Color, 1994, 96m.
Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith
Starring Merle Kennedy, Amelia Kinkade, Cristi Harris, Darin Heames, Christine Taylor, Robert Jayne, Rod McCary, Jennifer Rhodes, Zoe Trilling, Johnny Moran
Olive Films (Blu-Ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9) / DTS-HD 2.0, Lionsgate (US R1 NTSC), Laser Paradise (Germany R2 PAL), Bridge Entertainment (Holland R2 PAL)

Night of the Demons 2

A big surprise hit on home video in the late '80s, the outrageous Kevin Tenney shocker Night of the Demons turned into a longstanding cult favorite thanks to a vibrant performance by Amelia Kinkade as lead deNight of the Demons 2mon Angela, plus a certain indelible scene involving Linnea Quigley and a tube of lipstick. It was inevitable that a sequel would go into production, though why it took six years to see the light of day is anyone's guess. In any case, Night of the Demons 2 (which was swiftly followed by the less interesting Night of the Demons III) kicks off with the welcome return of Kinkade (currently an author and psychic animal communicator) still at Hull House, answering the door when a couple of missionaries come a-calling only to give them a nasty surprise.

The tone is much more comedic and goofy than before, in keeping with the tone of most '90s horror sequels, but this one's better than most as it introduces another helping of fresh meat at a nearby Catholic school. Angela's sister, Melissa (May's Kennedy), goes by the nickname "Mouse" and gets pushed around by the other pretty girls at school. Three of them -- Bibi (Harris), Shirley (Trilling), and Terri (Taylor) -- decide to trick Angela into going to Hull House for a Halloween party after Shirley's misbehavior gets them all banned from the school's Halloween dance. With a variety of boys both in tow and following after them, the girls round up for a night of spooky trickery but get way more than they bargained for when Angela returns to cause more demonic mayhem.Night of the Demons 2

The Catholic school backdrop of this film obviously gives it a very different feel from the original, complete with a broad but interesting characterization of head nun Sister Gloria (Rhodes) whose disciplinarian tendencies turn out to be a major blessing in the deliberately absurd final act. Also noteworthy here is the presence of Christine Taylor, wife of Ben Stiller, who would pass into comedy immortality as Marcia one year later in The Brady Bunch Movie and its sequel. She's actually quite good here, going from a bitchy (and sometimes scantily-clad) cool girl to... well, something a bit different in the home stretch.

Now a familiar name in cult circles due to vocal championing from Quentin Tarantino, director Brian Trenchard-Smith had spent a few years toiling in American TV after coming off a streak of Australian drive-in favorites like Stunt Rock, Escape 2000, Siege of FirebNight of the Demons 2ase Gloria, Death Cheaters, Dead End Drive-In, and BMX Bandits. (How's that for a legacy?) He hadn't really directed a straight-up horror movie before, and as a result this one often veers into other areas like goofball comedy and sexploitation at regular intervals; there's even an early homage to Porky's, which Trenchard-Smith was actually rumored to remake at one point. That said, he makes a few good stabs at competing with the lipstick scene from the original including some very memorable, grotesque heavy petting scenes. (The gambit must've worked since Trenchard-Smith leaped straight from this to the one-two punch of Leprechaun 3 and Leprechaun 4: In Space.) Once again Angela makes a compelling main foe, and the largely practical effects are still gooey enough to still pack a punch. Unfortunately there's also a really lousy early CGI "shock" at the end involving a snake that doesn't really work at all, so maybe shut the film off when it seems like the natural ending has already been reached.

DVD editions of Night of the Demons 2 have been pretty easy to come by over the years, but the original master created by Republic Pictures in '94 served as the basis for almost all of them and looked increasingly subpar with each iteration. The 2013 release from Olive Films comes in both Blu-Ray and DVD editions, but go with the Blu-Ray if you can. For once this film actually gets a special feature here, namely an audio commentary by Trenchard-Smith and cinematographer David Lewis. They talk quite a bit about the reasons for balancing out comedy and horror in this installment, the tricks of making a variety of makeup effects look convincing in limited lighting, and the shortcomings of the video master they're watching (which, given how audio commentaries are usually recorded with whatever DVD reference copy might be handy, could very well not look anything like the HD version Olive wound up releasing). As for the transfer actually on the disc, this marks what is apparently the first widescreen version anywhere in the world, and it looks quite impressive for a low-budget '90s horror movie. Darker scenes now register more strongly than before, and you can appreciate the nasty little details in the makeup more than the old '90s master could ever allow. It's hardly a sterling example of razor-sharp cinematography, but it's unlikely this could really look better. The DTS-HD stereo track also sounds solid, giving some nice punch to the synth-laden soundtrack.

Reviewed on March 4, 2013.