Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Night of the Demons 3 (1997)

Well, it had to happen. After a terrific start and a solid sequel, Night of the Demons 3 (released direct to video in 1997) is a spectacular miss. It’s not that the film skimped on the sex and violence, but the script lacks the punch and sense of fun present in the previous movies. While Kevin Tenney’s screenplay is pretty solid (despite ripping off his earlier screenplays), it seems director Jim “James” Kaufman decided on a more somber tone, which dooms this sequel.
The film starts out with a cop staked out in front of Hull House, who decides to check out strange noises and lights coming from within. Unfortunate for him, the cop meets up with Angela (Amelia Kinkade, reprising her role once again), a confrontation that doesn’t last long.
As the opening credits play, with awful CGI spirits floating over a flaming landscape towards Hull House, I began to have my doubts about the film. It’s obvious that the filmmakers were trying to update the terrific animated credits from the original, but the CG is just horrid that one’s hope for the movie starts to sink before the film starts up again.
The film then introduces us to two groups of teens, who will be meeting up with in the near future. We’ll start with Abby, the brainy schoolgirl and her friend Holly, the head cheerleader. Abby is jealous of Holly’s ability to get boys (and her breasts, as she compares chests while they change into their Halloween costumes). Holly tells Abby all she needs is a little self-confidence, as she’s no slouch in the looks department. Of course, it would help if she took off her glasses, put on the right make up and… oh hell, you know the rest.
Anyway, our second group of teens is out crushing around in a van, looking for trouble. We have the van’s owner, Orson, a wanna be punk trying to act like Vince, a sociopath in the making. It’s no surprise Orson wants to be like Vince, as he’s got the hots for Vince’s slutty girlfriend Lois. Or, actually, any girl that can “… suck a golf ball through ten feet of garden hose.” It’s obvious he thinks Lois can and figures that acting like a future felon is the way to make his dream come true.
Riding in back is Nick, your standard movie pretty boy delinquent. He’s not shy about flashing his switchblade, but he just looks too clean and pretty to come off as threatening. Next to him is Reggie, the humorous sidekick that seems more out of place then pretty boy Nick. Guess who gets it first!
But it’s not Angela who draws first blood (okay, she did kill the cop, but I’m talking post opening credits). After picking up Abby and Holly, whose car has broken down on the side of the road, our group of seven teens pull up to a convenience store for supplies. By this time, Holly flirts with Nick, who brushes her off, while Abby seems rather attracted to crazy Vince. Ah, the bad boy syndrome at work.
Inside the store, underage Reggie tries to buy a six-pack, only to have a shotgun pointed at his nose by a ticked off store clerk. Vince takes the gun away and starts threatening the clerk. Of course, a couple of cops chose that moment to walk through the door. Vince, being rather hotheaded (and a bit of an idiot), opens fire, starting a prolonged gunfight that leaves Reggie on the floor with a serious gut wound, one cop blown out a window and Nick saving Holly from being shot. Everyone piles into the van, where Vince deciding to hide out at the abandoned Hull House.
Now, I have to give Tenney (returning to the franchise after writing and directing the original) some credit for figuring out a new way to get a group of teens into Hull House. The script acknowledges that everyone knows what happened to the students from Saint Rita’s Academy (NOTD2), so it’s doubtful that a bunch of kids would even try to have a party there. However, I don’t think a massive gunfight is a good way to generate any empathy for most of the characters. As they drive over the underground river, the audience is given three teens so villainous (and not in a high school way, to paraphrase Diablo Cody) that they deserve to die. Another is already near death, and one of the good girls is pining for the bad guy, so she’s probably not crossing the underground river again.
Sure, some of the characters in the earlier films are jackasses (look at Stoogie in the first film), but none of them were potential killers. Expecting the audience to care about the three delinquents and the fate awaiting them is a serious flaw in the script. It’s like asking the audience to sympathize with the insurance adjuster in Saw VI. It’s just not going to happen.
And speaking of crossing the underground river, we are now treated to a CGI effect that is not only out of place, but just unnecessary. Just because a director has access to a computer effect program, it doesn’t mean one should use it.
Back at the convenience store, we find the shot police officer alive and well, thanks to his bulletproof vest. Inside, Lieutenant Dewhurst, a magic loving detective who is retiring at midnight, pieces together what happened, even though the clerk is saying a robbery started up the gunfight. Getting a confession from the clerk, Dewhurst takes off to find the kids before the trigger-happy patrol officers gun them down.
Whatever good will Tenney garnered earlier, he loses with the character of the Lieutenant, basically Detective Dewhurst from Tenney’s first feature, Witchboard. Hell, some of the lines are lifted from the earlier picture’s dialog. This might no have been so jarring had Tenney taken a moment to tie the Lieutenant to the earlier film, like mentioning a weird case with a Ouija board or something like that. But such a scene never occurs, though it might have ended up on the cutting room floor, giving one the impression of self-plagiarism from the scriptwriter’s earlier work.
Regardless, things are getting tense at Hull House after Angela comes down the stairs. Orson revels he’s picked up the fallen cop’s gun and offers to watch the girls while Vince and Lois force Nick upstairs to search for other residents. Angela starts seducing Orson, allowing Abby and Holly to carry Reggie to the van in an attempt to escape, but Holly won’t leave without Nick.
Meanwhile, Orson discovers that French kissing a demon is never a good idea. And once he turns, the mayhem ensues as Angela and her growing demon army starts taking souls, something new for the franchise that conflicts with the earlier films. Up to this point, any victim killed by a demon (including the cop at the beginning of Part 3) becomes a demon, without any indication of surrendering their souls to Angela. And the sudden change in the rules is never explained, though it likely is meant to tie into the second movie, but the connection is never made clear. Sure, the change allows Angela to interact with and seduce her victims, bringing another dimension to the character, but it rings false if you have fond memories of the first and second films.
Still, the biggest problem with the movie is it just feels tired and old. Even Amelia Kinkade, who was terrific in the first two films, seems bored. She does have a few standout moments, including fellating a gun barrel so well that she sucks the bullets out of the revolver (and you have no idea how hard it was for me to mention that scene as one of the best moments in her performance). But it’s obvious she’s rather tired with the role, one of the few she was able to get in the 90’s before becoming a professional animal psychic.
Toss in some subpar makeup (especially Angela’s demon face, which looks like it was built out of too much Play-Doh) and it’s obvious that the demon’s days are numbered. It’s too bad, as the franchise could have kept going, had this installment lived up to the previous films. But a clich├ęd, self-plagiarizing script, some mediocre acting and heavy-handed direction locked Angela away in Hull House, unavailable for another Halloween party.