Color, 2019, 75 mins. 15 secs.
Directed by Eric Power
Starring Andreas Petersen, Thomas Petersen, Katie Maguire, Eric Power
Dark Star (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (2.40:1) (16:9)
Outside of horror anime, the history of gory horror animation is very hit and miss over the decades with occasional surprises popping up like Happy Tree Friends, the finale of Todd and the Book of Pure Evil, occasional episodes of South Park, or The Spine of Night. To that list you can add Attack of the Demons, which uses a rudimentary animation style to deliver a hefty amount of monsters and viscera over the course of its short running time. Directed by Eric Power (Path of Blood), it's also an amusing period piece set in 1994 complete with nods to the pivotal moments in indie rock, horror fan culture (especially John Carpenter, Sam Raimi, and Stuart Gordon), and video games happening at the time, all set to a catchy synthwave soundtrack.
When a remote Colorado town called Barrington is about to commence its 10th annual Halloween festival complete with a battle of the bands, the stage is set for the reunion of three high school classmates now in their twenties: horror movie buff Kevin, rock fan Nat riding in with her condescending music journalist boyfriend Chet, and gamer Jeff, all dealing with adjusting to how much they've changed since their teen years. Meanwhile a creepy cult priestess is wandering around the woods doing blood rituals, but she has something much bigger in store when the crowd gathers for the big music event: turning the whole town into a bunch of rampaging demonic monsters. Our lucky heroes aren't at the scene and manage to escape with their lives, finding possible safety at a cabin in the woods only to find out the nightmare is just beginning.
Modest but very entertaining if you're in the right frame of mind, Attack of the Demons contrasts its extensive bodily mayhem (which extends to the animal kingdom a few times) with a sedate, Linklater-esque acting style from its voice cast that takes some adjustment compared to the quippy style you'd normally find in a film like this. The theme of getting on with your life is an interesting one to wedge into a story filled with gushing ghoul fluid, but it works well and builds a pretty solid amount of empathy for a bunch of talking pieces of cut-out construction paper.
After some festival play and a limited theatrical engagement, Attack of the Demons hit Blu-ray from Dark Star distributed by Vinegar Syndrome sister company OCN Distribution. As you'd expect, it looks terrific with excellent detail (there's some interesting dimensional texture throughout) and tons of vibrant, punchy colors. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo and Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo options come with English SDH subtitles, and the DTS one is obviously the way to go with the score in particular having more depth. (It's worth noting the packaging indicates this is a Region A disc, though it played fine on a player set to Region B as well.) Power and writer Andreas Petersen (recorded separately) provide the first audio commentary talking about the cut-paper, stop-motion animation technique, the nature of the freelance animation business, the integration of horror and other pop culture references, the dialogue recording process, and the challenges of mounting the production with participants around the U.S. A second track with Dread Central's MaryBeth McAndews and Gayly Dreadful's Terry Mesnard focuses on their podcast connection to the filmmakers, their impressions of the final product, their enthusiasm for animated carnage, and the horror nods peppered throughout the story. A comedy commentary from ScoffTracks’ Lucas Taughn is exactly what it advertises, an arch Rifftrax-style series of reactions that would probably work better if the film audio had been mixed in. "Demons for Days" (11m19s) is a short making-of featurette with Power serving as your narrator guide through the years-long evolution of the film from concept pitch through completion, including a peek at some of the animation elements and some more details that didn't make it into the commentary. Also included are a proof of concept video (1m42s) highlighting the characters with scratch narration, a Teek "Sleeping Trees" music video, the trailer, and bonus trailers for Mother Schmuckers, The Passenger, Fair Game, and Missing.
Reviewed on June 26, 203