So Much Pain, So Much Sorrow: Celebrating 30 Years with Night of the Demons

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By Bob Freville

The day of atonement is at hand.

We here at Silent Motorist Media delight in celebrating anniversaries…unless they’re our parents’ anniversaries. Hey, we’re children of divorce. Give us a break.

Today, we honor Kevin Tenney’s cult horror classic, Night of the Demons, on the anniversary of its original theatrical release (October 14th, 1988). Now that this one has turned 30, those who survived its shlocky and shocking narrative are probably regretting their fashion choices, to say nothing of lines like “Barbecued maid. No wonder she didn’t keep the place clean.”

This seminal entry in the demonic possession sub-genre is one that holds a special place in the darkest recesses of my heart. But it’s also one that I admittedly remembered very little of until recently. In fact, I could remember the promo art more than I could the gory twists and turns of its second and third acts.

Growing up in the Eighties meant walking through video stores where shelves were lined with some of the sickest VHS cover art one could imagine. The creative designers behind these covers did such a bodacious job with blood and gut titles that you’d often rent or buy a movie on the strength of the cover, only to find that the film didn’t live up to the cover’s hype.

I’m happy to say that Night of the Demons was not one of these. Yes, the video cover was and is one of the all-time best, featuring an unforgettable succubus holding up a party invitation, but the flick itself is one that begs for repeat viewings every Halloween.

There’s Linnea Quigley in pink undies, the lamest greaser character to ever grace the silver screen and yes…demons. Emerging out of the Satanic panic of the times, Tenney’s picture takes the subject and takes it to hilarious heights, not unlike the 1989 Liane Curtis vehicle Girlfriend from Hell.

Some of the greatest horror entries of its era were as funny as they were ferocious and Night of the Demons is no exception. I can remember walking around as a kid, reciting the lines to friends who didn’t know what the fuck I was talking about.

“So much pain, so much sorrow.

There were other brilliant exchanges such as this one:

Suzanne: Do you guys have sour balls?

Convenience Store Clerk: Why, sure we sure do.

Suzanne: Too bad, I bet you don’t get many blowjobs.

If you were born around 1980, you had to have some pretty negligent parents or a pretty cool older brother if you stood a chance of bringing this one home from Blockbuster. Fortunately for me, I had one of the latter.

I’ll never forget the day that my brother Richie, a child of the Seventies, removed the hard plastic rental copy from the pocket of his member’s only jacket and flashed me that infamous demoness jacket design.

“Yuh gonna piss yuh pants,” I think he said. And he wouldn’t have been far off. But even as a pre-pube, I was well-versed in hardcore horror, so this one didn’t make me piss myself with fear so much as with laughter.

Today, I fondly remember this one in the same way that I remember a lot of the best movies the Eighties had to offer—Night of the Demons is a raucous good time that shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

That isn’t to say that it isn’t well-made; on the contrary, the animated title sequence and pre-Skrillex score by Dennis Michael Tenney exalt this one to a level above and beyond most B-movies of the period.

Regardless, when I think of it now, I have to smile. Not because it’s a great horror movie but because it’s just a fun fucking ride. Also, the dialogue is guaranteed to make you squirt out of one orifice or another.

Keep in mind, Night of the Demons is one of those pictures that was made in the age of excess and, as such, it has an obligation to paint house parties as the coolest thing of all time when most of us know them to be anything but.

That being said, its unrealistic imagining of said party actually works in its favor and produces one of the most laughably exquisite lines in cinematic history, a line I will leave you with here:

“Eat a bowl of fuck! I am here to party!”

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