SAW 3D status-sized review: best installment in the series in a while, now. Story’s tangled, sure, but not AS tangled. 3D’s fun, but not MY BLOODY VALENTINE fun. Gore’s over the top, Rube Goldberg’s working overtime from the grave, Jigsaw’s forever, but, all that aside, I’m finally getting a sense of this franchise: it’s caper movies bloodied UP as horror. And completely fun for that reason. Very recommended, even if the opening kill’s oddly vignette-ish, hardly related. But completely cool all the same.

So, I saw that Paul Tremblay and Jesse Bullington threw down the seventy-four movie gloves, so I made up a list last Wednesday, then promptly blasted off for Minnesota without posting it, only just now remembered, thanks to Travis Hedge Coke’s list of ten. Also, I really wanted to read their lists, but really didn’t want to steal from their lists. So, as soon as I post this, I’m tabbing over, inhaling a hundred and fifty-eight titles. See what-all I missed (ahem: Pan’s Labyrinth?). How much it’s going to hurt that I neglected what’s probably by fourth favorite or something. And, I should note here, that, though these are all in some kind of arrangement, yeah—Scream’s forever at the top of my list, and the rest I filled in as they came to me (I have twenty minutes, here, I think)—still, seventy-four’s a tall order. At the same time, I excluded a lot more than I let in.

1) Scream
2) Feast
3) All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
4) Jacob’s Ladder
5) A Nightmare on Elm Street
6) Idle Hands
7) Return of the Living Dead
8) Pontypool
9) Leslie Vernon: Behind the Mask
10) Paranormal Activity
11) Halloween
12) Friday the 13th IV
13) Event Horizon
14) Alien
15) Relic [I say monster movies count]
16) Ginger Snaps
17) Session 9
18) Pet Sematary
19) Ravenous
20) The Murder Party
21) Lord of Illusions
22) The Omen
23) Black Christmas
24) Friday the 13th III
25) Sorority Row [remake]
26) Hellraiser
27) Psycho
28) The Mothman Prophecies
29) My Bloody Valentine [remake]
30) Night of the Living Dead
31) The Ring
32) Rammbok
33) Return to Horror High
34) Hostel
35) The Haunting
36) Popcorn
37) The Exorcist
38) Boy Eats Girl
39) Severance
40) Black Sheep
41) Turistas
42) The Devil’s Rejects
43) Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
44) Sunshine (I consider it horror)
45) Dead Set (I also count TV miniseries)
46) A Tale of Two Sisters
47) Re-Animator
48) Isolation
49) The Wicksborough Incident (forever traumatized, here)
50) Frozen
51) The Grudge
52) Dead & Breakfast
53) Just Before Dawn
54) I Know What You Did Last Summer
55) Final Destination III
56) Saw III
57) House of the Devil
58) Night of the Demons [remake]
59) Shutter
60) Out of the Dark
61) The Burning
62) May
63) Twenty-Eight Days Later
64) Poltergeist
65) Jaws
66) Prophecy [the Walken-one, though I did the bear-one as well]
67) Trick ‘r Treat
68) The Ruins
69) Harpoon
70) Urban Legend
71) Dead End
72) Rest Stop
73) Dead Birds
74) The Orphanage

(Fun and Gore, really)

Horror movies, for all their excess and transgression, are every bit as rulebound as the romantic comedy. Maybe even moreso. This Night of the Demons remake is no exception. There’s the big rules that have to be followed, like punishing the stupid: those who think having a Halloween party at the local scary house is a good idea. And there’s the smaller dynamics, like making sure the character peddling drugs doesn’t get out without paying, in blood.

There’s something more interesting going on here as well, though. Not so much a rule or convention as a tendency in horror: the more terrified the characters on screen are, the less scary the movie finally is. Go to the video shelf in your head, check me on this. Sure, there’s exceptions, usually of the blockbuster kind — Sixth Sense, The Blair Witch Project, Rosemary’s Baby — but part of those exceptions’ success is that they’re breaking the rules. But, Paranormal Activity, or The Last Exorcism, or fifty more. Movies where what’s terrifying to us is that the characters aren’t seeing that shadow in that doorway in the background, that they don’t stand in the lawn long enough to see the curtains up there flutter.

All of which is to say that these characters in Night of the Demons, since they’re running from demons pretty much from the get-go, the scare factor’s cranked way down.

But please don’t take this to mean that this isn’t just excellent Halloween fare, either. Contrary to what non-horror fans suspect, we don’t always go to horror for the scare. More often than not, you hit that late screening because you’re in the mood for a funny music video with some over-the-top gore, and, if you’re lucky, some jump scares that keep you from ever slouching too far down into your seat. Feast, Slither? And as your horror palate gets more refined, you start seeing humor even in films like Harpoon: the Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre, and by then it’s too late for you. Or, no: by then Night of the Demons is the perfect movie for you, as it’s everything you expect, what you paid at the box office for.

Steaming heaps of gore? Check. Nudity to try to balance that gore out? Check. Laughs? Check and check again. A paper thin backstory to ‘explain’ this horror into our world? Double-check. Early identification of our final girl? Got to have that. Shannon Elizabeth? Yep. Tentacle nipples? Goes without saying. And writer Jace Anderson and director Adam Gierasch are just completely having fun with this remake, too, keeping the same basic premise — Matheson’s Hell House, which was basically Castle’s House on Haunted Hill (etc.), each of which involve spending the night in that old creepy house out in the boonies — but updating it so that the first act feels like that party the Sorority Row remake opened with, remember? What’s particularly fun here are the sepiatoned silent-movie conventions they conjure in order to render the past. It’s very Buffalo 66, very light-hearted and effective. And there’s all the necessary Evil Dead nods, there’s the too-fast headshaking we know from Thirteen Ghosts, from Jacob’s Ladder, from Lost Highway. There’s the editing style early on, which, in case we’re missing all the other cues, is telling us over and over again to please not take this seriously, we’re just having some good gory fun here.

And, Night of the Demons is just that. Maybe finally not quite a good a time as last year’s Halloween rollercoaster DVD Trick ‘r Treat, but definitely horror time and money well spent. Where else this season, outside of Saw 3D, are you going to see this much blood, hear this many screams? But, in Saw, the gore’s going to be the lookaway-fast kind, the peek-at-through-your fingers kind, all wrapped up in a story so tangled you probably won’t even bother to try to work through it. In Night of the Demons, we revel in the gore because it’s all for laughs, and the story’s just simple survival fare, finally, nothing too taxing, relying, say, on bites or sex to pass this ‘demon virus,’ if we can believe that. And we can, just because this movie’s pure fun, and has no pretensions about itself. Perfect for Halloween.

is the author of 22 or 23 books, 250+ stories, and all this stuff here. He lives in Boulder, Colorado, and has a few broken-down old trucks, one PhD, and way too many boots

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