“Attack of the Demons” or Why You Shouldn’t Attend Halloween Music Festivals in Small Towns with Lots of Caves and Bats

Horrors films have often been viewed as reflections of what’s cooking up the most paranoia in society at the time of their release. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) has forever been designated as a political allegory on Americans’ fear of Communism.

Ernest Matjijs in his lengthy Cinema Journal essay, “AIDS References in the Critical Reception of David Cronenberg” (2003), notes how The Fly (1986) caused numerous reviewers to make the disease tie-in. The “Horror” segment of Todd Haynes’s Poison (1991), with a scientist creating a fatal epidemic after swallowing his own experimental sex serum, was never meant to be otherwise.

Then earlier this year we had Amy Seimetz’s She Dies Tomorrow about a contagious thought that causes its victims to be quite sure they only have 24 more hours to live. This causes the antiheroine to ponder what style leather jacket she’d like to have her dead body made into. This clearly, whether intentionally or not, is one of the first coronavirus tie-ins.

So why not add Attack of the Demons to what will be an ever-growing genre: the CD-19 scream flick?

Directed and animated by the immensely talented Eric Power, Attack has been decreed by The Scariest Things website as a “unique artisan-crafted animated cut-paper gore” offering that “worships at the altar of Dario Argento and Sam Raimi.” Who am I to argue otherwise?

Imagine a 75-minute South Park episode that spoofs 1950s alien invasion films but without the series’ obscenities, sexual double-entendres, and takedowns of sanctimonious celebrities. Now imagine that you still have a funny, completely engrossing comedy with enough arty gore to keep your 9-year-old focused on the screen while your grandma is hooting it up, and you’re flying on the bright colors and the applaud-worthy skills that brought this venture to a highly satisfying completion.

The plot is a simple one. It’s 1994 in the small town of Barrington where nearly everyone is getting ready to celebrate the 10th Annual Halloween Festival. Who would suspect that within hours a green-gook-spewing demon will be converting all of Barrington’s inhabitants into similar zombie-like green-gook-spewing demons, who will then convert others. The end goal just might be to conquer all of Earth for evil.

Oh, no! Who can save the planet? Just search for some folks avoiding crowds at gyms, barbershops, and concerts. Are there any? Don’t worry!

There’s Kevin who’s attending a screening of a film that no one else wants to see, The Grotesque Mirror. The plot: paintings coming alive at a museum and start slaughtering attendees. Look closely for a killer Picasso oil.

Then there’s Natalie, who follows indie bands that even followers of indie bands won’t follow. Her best line is about her misogynistic music critic boyfriend: “He’s an asshole, but I don’t hope he’s dead.”

Rounding out our gang of possible heroes is Jeff, who argues that video games are superior to all of the arts combined. His most notable line: “Girls think that video games are cool and that guys who play them are cool, right?”

(Credit writer Andreas Petersen for the enjoyable repartee.)

This quick-moving tale grabs you visually and never lets you go, even though you pretty much think you know where it’s going. But be aware, that just like CD-19, the ending might be open-ended, and some shiny green gook might be heading your way.

(Darkstar Pictures opened Attack of the Demons in several virtual theaters for Halloween. The “horror” comedy will next make its debut on On Demand on Tuesday, November 3rd.)

Brandon Judell has published in The Village Voice, The Advocate, and 50 or so other outlets. He is currently a lecturer at The City College of New York.

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