Demons appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie came with a fairly appealing presentation.
Sharpness usually looked good. Some interiors could feel a bit soft, and since the vast majority of the film took place in a movie theater, this became a potential issue. However, the slightly ill-defined moments didn’t seem too off, so the film mostly felt accurate.
No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and I saw no edge haloes. With a nice layer of grain, noise reduction didn’t appear to turn into a problem, and print flaws remained absent.
Colors opted for a natural palette and mostly seemed strong. Some reds could feel a bit heavy, but for the most part, the tones looked well-rendered.
Blacks seemed dark and deep, while shadows largely appeared smooth. Some low-light shots could come across as a tad dense, but those failed to become an issue. Honestly, this was a better image than I expected for an Italian horror flick from the mid-1980s.
Unfortunately, the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack worked less well, partly due to an iffy soundfield. The mix favored music and spread the score/songs across the five channels in a somewhat clumsy manner.
This meant the music spread around the room in a way that lacked great separation. Effects tended to seem fairly monaural, so don’t expect much from the sides/surrounds. I only located a few clear instances of effects that blossomed in spots outside of the front center.
Audio quality showed its age, with music that tended to sound somewhat harsh and trebly. The score and songs didn’t demonstrate much low-end and often came across as oddly rough – especially the pop/rock tunes we got.
Effects didn’t have much to do but they seemed acceptably well-rendered. These elements lacked a lot of heft but they also failed to suffer from prominent distortion.
Dialogue also became an issue, as speech demonstrated bouts of edginess. The looped lines never felt especially natural, though that’s a consistent issue with dubbed Italian-made movies. The 5.1 audio seemed subpar, even for its era.
Note that the disc also presents the film’s original DTS-HD MA stereo soundtrack, and it offered a more appealing soundfield, mainly because the music felt more natural in terms of spread. The 5.1 made the score/songs too dominant, whereas the 2.0 brought them out in a more logical manner. Effects also broadened slightly, though the impact remained largely monaural in that regard.
Audio quality didn’t improve for the stereo track, though. All the issues with the 5.1 mix appeared there as well.
The Blu-ray presents three versions of Demons: the International English Version (1:28:22), the Italian Version (1:28:22) and the US English Version (1:28:29). As implied by their running times, the first two offer virtually the same film, but they differ in terms of language spoken and written in credits.
With the “US English” cut, though, the movie undergoes mild variations in editing as well as alternate dubbing and sound effects. Nothing remarkable occurs in terms of changes, but I appreciate the inclusion of this version.
Note that while the “Italian” and “International English” presentations come with both 5.1 and 2.0 audio, the “US English” cut brings only 2.0.
By the way, although Demons was shot by an Italian director and mostly Italian cast and crew, it appears that the original dialogue was recorded in English. I checked out both the Italian and English versions and the dubbed dialogue matched mouth movements much better in the English presentation, so I’d be surprised to learn the actors didn’t perform in English.
That said, it appears clear that the voice actors we hear aren’t the same folks who we see in the movie. Despite the lack of “mouth match” for the Italian version, the performances felt more natural, so I’d probably go that route in the future. The looped lines sound phony in either presentation anyway, so you might as well pick the one with the superior acting.
Alongside the “International English” edition, we find two audio commentaries. The first comes from film critics Kat Ellinger and Heather Drain, as both sit together to offer a running, screen-specific look at genre topics, cast and crew, sets and locations, music, influences and story elements, sequels, and related domains.
Ellinger dominates the track, so much so that I sometimes felt bad for Drain. On occasion, Drain will attempt to get a word in edgewise but Ellinger plows ahead.
In terms of content, this becomes a generally good commentary, though it seems less informative than I might prefer. While we get reasonable notes about the film and its genre, too much of the track simply feels like praise/appreciation. This turns into a mostly effective piece but not one that excels.
For the second commentary, we hear from writer/director Lamberto Bava, effects artist Sergio Stivaletti, composer Claudio Simonetti and actor Geretta Geretta. All sit together for a running, screen-specific view of story/characters, music and audio, cast and performances, sets and locations, and connected topics.
For the most part, this becomes a fairly informative chat, as it looks at a good variety of domains. However, it does peter out some as it progresses, which becomes a negative. Still, there’s more to like than dislike about the commentary.
Produced by Dario Argento runs 27 minutes, 13 seconds and presents info from film historian Michael Mackenzie. He offers a good overview of filmmaker Argento’s career.
Four featurettes appear under “Archival Special Features”, and Dario’s Demon Days presents a 10-minute, 30-second interview with Argento. He discusses some topics connected to the production of Demons and its sequel. Though oddly low-key, Argento proves fairly informative.
Defining an Era in Music spans nine minutes, 34 seconds and offers more comments from Simonetti. He looks at the score and songs featured in Demons.
Next comes Splatter Stunt Rock, a nine-minute, 13-second segment that offers an interview with stuntman Ottaviano Dell’Acqua. He discusses his career and work on Demons in this reasonably engaging reel.
Dario and the Demons goes for 15 minutes, 52 seconds and features Argento. This expands on the prior Argento featurette with a few more notes about his work on Demons. Argento seems more animated this time, and we get some good info.
Under “Promotional Materials”, we get three trailers. We find Italian, international and US promos.
As a mix of haunted house and zombie genres, Demons never quite excels. Nonetheless, it fares better than most 1980s horror and turns into a mostly engaging frightfest. The Blu-ray brings positive picture along with iffy audio and a nice set of supplements. This becomes a better than expected movie.
Note that this version of Demons comes only in a two-pack that pairs it with its sequel, 1986’s Demons 2.