Night of the Demons III (1997) Review by RevTerry

There is something about Halloween that seems to call for a little hell raising. I guess it's different as an adult-- from what I understand, you move farther from the spirit world as you grow older and move closer to things like a prison sentence, if you get in trouble. As a card-carrying adult, at best I get drunk in a costume and say something I shouldn't, which I guess still counts. As a kid, however, Halloween was time to fuck shit up and eat candy. Trick or treating provided apt cover for all kinds of juvenile criminal activity. Maybe on some level, I thought the authorities of the world would be too busy dealing with the undead or goblins (or whatever) to deal with boring old me, even if I too was up to no good that particular night. It is tradition, as indicated by the “trick” part of the “trick or treat” phrase-- although by the time I was out doing my costume thing for candy, the term had culturally become an idle threat, if that. I don't even think I knew it was a threat, just something I said when the person opened the door.  Even still, I understood the true spirit of the night. There is something about the whole holiday's motif that just begs for a little hooliganism. Officially, I think it's customary to do your bullshit the night before (during "Devil's" or Mischief night), but then you lose the protection that comes from being just one of many flocks of masked kids out at one time. Back in the day, even some of the stricter parents dressed their kids up and let them loose on the streets. If you didn't get a little crazy, it would feel like you wasted an opportunity, one that came only once a year and had the best alibi. Good-humored trouble for the most part, just kid stuff--maybe a little fire here and there, but no attempted murder, like the bizarro Scooby gang that make up the lead of Night of the Demons III (1997).
We open at the Hull House on Halloween night as a police cruiser rolls through its gates and up its driveway. After complaining to dispatch about having the “shit detail” and getting creeped out by what sounds like an unseen KMart Halloween decoration, the cop enters the house, flashlight in hand. He examines the house a little before being greeted by a woman who seems to be oblivious to the fact that the house is abandoned and creepy as fuck. The ghostly surprise host, who we know (having seen the first two films) is the demonic earthly leftovers of Angela (Amelia Kinkade), debates the extent of the law concerning private property with the lawman before using her ghost/demon powers to snatch off his sheriff badge and lodge it into his forehead like a ninja star. The scene fades away on a pumpkin (consumed in bad CG flames, I think) into the credits which, for some reason, have been baked on top of a god awful music video-esque art project that looks like the deformed, nonsensical love child of the ReBoot cartoon and the first Resident Evil video game. Once that monstrosity finally ends (in flames again, I think), we meet a van full of assholes as they demonstrate the entire current hierarchy and power struggle of their congregation in less than five minutes. Most importantly, we learn they are delinquents of some kind, and the film quickly moves on to the home of Abbie (Patricia Rodriguez), coincidentally, just as she is getting dressed. After being thoroughly interrupted by her siblings, her friend Holly (Stephanie Bauder) arrives with plans for them to head to the Halloween dance together. Without missing a beat, she gets undressed as well, and the two discuss college (and other important things) for a little while--topless. Back in the douche-wagon, the group takes turns threatening each others lives, and then they discuss their plans for the night. As luck would have it, the gang comes upon Holly and Abbie who have broken down on the side of the road. With mixed intent, the aggression-squad pulls over to offer them a ride,  which the girls reluctantly accept after they verbally agree to drop the duo at the school dance. The banter in the van goes about as well as you would think for cliche, fictional high school personalities, before the alpha male with the parted bangs (Kristen Holden-Ried) has them pull over at a gas station for some cigarettes and beer. Inside the store, one of the hooligans (Joel Gordon) makes quick work of aggravating the store clerk with a fake ID and some “momma” jokes, which by pure luck and ridiculousness, leads to a standoff between the group's de-facto leader and a bunch of cops. A police officer is blown through a window with a shotgun, and the kid with the shitty fake ID takes one in the stomach before the crew finally escapes the disastrous beer run and makes it back on the road. They don't go very far, however, before realizing the gas tank of the getaway ride has been damaged, and they are forced to seek refuge from the law in the first spooky ass, abandoned house they see. Of course, the only one they can find is the now famous Hull House with its occupant Angela who coincidentally loves entertaining parties of mature looking teenagers on Halloween.
