14 November 2010

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about Night of the Demons 2

12. For those of you who are looking at that poster and thinking that you don't want to have to read this entire review, I can sum up my thoughts in five words:

Just watch the first movie.

Or just read my Twelve Things about that first movie!
That's a legitimate option as well. =P

11. We're several weeks removed from every Horror Blogger's favourite holiday, but I was still disappointed by the lack of Halloween spirit in this one. I don't like teenagers who think they're too cool for costumes, and pretty much all the leads in this sequel fit that description. Not cool.

10. Yet what Night of the Demons 2 woefully lacks in Halloween imagery, it gains in religious imagery. I kid you not.


9. Filling out this ensemble cast are Father Bob and Sister Gloria, two of the head teachers in what I infer to be a school for special disciplinary cases. (Not that there seems to be any difference between these students and those from a regular high school.) From these token adults' first scene together, it is clear which one of them is the real spiritual leader of the young people in their care.

Sister Gloria: "Well, Father, these children are troubled and their parents send them here for discipline."
Father Bob: "No, Sister. Their parents send them here for us to help them adjust to growing up with the pressures of today's world."

Guess which one the same children would rather stick with
when Father Bob suggests the very Protestant strategy
of "splitting up" at a desperate time?

8. Then there are their religious "costumes"--which are likely what IMDb.com would call "deliberate errors by filmmakers" but which also seem like marks of genius.

Sister Gloria's first habit is very modernised: the top has three-fourth sleeves, the veil exposes a lot of hair, and the skirt is higher than her knees.

As for Father Bob, he walks around with a sissy excuse for a stole that could have been made from left-over wrapping paper ribbon. Given Sister Gloria's habit, I guess I shouldn't be too put off that the stole barely reaches Father Bob's waist. And yet it still manages to be meaningful. (But don't ask me why he's wearing purple in late October.)

--->

So it's very telling that when the time comes to fight the demons, Father Bob doesn't even bother to replace the tiny equivalent of a "pectoral cross" around his neck with a bigger crucifix . . . while Sister Gloria "suits up" in a classic habit with full wimple and turns the enormous rosary hanging from her waist into makeshift nunchucks. (Heh-heh. Nunchucks. NUN-chucks. Get it?)

7. What changes everything is the stole.

In my reviews of Paranormal Activity and Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead, I pointed out that the male leads are either sleeping on the "wrong" side of the bed or riding in the "wrong" part of the car. Should that matter to us, in this enlightened age of "gender equality"?

Heck, YES! Horror may be "empowering" to women (I wish there were a better term for it), but it's at the expense of men--and that's not a good thing.

So something else that should matter to us is that Sister Gloria's demon-fighting habit includes a proper stole that is ten times bigger than Father Bob's. And by "proper," I mean that I believe the costume department didn't try to make it, but actually bought it from a Catholic supply store. For the authenticity. But while I understand why they did this, it must be said . . . even in Horror, a woman can neither become a priest nor take the place of a priest.

6. Interestingly, the only other character who wears actual liturgical vestments (also suspiciously authentic looking) is Perry, a student whose obsession with demonology exasperates Father Bob, who doesn't quite believe in demons.

Well, okay, Perry's attempt to conjure up a demon shows us how mentally unbalanced he really is . . . but the fact that he chose to do it in the sacristry of the school's chapel because it was the "safest" place he had access to and put on some vestments as if they were a Kevlar vest, indicates that he really gets both the power of evil and the power of the sacraments. Which is actually the bare minimum any Catholic expects from a priest.

5. Now here is something else so accidentally cool that I'm beside myself just thinking about it.

During the reign of the most popular Pope of the twentieth century (i.e., Pope John Paul II of Totus Tuus), why do not just Sister Gloria's room but also the sacristry have pictures of the least popular Pope of the same century (i.e., Pope Paul VI of Humane Vitae) hanging on the walls???

The two most plausible answers I was able to come up with were . . .


a) The (non-Catholic) filmmakers thought any freaking pope would do.

b) The (surprisingly savvy) filmmakers wanted to send a subtle, almost subliminal message that sexuality made indulgent by contraceptives can--and will--lead to death.

