster-paced, louder, gorier… And sexier. Yes, while in both movies demons possess their victims through sexual acts, in 1988 it wasn’t overtly stated. But today, it’s clearly outlined, including visually and verbally graphic depictions of which orifices are being used. I don’t say that as a complaint, merely as a fact.

Both movies take place as a result of party shenanigans on Halloween night. In the original, demons rise from the bowels of an abandoned mortuary following a séance. The host, Angela (Mimi Kinkade), is a creepy high school girl who manages to get ten fellow students to attend. In the remake, Angela is a hot entrepreneur (Shannon Elizabeth) with hopes of turning a profit from attendees by charging admission to her party inside a dilapidated New Orleans mansion. When police prematurely end the debauchery, seven young adults remain to be terrorized.

I liked the original Night of the Demons better the second time I watched it, and I liked the remake better after watching the original. The remake actually improves upon and enhances the original story. It provides an interesting back story that explains the purpose of the demons, as if they need a reason to take over the world. The prologue and corresponding flashbacks are great, and it’s the first time I can remember a woman’s head popping off when she is hung by a rope.

For each of their eras, the Night of the Demons movies are bloody and sexy. Of course, the 1988 version may not seem so today, but remember that it’s 20 years old. And both use clever camera trickery: the original, directed by Kevin Tenney (Witchboard), a 360 degree pan of possessed Angela dancing; the remake, directed by Adam Gierasch (Autopsy), a fast-forward tour of the party’s excesses before it is shut down.

Even though it’s horribly dated with big 80’s hair and a heavy organ/synthesizer soundtrack, there’s a charm about the original that I prefer. For me, the makeup and special effects are not only more realistic-looking than those of the remake, but also simply more interesting. In the remake, the demons seem more one-dimensional or washed out. Plus, the camera does not linger as lovingly on the movie’s creations. It could be a matter of practical effects vs. CGI, but I don’t know that for a fact.

I recommend watching both versions of Night of the Demons. Unlike some 80’s movies and their remakes, these two movies actually make good companion pieces. The stories are bascially the same, but the remake expands on it in a way that makes it modern and relevant. Either way, you can’t go wrong; Halloween night would be the perfect time to give one of them a try.

REMAKE REWIND: Night of the Demons
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Night of the Demons (1988)
Night of the Demons (2009)
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