42nd Street Cinema

Black Demons (1991)

Umberto Lenzi's diabolical blaxploitation cash-in zombie mess. Being Lenzi's only true entry into the zombie genre it's a piss poor effort as he's gone on record in denying Nightmare City (1980) as a zombie film, though I can agree with that on some levels as it reminded me heavily of Romero's The Crazies (1973).

The plot consists of three American students who are traveling through Brazil on a holiday. Dick (Joe Balogh), his sister Jessica (Sonia Curtis) and her British boyfriend Kevin (Keith Van Hoven). Dick attends a voodoo ceremony it must be a secret location or something that could be considered unlawful as he is blindfolded prior to entering the car which takes him there. The ceremony itself is incredibly detailed and believable, probably due to the sequence being considerably well shot. During the ritual Dick passes out, as he awakes he realizes he has developed supernatural powers and it becomes apparent to the audience he is i fact 'possessed'. This is primarily the main reason I haven't and will never will visit Brazil, thanks Lenzi. He records the ritual on a dictaphone, as we see him becoming slowly entranced by the drums and the native's chants the camera cuts to a set of graves which suddenly burst open, followed by black decaying arms reaching up to grasp the surface soil. One shot in particular looks to be a direct copy of the hand coming up from the ground in Lucio Fulci's Zombi 2/Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979). For absolutely no reason the tombstones randomly burst into flames, an occurrence that is never explained. One can only assume that Lenzi must have thought that it would look cool, but in the long run the effect looks cheesy and cheapens what's already cheap film.

The student's jeep breaks down near a small plantation in the jungle near Rio. Which just so happens to be the site of a slave rebellion 150 years ago. Dick somehow using his newly acquired powers forces these black slaves to return from the grave...with a vengeance. Taking cues from yet another film this time Andrea Bianchi's Burial Ground (1981), the zombie slaves begin using tools/weapons to help gain entrance to the house and dispatch their living foe.
Alongside the story's gradual progression, Dick's character also changes. Beginning at the voodoo ritual, we then know he's possessed the other 2 students don't until the closing minutes. Dick turns on his sister when she realizes that he is 'one of them'. The last 20 minutes is really where this movie comes together, sadly it is too little too late. I'd almost recommend the use of the fast forward button apart from a couple of enjoyable gore scenes in the build up.

There isn't really much more to say about this film apart from its incredibly slow pacing, it takes quite a while 'til we even catch a glimpse of a zombie or a sorry sap getting murdered in a grotesque fashion.
Interestingly enough, for me, the film has a real mid 80's vibe despite being made in '91. I also feel that Lenzi didn't see the possible potential this film had, with it's fantastical backdrops of the jungle, great zombie makeup and better than average gore effects. Including one scene involving a woman's eye being gouged out in true Italiana style. I can only recommend this to people who are in dire need of a movie to watch or time to kill. If you love zombie movies with plotless plots and pointless gore, look no further. As for extras on the disc it's essentially barebones apart from an interview with Lenzi that does offer an inside look on how he personally feels about the film.

DVD: Shriek Show
Running Time: 88 Mins
Extras: Interviews and Trailers

2 Stars

2 comments:

The Film Connoisseur said...

Nightmare City was a fun flick, that one was fast paced, and had some crazy thing happening every five seconds. I thought it was unique how the zombies sucked on the blood of their victimes as if they were vampires. Also, the zombies faces looked like hamburger meat! Also, the zombies would slit their victimes throughts before sucking on their blood!

This movie, Black Demons was supposed to be some sort of sequel, I think a sequel to Demons 2...but I guess all they did was change the title around to Black Demons. Boring Italian horror movies is not something I look forward too, last time I saw one of those it was Zombie 5: Killing Birds. Wow what a bore fest!

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