Catholic symbolism for the win!!!

4. I'm really going to have to start talking about the movie itself, though, so let's see . . .

The shots are so static that the more dynamic sequences are too obviously taken from the first movie. I'm not sure whether this new director was trying to stay under budget or just incapable of creating the same sense of horror Kevin Tenney achieved with the same shots.

3. Of course, there's also the possibility that he was going for continuity and used that old footage for "stitching."

One of the leads in Night of the Demons 2 is Melissa "Mouse" Franklin, who turns out to be the younger sister of Angela Franklin. You may recall that Angela is one of the first to be possessed in the previous movie. Mouse has never got over the fact that her sister's body was never found, and it doesn't help that her classmates like telling scary stories about Angela by candlelight at night. The story makes the sequel believable, even if the storytelling style couldn't care less.

2. I kept thinking characters from this one were homages to characters from the first, because they were so much like each other. We're missing our "token minorities," but Melissa is definitely the Judy, Perry is the Sal, Rick is the Stooge, Bibi is the Frannie, and so on. With variations, of course.

And despite the fact that Angela comes back in this one, she has her own "mean girl" counterpart among the new cast members: Shirley, a bully so awful that I wanted her death to be long, lingering and terrifying . . . if only to give her a chance to make a good Act of Contrition that would save her soul.

And again, I don't know why the filmmakers did something like this. It's either really deliberate (and therefore unimaginative) or a sign that the first movie totally aced those teen stereotypes it packed the cast with. And I'm going with the latter, even as I grudgingly note that Shirley, the character I hate the most, actually stands out the best.

1. Finally, a word of wisdom to prove that we can learn very practical things from Horror movies:

We're not supposed to use lipstick that is over a year old--two or three years at the most. So if you find a tube of lipstick in a house that has been abandoned for four years, it's best to leave it where you find it and not take it along with you or try to put it on.

Okay? =)

Image Sources: a) Night of the Demons 2 poster, b) Sister Gloria's modernist habit, c) Sister Gloria's old school habit, d) Perry in the sacristry, e) Pope Paul VI, f) Pope John Paul II

5 comments:

EegahInc said...

I have to agree, nowhere near as fun as part one, but the heavy religious imagery appealed to me for obvious reasons. Plus, I thought it was nice for once that religious figures were actually shown to have some authority over the demonic rather than just show up and have their butts kicked immediately after whipping out their crosses. (Okay, so their was Father Bob, but that wuss doesn't count.)

antiaphrodite said...

it's at the expense of men--and that's not a good thing.

It's entirely shameful!!!

(I'd go for a huge MAY BE with the first statement, though--and yes, there must be a better term.)

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Eegahinc: Heavy (Catholic) religious imagery appeals to me, too--to the exclusion of everything else, sometimes. One day I'll have to re-review this thinking as much like a secular critic as possible! =P

Antiaphrodite: The problem I have with "empowering" is that it's such a recent and loaded term. If a female character can't act to do anything in a story without first being "empowered," then storytelling is doomed.

But I also think Horror movies are (on the whole) making a moral stand about this. It's not that they're putting men down for the sake of putting men down, but saying, "Okay, men, this is what will happen if you care more about seducing your girlfriends and having a good time at the party than about protecting them and doing the right thing."

David said...

"If a female character can't act to do anything in a story without first being "empowered," then storytelling is doomed."

This makes me want to write a story where a non-empowered woman acts heroically and according to her sex without any faux-empowerment... of course, that doesn't mean I'll write it :).

Still working on W & Q, btw. The question is giving me trouble, the answer being too obvious to lend itself to the sort of oblique point I'd like to make. Also, the poetic images in my head are not translating to words... grrr.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Well, you still have another week for W&Q . . . after which I chase after you like a shrieking harpy! Be warned!!!

And who knows? That story might squeeze itself out of you, just to show you who's boss of your imagination. ;-)