JULY 12, 2011
Earlier today, someone asked me to sort of “rank the genre” with regards to foreign horror – French, Spanish, British, etc. I topped it with American, because I am xenophobic (kidding – it's because Americans made Halloween and Shocker!), but second was Italian, just because they’re always so fun and unpretentious. However, had I answered the question AFTER having watched Graveyard Disturbance (Italian: Una Notte Al Cimitero), I might have put Italian right at the bottom of the list out of spite – this is without a doubt the dullest and possibly the just plain worst Italian horror movie I’ve ever seen.
At times it seems like it might actually be the movie that the folks in Demons are watching, as it involves a group of kids (including the young guy from Demons) dicking around in an old crypt/cemetery. In fact, one scene even directly recalls the movie in the movie, as someone is asked to read Latin and says that math was his strong suit. But even the 5-10 minutes of that fake movie are more exciting and compelling than anything in this, as literally nothing happens for its entire 93 minute runtime.
And I mean NOTHING. Not like a Ti West movie where nothing happens until the final, rushed five minutes – NOTHING HAPPENS, PERIOD. I actually tweeted a little past the hour mark that I couldn’t believe no one had died yet, but I needn’t have included the “yet” part, as the final half hour followed suit. One of our five teens falls off a ladder and gets a bit dazed, and that’s about the closest we get to a kill scene. At one point the kid from Demons disappears for a while, and the rest are going around looking for him, which got me thinking maybe they were going to pull a Psycho and kill him off (via finding him dead), since he was set up as the hero, but no, he jumps out from behind a doorway and joins them on their endless wandering around mission.
Worse, the kids are the obnoxious/idiotic sort that you WANT to see dead, as they seemingly share about 9 brain cells between them. When a tavern literally appears out of thin air in the middle of the abandoned graveyard, none of them seem too concerned that something might be a little strange about that, and happily head on in. Later, a scary looking guy brandishing a weapon makes his way toward them, and they just stand around watching as if he was no more threatening than one of the guys trying to scare the tourists at Knott’s Scary Farm. Also, the whole plot kicks off with them robbing a convenience store, which means I’m not exactly rooting for their survival right off the bat.
And hell, this would all be well and good if it was funny or exciting, but that’s botched as well. I mean, it would be NICE to see them all killed, but I can grow to love them if they were put into a situation where they were forced to man up, save their friends, etc. Like Clooney in From Dusk Till Dawn – he’s a murderer and thief, sure, but I root for him. Why? Well A. because he’s Clooney, but B. because of the scene where he grabs Kate and Scott’s hands and pulls them out of danger. That’s the sort of thing I dig; a bunch of punk jerks who never do anything noble – not so much. To be fair, the movie never gives them an opportunity to atone for their misdeeds; apart from a weird eyeball swamp monster thing (it’s a scene that seems transplanted from Dark Crystal or something), they’re barely ever in any real danger anyway. At one point they stumble on a room of weird mutants eating dinner, but that’s pretty much all there is to it – they see them, go “what the hell is this?” and move on without any incident.
The only thing I can think of is that Bava and his writers were attempting to make a cinematic version of a carnival haunted house, with our characters sort of walking a bit, seeing something spooky, screaming, and then moving on to start the cycle up again. Hell there’s even a half-assed fiction involved, as the reason they are in there is to win a prize (survive the night and win the treasures of all those who had tried in the past!), which also seems like the sort of corny thing they might toss into a 3rd rate theme park ride (with the treasure being a plastic ring or maybe a banner saying “I Survived Dr. Demon’s House Of Horrors”). And while that is actually kind of a novel idea, it doesn’t make the movie worth watching; and let’s not forget, those rides are only 3-5 minutes long. Even if you were really experiencing it and not watching someone else do it, you wouldn’t want to put up with it for over an hour.
There really isn’t an “on the other hand” here. One guy has a Marty McFly “life jacket”, which is kind of funny, and some of the makeup designs are pretty cool. And this is a mid 80s Italian movie, so it has an English language rock song over the credits (though not credited so I don’t know who it was – pretty good though). I opted for the dubbed version because I just read [Rec] 2 and wasn’t in the mood, and that’s the only “extra” on the disc, which is almost kind of a shame – I’d really like to know what the hell Bava was thinking with this one. I know it was a TV project, but I also know that Italian TV is pretty lenient with violence and such (Argento’s Do You Like Hitchcock? was for TV too, as was the alternate Demons 3 called The Ogre), so that does not excuse the shocking dullness on display here. At any rate, it deserves its rather obscure status, and should be viewed by Bava completists only. Everyone else, stick with Scooby-Doo.
What say you?