Thursday, October 28, 2010

Night of the Demons 2 (1994)

Released on home video in 1994, Night of the Demons 2 is a bit of a surprise. The MPAA had spent the past decade beating up horror films is response to the slasher craze. The failure of the new NC-17 rating was becoming evident, as most theaters and newspaper listings treated films with the rating like pornographic features (and Showgirls didn’t help much). And the advent of home video was raising new concerns about children getting a hold of unrated horror films, with no one remembering that a decade ago, retailers were selling Rambo 2 toys to children.

So along comes this sequel to the cult classic, with full frontal nudity and more gore than the original. Yet it earns an R-rating, which might seem rather surprising. Perhaps the MPAA was swayed by the ending, when the teens finding salvation from the demons through old time religion. Seriously.

The film opens on an evangelical couple entering the deserted Hull House to spread the Good Word. Angela (Amelia Kinkade) is still roaming the halls and offers her new visitors some refreshments. After the couple declines a slice of Devil’s Food Cake, Angela carves into them instead. So, how does the death of two missionaries lead to the championing of religion over the demons? Well, just read on.

The film then moves to St. Rita’s Academy, a Catholic boarding school for troubled teens. I have no idea why most of the kids are considered troubled, as they are pretty normal (by movie stereotype standards). You’ve got the horny jocks (Kurt and Johnny) spying on the girl’s dorm with binoculars. And you’ve got the nice girl (Bibi), the slutty one (Shirley) and her friend (Terri), all prancing around the dorm room with their friends, while in their panties (and less), with the blinds up. Yup, that’s a bunch of normal movie teens.

Even the bookworm (Perry), who’s studying demonology, seems pretty normal. The only person with the least bit of troubled history is Melissa (nicknamed Mouse by the girls). She’s Angela’s sister, orphaned when her parents received a Halloween card from Angela after the events at Hull House, which caused them to committed suicide. Although everyone assumes Angela ran away for some reason, Mouse has dreams of her demon sister coming back for a horrific family reunion.

Well, it’s time to meet the faculty. Father Bob oversees the academy. He’s not as strict as his predecessor and wants the kids to take some responsibility for their own behavior at the Halloween dance. This is in direct conflict with Sister Gloria, who is very old school. She walks around breaking up cuddling couples, reminding them to “leave a little run for the Holy Ghost” and practices fencing moves with her ever present yardstick. The two butt heads, but the good Sister defers to the demands of Father Bob (as a good Catholic woman, you can’t upset the patriarchy).

Now, as a former Catholic, I can really thing of no more saintly names as Bob and Gloria. It appears the filmmakers didn’t know much about the Catholic tradition of naming children after saints, and I can’t remember a Saint Bob, or a Saint Gloria, for that matter. But then, I’m a very lapsed Catholic, so what do I know.

Anyway, Shirley and Kurt fall afoul of Sister Gloria and are banned from the Halloween dance, along with Johnny and Bibi (who are a couple, which makes you wonder why Johnny feels the need to spy on her with Kurt). Meanwhile, Perry is grounded by Father Bob for his demonology experiments, even as he tries to convince the priest that he conjured up Angela.

Shirley decides she’s not about to give up on a Halloween party and convinces the ever horny Kurt to get Johnny, Bibi, Terri and Mouse to come with her for a celebration they will never forget. Kurt, thinking he’s going to get lucky, convinces everyone to come along, only to be neutered by Shirley’s date, Rick, and his friend Z-Boy.

Shirley didn’t tell her party guests that the gathering was at Hull House, which causes Mouse a bit of distress and she decides to stay in the car. The rest enter the house, with Johnny and Bibi venturing off for some “exploration,” and Kurt trying to hook up with Terri. Shirley and friends, however, plan to scare everyone with a sacrifice, and when the black cat offering escapes, Shirley decides that a Mouse will do.

It’s all a prank, with a retractable knife, but strange things are starting to happen and everyone decides they want to leave. Z-Boy is missing, having met up with Angela for some nookie (and we all know how that will end), but Rick decides he can find his own way home and drives the rest of the group over the underground river containing the demons.

At this point, the movie should be over, but Bibi keeps the plot rolling by acting stupid and taking along a lipstick tube she found at Hull House. By the time she realizes her mistake, Shirley gets a hold of it and decides she likes the shade.

Back at St. Rita’s, Perry has discovered Shirley’s invitations and spills the beans to Sister Gloria. The Sister rushes away from the party to discover Mouse is missing. In her absence, the kids replace the square music with some rock and begin to have a good time. Our Hull House explorers, having pulled into the academy, decide to join in. But when Shirley has to use the restroom, the lipstick spouts a long, phallic worm that impregnates her with a demon (no, I’m not kidding), which allows Angela to join the fun.

And Angela kicks the party into high gear, with a seductive dance that’s a big hit with Johnny. But things turn sour as Shirley kills Nick, and Angela knocks Johnny’s head off. Then Shirley kisses Terri, infecting her with a case of the demons. See what happens when kids take responsibility for their own fun? All hell breaks loose.

Angela kidnaps Mouse and heads back to Hull House with the intent of sacrificing her. Father Bob, rather grumpy about being awaken in the middle of the night by Perry, doesn’t believe any of this, but agrees to go to Hull House to dispel the legend of Angela. Bibi, feeling responsible for Mouse, goes along and Johnny follows suit. Perry arms himself with Holy Water balloons and squirt guns, while Sister Gloria finds the perfect ruler in preparation for a massive battle with the demons of Hull House.

And this is when the movie kicks into high gore gear. Bodies melt and explode, a decapitated corpse uses its head as a basketball and a spiked baseball bat meets someone’s skull (and wins). And, in the final battle, our remaining heroes face an awesome practical Angela-snake. It’s this final 20 minutes that had me wondering how the filmmakers got away with it.

But it’s not too hard to understand, once you step back from the gore and mayhem. And, just so you know, HERE BE SPOILERS. So, if you hadn’t seen the film yet, watch it first, than come back. I’ll be here.

I’ve heard people wonder why the religious right didn’t get behind the Slasher craze. After all, if a teenager did something “wrong,” a masked killer would make sure they didn’t sin again. But, in one of the few instances where I can give those zealots credit, the right knew Old Testament message was lost on the kids cheering for the gore and violence. But with Night of the Demons 2, the scriptwriters craft a movie that offers salvation through the saving power of faith and the Catholic Church.

It’s not pro-any-religion, considering the two evangelical missionaries hacked up in the film’s opening moments. No, we're talking the strict, Old Testament-type Catholicism that saves the day. Father Bob, who dismisses the idea of demons and strict discipline, is dispatched and possessed moments after he walks over the threshold of Hull House. But Sister Gloria, killed by Angela during the battle, comes back to life (thanks to the power of faith) in one of the biggest WTF moments I’ve seen in a while.

And the surviving teens learn to embrace the power of faith as well, with one kicking a cross-shaped opening in a boarded window to vanquish Angela at the end. I think the presentation of the strict Sister Gloria as a heroic figure, earning the teen’s respect and admiration in the end, helped sway the MPAA to grant this film an R-rating.

But don’t let that little message keep you from checking this one out. It’s a great time for horror fans, as the religious angle is just window dressing for a film chocked full of blood, guts and boobs. The original is still the best, but this sequel shows that Angela can still throw a killer party.