There is only one film series that I can think of (Prom Night) besides the Night of the Demons franchise that took such a hard left turn on its sequel. Prom Night followed a group of kids stalked by a maniacal killer. Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2 is about a spirit of a girl killed during her prom in 1957 and comes back to claim her place as queen. It’s an odd story (especially when you consider it a sequel), but it works completely on its own. I never saw Prom Night until I was older, but Mary Lou was a staple on the Saturday afternoon creature features.
Night of the Demons (1988) is a pretty good movie that suffers from an identity crisis: It wants to be Evil Dead, Creepshow, and a haunted house movie all rolled up into one. It, like Prom Night, is confusing when placed next to its sequel because it differs so much.
It opens with a old man bringing home groceries on Halloween night. Kids trick or treating walking happily past him, and he’s the stereotypical grumpy old man. After being tortured by some teenagers (One moons him. Another scares him with a plastic rat.), he drops his grocery. A teenage blonde (Judy) attempts to help gather the groceries, and he calls her a whore. After she runs off, he reveals his plan to place razor blades in apples. We revisit it at the end of the movie.
This odd wraparound story reminds me of Creepshow, and I half expected to see the final shot transform into a comic book frame. It has a nice twist to it, and has quite the story for (maybe) a 10 minute short. Unfortunately, it is so misplaced in the movie that it sticks out as an Easter egg.
Judy (the teenage blonde) comes home and calls her boyfriend Jay. He tells her that Angela (the goth girl in their class) is having a Halloween party at Hull House tonight. Hull House is a former funeral parlor with a sordid history. As the kids and their friends make their way to the party, we learn more and more of its legend. She finishes getting dressed, we are introduced to the the other teens, and everybody begins making their way to the house.
After everybody gets to the house, the kids start drinking and dancing to this crazy heavy metal song about computer dating (Remember: this is 1988.). They bring out the strobe light and everybody’s having fun until the boombox runs out of batteries. So, they do what all normal kids do: They conduct a seance.
This releases a demon from the basement, and we see a really cool point of view shot as it makes its way up to the kids. The kids sense something there as it suddenly becomes cold and rank smelling in the room. It possesses Suzanne, Angela’s best friend, because her mouth is wide open as she puts on lipstick.
Suddenly, this movie gets the feel of Evil Dead. Suzanne kisses Angela and passes a demon to her. Together, they begin picking off the party goers one by one. One guy walks in on Suzanne applying lipstick all over her face and acting crazy. He calls her insane, leaves, and we are treated with a very disturbing/hilarious thing that she does with the lipstick (Trust me. My jaw hit the floor.).
Demons then becomes a haunted house flick. The remaining characters make their way through the house looking for an escape to no avail. The gate they drove through no longer exists, and the giant brick wall outside makes it a prison. When somebody is killed, the demons take over their bodies.
This movie takes a long time to get going. It’s slow and clunky at the beginning. But once it takes off, it does a great job of staying the course. Like I said before, the old man wraparound is out of place. It’s good…just out of place. And, I have to admit, you’ll be surprised to see who survives (spoiler).
I loved the sequel to it, and still do today. But it takes a completely different approach. It assumes that Angela had planned for the demons to overtake her party, but that is never insinuated here. Also, the demons in Night are “pure evil as they have never been alive”. The sequel’s legend is that Angela descended into hell (after everybody died??) and is the main demon in it. I saw it first, and always assumed that was the setup for the first film. Nope. Also, a giant brick wall was placed on top of the underground river (which the demons could not pass over). In the sequel, the kids are driving down the road and somebody states they cross the river and the house is nowhere in sight. Separately, both movies stand tall on their own. But together, their sequels don’t make a lot of sense. It’s like watching the new GI Joe films today: I see the same recurring characters from the cartoons, but they are not the same people.
Night of the Demons (1988) is available streaming free on Youtube. It’s a fun ride once it gets going with some strange visuals. It does combine a few different movies into one (like a Halloween costume thrown together at the last second), but it doesn’t really cover new ground.