In a lot of ways, NOTD3 follows the same basic premise of the first two Night of the Demons films: A collection of “teenagers” made up of both “bad kids” and “good” kids holed up in the Hull house for Halloween night. Angela returns, and kids alternate getting skin conditions to kill each other until there is a select few left. Unfortunately, the third entry manages to hit all the same points without supplying many memorable plays on the theme. This is mostly in comparison to the others, as both before it managed to cram a lot of personality into their cheesy packaging. The third feels more generic, for lack of a better word, and it has little of the wit or satirical time appropriate attitude. None of the characters really stick with you and are barely fleshed out enough to hold a conversation. Mostly, they fall back on well-used tropes--non critically, almost missing the traditional wink at the camera. The partygoers of the first two seem like satirical representations of their era’s “teen” demographic respectively, in the vain of the Return of the Living Dead’s punks (incidentally, Linnea Quigley was in both-- Night if the Demons in 1988 and Return in 85). As far as I can tell, these are less a comedic sample of social groups and more just random horror movie victims.  It's not without merit, however, as it is a simple, entertaining watch and avoids putting a wrench to the series. Just as it makes no extreme positive effect on the “Demons” films up to that point, it safely has no damaging impact. Oddly enough, this makes the original three-film series something of a rarity among its peers. Other American horror film series’ of its type had gone through extreme transformations as they made their way from the late 80s and into the 90s (see The Prom Night series). Even with the more one-off feel of this third example, the Night of the Demons movie canon stays virtually intact. It seems kind of weird that this makes it stand out, but the fact that nobody shoved an unrelated, reworked film into this series is actually kind of amazing. Even with the reboot that was made in 2009 to cap it off, the whole series degrades nicely and makes a good, trashy October marathon.
While never breaking the mold or even truly filling it, NOTD3 still provides schlocky demonic possession in a fast-paced and entertaining manner. The story is kept simple. Our signature ghost, Angela, is found still just chilling at her house on Halloween, waiting for her next victims-- no special magic ritual required for return (or whatever). Logic seems a little shaky, but the film really seems oddly grounded, coming from the kung-fu nun with a barrel full of holy water in the NOTD2. There is nowhere near the level of camp of the first two. Instead, it takes on a mean-spirited, but bubbly indifference towards its characters--outside of Angela. At the same time, it leans into a less-than-spooky family film vibe--think, those live-action Casper the Friendly Ghost movies but crass and nihilistic. The pacing is brisk, and no time is spent getting to some on-screen action. It's hard to give a fuck about anyone involved, but that really doesn't take too much away from what that the film has to offer. It feels like an Angela side quest, or just the less significant story, depicting a time she and the haunted house screwed with some other assholes. I don't know what the fuck she does all year elsewise, or why she is the only ghost that comes back, but I enjoy the idea that she gets to dispatch with one would-be party crew annually, after the events of 1988. Maybe this particular Halloween Angela and the Hull house seem to have run a little low on creative steam and budget, but they still dust off the demented muppet voice to get the job done. Noticeably absent is the signature body horror moments the first two set forth. In particular, the affinity they had for luring a victim in using some boobage, only then to have the breasts themselves turn on the horndog in some nightmarish way. It's hard to follow up Linnea Quigley's disappearing lipstick trick, but number two at least tried, and it kind of seemed like a signature move of sorts, up until this point in the series.
