Demonium (2001)
By: Craig Villinger on August 7, 2002  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Screen Entertainment (UK). All Regions, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English 2.0. 85 minutes
The Movie
Director: Andreas Schnaas
Starring: Andrea Bruschi, Claudia Abbate, Giuliano Polgar, Emilia Marra, Maurizia Grossi, Paolo Di Gialluca, Erika Manni, Joe Zaso, Chiara Pavoni, Charlotte Grace Roche, Giuseppe Oppedisano, Michele Roselli
Screenplay: Ted Geoghegan, Sonja Schnaas
Tagline: They came together... they left in pieces
Country: Italy/Germany
Germany's king of the zero budget home video gore-fest has gone professional? Say it aint so!

Demonium marks the English language debut of the often criticized (and much despised) backyard auteur Andreas Schnaas, whose previous genre entries include Zombie 90: Extreme Pestilence, Anthropophagous 2000, and the much talked about Violent Shit trilogy. These movies are generally considered to be among the most amateurish and inept efforts ever made, boasting the lowest production values possible, atrocious acting, cheap gore effects, and camera work that resembles those prize winning efforts from 'Australia's Funniest Home Video Show' (Kim Kilby would be proud!). This time however he has promised us something different. Armed with a 35mm camera, professional actors, and an eye-catching location, can Andreas produce something that will earn him the respect and admiration of horror fans the world over? We'll get to that in a minute...

After he is brutally murdered, friends and family of the late Arnold Berger are invited to his castle deep within the Italian countryside to hear the reading of his will, which is to be overseen by the shady looking Rasmus Bentley and his wife Maria. Unfortunately for the group however, this will not be a simple case of claiming their goodies and then heading back home, as one of Berger's stipulations is that each person must stay in the castle for no less than three days in order to obtain their part of the inheritance. Sounds easy, right? Wrong! Without wasting any time, Rasmus and Maria begin killing off the members of the group in a variety of gruesome and inventive ways, clearly signaling that they have no interest in sharing Berger's loot with anyone else, no matter what the cost. Chainsaws, meat hooks, swords, and lethal cups of tea all come in to play, and with a large percentage of the group taken care of before the first night is even over, it becomes apparent that everyone else will have to work mighty hard to see out the full three days and walk away with their slice of the pie. Some people are just plain greedy are they not?

For a Schnaas film, Demonium actually looks quite expensive, although by conventional standards it looks like a B-Grade cheapie produced over a period of a few days. Many of the acting performances are quite poor, with the actors appearing as though they had only been given a crash course in the English language just hours before the cameras started rolling, and the script by Ted Geoghegan and Sonja Schnaas is a real mess, with appalling dialogue and bland characters for whom we can have virtually no sympathy. Normally these things are irrelevant in a Schnass movie, but this time around it is the actors who take centre stage and not the gruesome gore effects, which is not a good thing (for Schnass anyway). Of course, this is still an extremely gory film, with decapitations, throat ripping, torture, dismemberment, and much more, but by Schnaas standards, it is not quite as excessive as we are accustomed to seeing, although the effects do appear to be a little more professional than some of his previous efforts. It's not all bad news in the acting department however. Despite their relatively poor grasp of the English language, stars Andrea Bruschi and Claudia Abbate make for an interesting on-screen couple, and provide some great entertainment value with their over the top antics. Abbate in particular is extremely enjoyable to watch as the sadistic Maria, who takes such delight from the atrocities she inflicts upon others that I couldn't help but love her. Watch for the scene where she sings "Jesus Christ Superstar" while one of her victims has nails driven through his hands. Classic stuff!

You've got to give the man some credit. With Demonium, Andreas Schnaas does appear to have made a great deal of effort to produce something other than the bargain basement home video trash that we are accustomed to seeing, but if I were given the opportunity to offer some humble advice to the great man, I would ask him to go back to directing the schlock. That is what we love Andreas! There are already enough directors out there producing low budget films in a similar vein to Demonium (although most of them aren't quite as gory), so do we really need another? Sure, the schlock won't earn you any credibility, and most horror fans will continue to bitch and complain about the quality, but there are those of us out there who love it. Forget everyone else... we will stick with you Sir Schnaas!

On a technical level this is certainly the best film we have seen from Schnaas so far, but for entertainment value you can't go past the cheesy antics of Zombie 90: Extreme Pestilence or Violent Shit 3: Infantry of Doom. Most others would probably disagree with me however. At the end of the day, Demonium is certainly not what I would call a bad film, but it isn't that good either. I'm sure Andreas can do better.

Again, most would probably disagree.
Demonium is presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio with 16x9 enhancement. The image appears to be incredibly soft and at times offers little improvement over VHS, while colours are fairly drab and lack the detail that we would expect from DVD. The print used for this transfer looks to have been well used, and numerous film artefacts such as flecks and dust marks were noticed. Film grain was also present throughout much of the movie, and was especially noticeable during scenes that took place in the darker recesses of the castle. To be honest, none of these problems are particularly distracting and were probably due in part to the incredibly cheap nature of the film, however it would have been nice to have seen a little more care put into this transfer.
All we get here is a basic English 2.0 track which is serviceable, but not without its faults, although obviously the original audio track for Demonium was not particularly impressive (due to the films low budget) so we were never going to get anything spectacular. The score from Marc Trinkhaus is serviced quite well, however directional effects were extremely limited and dialogue levels were occasionally lower than I would have liked. This, combined with the thick accents and general bastardization of the English language from some of the actors had me asking myself on more than one occasion "What the hell did they just say?". Considering the quality of the script, I doubt I missed anything important.
Extra Features
Demonium comes with a surprisingly hefty collection of extra features, which are broken up into five separate sections on the DVD. "Interviews" features (oddly enough) a fourteen minute interview with stars Andrea Bruschi and Claudia Abbate, an extremely brief chat with special effects wiz Sergio Stivaletti, and a six minute interview with the man himself, Andreas Schnaas. "Behind the Scenes and Trailers" features a sex and gore filled preview of Anthropophagous 2000, a fundraising/promotional teaser for Demonium, a nine minute "making of Special FX" segment, a storyboard of one the films graphic death sequences, the official Demonium trailer (poor sound quality), a musical ditty from Schnass and Marc Trinkhaus entitled "Soldiers of Fortune" and a montage of film festival footage that is titled "Untitled". Also featured in this section is "Statement about Demonium", an extremely amusing segment in which Troma Studios president Loyd Kaufmann sings the praises of Demonium, saying that is actually better than most of Troma's movies (what an endorsement!!!) and compares it to the likes of Bava and Argento (??). Worth a look, especially for the finale which features Troma babe Debbie Rochon flashing her assets and awarding Demonium a "two breasts up" rating before spewing green slime from her mouth for no apparent reason. If you look hard enough you will also discover a collection of outtakes from Anthropophagous 2000 in this section. There is also something called "Catalogue" which simply features cover art for a few other Screen Entertainment DVD releases.
The Verdict
For Schnaas enthusiasts only. Me, I liked it, but I was never blessed with what you would consider "good taste". The quality of the disc is hit and miss, but at the time of this review at least, the UK release of Demonium appears to be the best option for those who are interested in adding this film to their collection. The uninitiated should proceed with caution however.
Movie Score
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