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Demons, sexy girls and sexy demon girls…it’s hard to believe that, nearly a decade after the new TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE launched the trend to remake every horror film seen by more than three people in the ’70s and ’80s, it took someone this long to get around to revisiting 1988’s cult shrieker NIGHT OF THE DEMONS. In this case, it was two someones: screenwriting partners Adam Gierasch and Jace Anderson, who previously scripted Tobe Hooper’s fresh take on TOOLBOX MURDERS, among others.
This time, Gierasch took the helm as well, updating Kevin S. Tenney’s 1988 saga of party-hearty teens invading a haunted house on Halloween night, and being possessed by the resident evil spirits. (The film is perhaps best remembered for the moment in which scream queen Linnea Quigley inserts a lipstick into her own breast.) The new DEMONS, out today on DVD and Blu-ray from Entertainment One, transplants the action to Louisiana and reimagines Angela (the key possessee from the original who also anchored a pair of subsequent sequels) as a party promoter sponsoring a rave in an old manse with an unpleasant history. The faces have changed—THIR13EN GHOSTS’ Shannon Elizabeth as Angela, with FREDDY VS. JASON’s Monica Keena, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING’s Diora Baird and TERMINATOR 2’s Edward Furlong as the most prominent guests—but the basic action is the same: bad mojo gets accidentally unleashed, some of the principals get real ugly and the rest are soon running for their lives.
The simple premise gave Gierasch and Anderson the opportunity to add plenty of personal touches. “I was very, very nervous about doing it,” Gierasch admits. “Anytime you do a remake, you know you will annoy some people, and I didn’t want to annoy anybody with this one. So I put everything I could into it, and it really has a lot of me in it, which is the most important thing. When you throw a lot of yourself in it and have fun making it, and then you see it on the screen, it’s an incredibly satisfying experience. I’ve rarely had that happen, but this time I got it in spades. I’m so proud of the movie; every time I watch it, I have a big smile on my face.”
Originally, Gierasch reveals, he and Anderson planned to put even more of their own ideas into the new DEMONS, and completely reconceive it. “At the beginning,” he recalls, “I had an idea for an early scene that was definitely not in the original, and that was sort of what got us the job. And once we started writing it, we were thinking we weren’t going to use anything from the original, sort of like we did on TOOLBOX MURDERS. On that movie, there was no resistance at all [to changing the story]. On this one, Kevin was one of the producers, so there were some suggestions, like, ‘Why don’t we give all the characters the same names?’ I was like, ‘Well, they’re in a different city, it’s a different place,’ and I felt like once I gave them the same names, they would sort of have to be the same characters, and I wanted to have a whole new slate of people coming in.”
“Kevin did get behind that idea too,” Anderson notes. “He thought that was a fun way to play with fan expectations.”
“I know a lot of people see some remakes and are like, ‘Wow, this is exactly the same movie, it’s just not as good,’ ” Gierasch continues. “There are some cases where you just think, ‘What did they do?’ or ‘This seems like more of a translation than a remake.’ And DEMONS isn’t like that at all. One of things we did was, if you remember the original, there were these punk rockers who had great stickers of cool bands on their van, but they didn’t play any cool punk music during the movie. I said, ‘To hell with that! That’s my kind of music, it’s what I grew up listening to—I’m gonna have the most fun putting my favorite horror punk songs in this film.’ So while we were inspired by the original, we created something fresh.”
Certain touchstones from Tenney’s movie did find their way into the new DEMONS, however. “The more we got into writing it,” Gierasch says, “the more requests we kept getting [from the producers] saying, ‘Please put this scene in, put that scene in’ [from the first film] and we thought, ‘You know what, everyone’s gonna be expecting a couple of scenes from the original, so we’ll put them in, but we’ll make them different.’ One of those moments was, of course, the lipstick gag, and Anderson adds, “I think we can say that people won’t be disappointed there.”
The financiers also suggested Elizabeth for the pivotal Angela role, while the rest of the ensemble came together “through the normal casting process,” Gierasch says. “Monica Keena came in and auditioned, and we liked her immediately, and I met with Diora Baird, and she was cool.” Nick Principe, a friend of the filmmakers who played the villain in LAID TO REST, suggested his REST co-star Bobbi Sue Luther for a part. “And then, sort of coincidentally, she came in and auditioned that day,” Gierasch recalls. “It was sort of like, ‘Oh, hey! You’re Bobbi Sue, Nick recommended you.’ I hadn’t seen LAID TO REST at that point, but she gave a really good reading and was perfect.”