The budget seems to be scaled down considerably in this entry. Admittedly, the scariest moment in the film is the bare-bones 90s CG intro, which had me worried it would be done entirely in that style. Luckily, while the film does have some truly terrible computer-generated special effects mixed in, it still squeezes in some of the familiar possessed prosthetic makeup. This go-around it is a little more Buffy the Vampire Slayer and less Demons (1985, I always dug that the makeup was reminiscent of the classic Bava series with “demon” in the name, but that can wait for a review of the first film). Most of the gore and kill effects worked for me when on camera. The splatter is kept mostly practical, and what it lacks in imagination, it tries to make up for in abundance. The biggest disappointment of the film comes when one of victim’s arms is turned into a snake`a la some terrible 90s graphics. I think it's supposed to be the film’s surreal kill, replacing the haunted rack scenes from the first two (as mentioned above), but it falls drastically short if that's true. It goes nowhere, and looks like a shitty superpower from an off-brand X-Men or something. Only the horror-gods know what that scene was going for there, but I only see an undiluted mix of bad ideas and soulless special effects. Like a grip of films from the same time, there’s an awkward balance between the types of techniques it uses to bring its visuals to life, in this case, when it's not using video game garbage and sticks to the gooey shit, it has inspired moments. The editing is fair, for the most part, but gets a little choppy. Part of this may be due to rating edits, as I have seen multiple cuts of the film at this point.  It also recycles a few scenes from the first film of Angela getting her float on, which feel a little jagged. The music is all over the place. Best I can tell, someone used a time machine to ransack a Richard Band catalog from future Full Moon films and only threw in little chunks to throw him off (and not affect the time-space continuum). The soundtrack really only matches up with rest when it wants to, and at its best helps a joke fall flat. There is some budget hair-metal in the end credits, but it's kind of too little, too late. Altogether it's an “OK” use of a smaller budget and suffers greatest from its era’s cheap special effects.  Even feeling slightly broken at times, it amounts to a van full of one-sided assholes getting disposed of by a demon, so it works.
The film is directed by Jim Kaufman, who does most of his directing for television and holds a first assistant director credit on the early Cronenberg racing film, Fast Company (1979). The first film’s director Kevin Tenney wrote the script, coming back to the series after nine years. Along with Night of the Demons (1988), Tenney gave us a handful of watchable trash flicks including the first two Witchboards (1986,1993). Reportedly, Tenney would later indicate he wasn't happy with his script or the film's final product, but I won't hold his change of heart against him. The sequel is Amelia Kinkade’s third appearance as the (now) demonic Angela. Counting the obviously reused segments, she has more screen time here than the last film and at times feels like the main character. Kinkade seems to have a blast in the role and brings the Angela character right back to life despite the obviously lowered quality around her. Her lines aren't half as fun as her banter in number two, but she is instrumental in making the film work for the series. As a candidate for Most Level Headed Lawmen in a Horror Film Lieutenant Dewhurst, we have veteran voice actor Vlasta Vrana. His character here is a hardly seen and almost useless but somehow a highlight nonetheless. Vrana has a lengthy filmography that continues to this day, including providing personalities for video games and animated features, as well as appearing in a wide range of films (including the Cronenberg flicks, Rabid 1977 and Shivers 1975). The rest of the cast is made up of frequent mainstream movie and TV show filler actors, who make the best of what is possibly left over oneliners from the first two films. 
Night of the Demons 3 isn't nearly the essential viewing of its predecessors, but it's a trashy enough third helping for a seasonal marathon. Being that it is the second sequel in a horror franchise, it could have been very different. I have no problem watching it yearly, as its a relatively inoffensive addition to the series, even with its flaws. It is wholesome holiday fun with plenty of brainless nudity and some splatter. Plus, it's good to let kids know there are limits to Halloween hooliganism, and that you should pick your crew well. I feel like this is especially important in today's world. Holiday shenanigans should be about having fun and fucking shit up, not taking gas station clerks hostage. Don't be that guy, or nobody will care when you end up dead in an abandoned house due to sketchy circumstances.
1h 25min | 1977
 Director: Jim Kaufman 
Writer: Kevin Tenney

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Review by:
RevTerry


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