Top Five Halloween Movies #1: NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (1988)

This series of reviews counts down some of the best Halloween films of all time – not just scary movies, but ones that feature Halloween as a central theme. The entries will be counted down each day, with the number one pick published on October 31st. No star ratings, just consider all these films highly recommended.

Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, for our main attraction – the spookshow spectacular called NIGHT OF THE DEMONS. This is my pick for the perfect Halloween-themed movie. This is a film that not only takes place on Halloween, but seems to have the spirit of the holiday pumping throughout its very heart and soul.

Like everything else in this series of reviews, NIGHT OF THE DEMONS takes place on Halloween night. Angela (Amelia Kinkade), a sexy yet not entirely understood goth, is having a party. Several teens (who all look like they’re well into their twenties and “so be it” I say) are out getting ready for the big event. It was nice of Angela to invite every archetype that she could find. We have nerds, sluts, greasers, jocks – and sometimes wrapped into the same person.

This group of teens gathers at Hull House, an abandoned and very haunted funeral parlor. They are there to party, to drink, to dance, to make out and have a good time. In the spirit of Halloween, they decide to hold a séance in front of a large mirror. Only they probably don’t expect the mirror to turn black and a demon to be staring at them from the other side. They’re all a bit spooked by this, but while some decide to leave the house, others try to forget about what they just saw.

Too late. It’s Halloween night, the demons have been called and they hold dominion over Hull House. Some of the teens are possessed by demonic spirits while others try in vain to escape the horror, finding only that the demons will not allow them to leave the grounds.

This is old school horror, folks. It’s campy but not so much that it becomes anything less than a great horror experience, blending the tropes from decades past and bringing them into the mid-1980s. It’s the type of film where seeing two people having sex in a coffin on Halloween seems natural. Gigantic boomboxes are brought out and people dance terribly. Teenagers turn into boil-infested monsters. Demons speak in hilarious growly voices and their favorite topic of conversation in the damnation of innocent souls.

Tenney (WITCHBOARD, BRAIN DEAD) enjoys bringing every clichéd character out of mothballs and then showing that there’s more to all of them. Sal (William Gallo) is a greaser that seems at least fifteen years out of date, but he’s not as sleazy as you think. Rodger (Alvin Alexis) isn’t the demon bait you expect him to be. Judy (Cathy Podewell) isn’t the shrinking violet she appears either. It’s a movie where being pretty won’t save you and being awkward won’t insure your destruction. You have no idea who is going to make it out of this one alive.

And let’s take a look at some of the amazing genre performances. The great Linnea Quigley is here, overdoing the sexpot bit as Suzanne. If you don’t know who Quigley is, I honestly don’t know what you’re doing reading this right now. There’s a reason people continue to love her more than thirty years after her screen debut. This is the film where Quigley does something horrible with a piece of makeup that Maybeline won’t be able to live down.

Kinkade is also amazing as Angela, a part she would reprise for two sequels. A professional dancer, she slinks around during a sexy number and then amps it up once she turns fangy. She seems to be having a ball as the main baddie.

Tenney keeps the camera whirling around in a manner seen in few places outside of Sam Raimi’s early films. The urgency is kept up as soon as the demons are unleashed and the film never drags. An old maxim of great exploitation cinema is that a film needs to contain blood, boobs and a beast. NIGHT OF THE DEMONS has all of these in massive abundance.

There is a good reason why this is my pick for the number one Halloween-themed movie. While other films are either fun accessories to or reminders of the holiday, NIGHT OF THE DEMONS never fails to make it feel like Halloween with every subsequent viewing. I watch this film a few times every year, and each time it is as if the world becomes a carnival funhouse for ninety minutes. The film carries the Halloween spirit within it and upon watching NIGHT OF THE DEMONS, the hearts and souls of those of us who really love this time of year are transported to October 31st, no matter what time of year it is.

Kevin S. Tenney’s film seems to have been designed with the idea to bring the scares and the laughs in equal quantity and often at the same time. It has a sense of fun missing from most modern horror films, including the remake from a couple of years back. It’s delirious fun. Like sitting down and watching a haunted house attraction around you. From the very beginning, two things become clear: NIGHT OF THE DEMONS is the ultimate Halloween-themed film and that Angela can sure throw one hell of a party.


– Rated R for graphic, bloody violence, nudity and sexuality and strong language.

– Running Time: 1hr 30mins.



Categories: Reviews, Scott W. Davis

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