“An archaeologist dips into the past with their intelligence, not superstition,” Professor Paul Evans cautions his friend and associate Liza, knowing that she has a fondness for participating in séances and needing her focused on their work, a dig at a Greek monastery atop a hill over the coastal town of Santa Rosalia in Sicily where their very presence has engendered the hostility of the locals.

Misfortune and ruin foretold and the history of the long-abandoned monastery far from serene, Liza finds a secret chamber which leads to a desecrated crypt she recognises from a vision she experienced of nuns dragged screaming through cloisters crucified then burned alive. Professor Evans disbelieving her and telling her not to discuss her claims with anyone, with three unexplained deaths in quick succession it seems that her silence is irrelevant.

Writer and director Lucio Fulci admired by some and reviled by others for such films as The Beyond and The New York Ripper, the low-budget feature Demonia came late is his career, co-written with Piero Regnoli from a story developed with Anontio Tentori and originally released straight-to-video in 1990 though the film had been intended for a theatrical release and the locations alone raise it above the level of the most generic of its peers.

Presented by Arrow Films as a 4K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative featuring both English and Italian soundtracks, it is likely that Demonia has never looked better but this does not lessen the shortcomings of the film, disjointed and meandering with indifferent acting: Meg Register’s Liza scared of the dark and skeletons she seems an unlikely archaeologist and spends much of the film staring vacantly into the distance, perhaps hoping for answers and meaning as much as the viewer; with the emotional range of a shampoo commercial, Faye Dunaway she is not.

The film heavily padded with campfire singalongs, endless soft-focus dream sequences and a child who serves no purpose other than to be chastised for playing in the mud, the deaths are ambitious but poorly served by high definition and the victims seem random, a boat owner, a butcher and a crazy cat lady who lives on the edge of town rather than those who have visited the crypt, and similarly cinematographer Luigi Ciccarese’s ubiquitous fog filter is clearly visible as a grid on the picture during some daylight scenes.

Arrow’s new edition of Demonia featuring a commentary by Fulci expert Stephen Thrower, there are also interviews with assistant director Antonio Tentori who decorated the crypt with references to Cthulhu and Nyarlathotep, camera operator Sandro Grossi who recalls his friend Lucio as “a walking film Bible” and brief archive footage of Fulci talking on location; a limited edition features deluxe packaging and a second disc with the 2021 feature length documentary Fulci Talks, based around a 1993 interview with the director.

Demonia will be released on Blu-ray from Arrow films from Monday 6th June



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