Although most of the actors had notable genre experience, Gierasch reveals that the true fright enthusiasts could be found among DEMONS’ bit players. “You rarely meet actors who truly love horror films,” he notes. “They’re out there, but they’re sort of like rare birds. Once we got started in Louisiana and we were casting for extras, though, there were lots of people going, ‘Oh my God! I’m a huge fan of the original—can I be in this movie?!’ We were like, ‘Yeah, come on down!’ ”
“There were two extras who drove from Alabama, which is a bit of a trip,” Anderson notes. “I was impressed!”
It always helps when a remake is made by people with a genuine passion for the original—particularly in this era, when that seems to be the only type of horror feature the money people want to get behind. “Talk to any horror writer,” Anderson says, “and they’ve all got original scripts sitting around that they’re dying to have made. But what producers are interested in right now is what they call ‘pre-branded’ stuff. So it’s a remake, it’s a sequel, it’s an adaptation of a comic or something else. They want something that’s been pre-digested by the public. So I always find it frustrating when I see posts on-line saying, ‘Why can’t you write something original?!’ I’m like, ‘We do, we do!’ [Laughs] But it’s tough finding people who are willing to take a risk on something new. Still, we had a really good experience on NIGHT OF THE DEMONS, and I really hope fans of the original enjoy it. I think we’ve stayed true to the spirit of the first movie.”
The duo note that one of their self-generated stories does looks close to getting before the cameras. “We’d love to talk about it,” Gierasch says, “but we haven’t quite gotten through the deal stage yet; that paperwork is being worked on. But it’s original, it’s cool, it’s by far the most out-there thing we’ve ever done. It’s more serious in tone, and it’s a nice change of pace from what we’ve usually done, because it’ll be really, really edgy. There will be scenes in it like nothing you’ve ever seen before.”
Movies like that, of course, are the Holy Grail for horror fans, who lately have seen the independent fright field suffer the same financial woes afflicting the rest of the landscape. DVD sales—until recently the genre’s cash cow—are down, and budgets are shrinking accordingly. It’s a different world from the one Gierasch and Anderson started out in, scripting the likes of SPIDERS and CROCODILE. “At that time we were working with Nu Image,” Anderson explains, “who basically would mock up a poster with, say, a bunch of rats on it and maybe an explosion or two, presell it foreign and then come back to us and say, ‘We need a movie about rats, go write it.’ That certainly doesn’t happen anymore. And from talking with people in the field, independent horror has a lot harder time finding distribution now because there’s so much more of it that’s not as good. Especially in the international markets, where you have such edgy things coming out of places like France and Japan, American horror has a hard time competing.”
“We’re all lying if we say it’s not going through a bit of a tough stretch now, but it’s always been like that,” Gierasch says. “There have always been booms and busts, and we’ve seen a bunch of them in the time we’ve been writing. What needs to happen is for one of these movies to make a lot of money. Once that happens, Hollywood will jump back on the bandwagon and you’ll see more films exactly like that. We’ve worked in a particular budget range this whole time, and that type of film has become harder to do. And it’s so funny when you read the message boards, and people are like, ‘Is this gonna go straight to video?’ Well, odds are that movies in our budget range do. In order to market a film these days, you need $20 to $30 million of P&A put into it, and doing that for a $2-million movie is a huge risk. So budgets are getting smaller and they’re making fewer films.
“But all it takes is one,” he concludes, “another SAW or PARANORMAL ACTIVITY or BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, and voilá, things change. I mean, there will always be cool, edgy horror films; they just might not be made in the United States. This year, A SERBIAN FILM is certainly one of those movies that everybody talked about. I don’t know if everyone’s gonna see it, but everybody’s been talking about it. And RED WHITE & BLUE is a pretty good movie; we actually plan on working with [its writer/director] Simon Rumley on some other things we can’t really talk about right now. So there are good people out there, and good movies to be made. I think the mantra now is, keep the budget low and be as creative as you can. We’ve been very lucky that we’ve been able to make a living in the horror genre…and hopefully that will continue.”
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