Recently, my dreams have been particularly vivid and lengthy. The other day, I dreamt a whole movie, including going to see it and researching it later.
I was at a Convergence movie showing among a raucous, late-night crowd, excited to see this cult movie from 1982 I’d never seen before, recently released in a restored Criterion edition.
Pasolini (no relation to the director of The Decameron and Salo) is the name of an ancient family that hunts demons from another dimension. They are trained from birth in martial arts by hand and sword (guns, bombs, grenades, etc. being useless against supernatural creatures), as well as espionage and tradecraft in order to discover shape-shifting demons in positions of power. Demon hunters also have limited ESP (like the Shadow or low-level Jedi), which they use to make mundanes forget they saw anything weird.
Our protagonist is Eduardo Pasolini, the handsome and charming scion of the family. He has a slight air of melancholy due to a secret fear of not being good enough to lead.
The film is filled with scenes of action and infiltration, with the centerpiece being a battle royale during a fashion show. Each scene has a super-cool look to it in a very late-70s, early 80s way à la Diva or The Eyes of Laura Mars, but also somehow timeless, set to a memorable synth-based score.
In the climax, Eduardo is told by his blind, soothsaying grandmother Aurelia that only by allying with another demon-hunting family, the Viscontis, will they be able to defeat the latest demon incursion. Unfortunately, they all hate him after he broke up with their scion, Vanessa. He must disguise himself and fight his way through the fortress-like Castle Visconti in the midst of a wild, decadent party to get to her.
Aurelia told him that, due to the dire situation, he will have to violate the ancient laws against using ESP on another demon hunter by manipulating Vanessa with his psychic powers. In a twist, however, he breaks down and cries when he finally sees her, confessing that he still loves her. She takes him back in a breathtakingly romantic scene.
The final scene is controversial, as it ends with Eduardo and Vanessa gathering all their weapons to fight the demons side by side, but doesn’t show the final battle. However, most fans feel that it doesn’t damage the movie as a whole.
The only famous member of the cast is Giorgio Armani, who has a cameo as himself and allowed the filmmakers to shoot scenes in his atelier in exchange for publicity.
The fan-favorite dark-horse character is Valentino, Eduardo’s snarky-but-loyal, queer-coded second in command who does all the actual fashion design for the house.
It was originally released in a heavily-cut version in the US as Demon Hunters. The tagline was, “We kill demons. And look good doing it.”
Hideyuki Kikuchi named the film as an influence on his Wicked City novels.
The end credits song, “Discopacalypse”, reached #85 on the Billboard dance charts.
The ending of the movie was abrupt because the filmmakers hoped to make it a series, as it was based on a long-running series of Italian comic books. However, it didn’t make enough money and was left as a solo film. Fan-translated bootleg copies of the comic circulated on the Internet amongst Pasolini fans until Fantagraphics finally released official English translations of the series a few years back.
The comics also ended abruptly due to the writer’s untimely death. A few fans advocate making a sequel based on the author’s notes for the ending, but most feel that Pasolini should stand alone.
Guillermo Del Toro was briefly attached to a sequel, but he disliked the finished script.
I’m hoping to make an old-fashioned, hand-drawn poster for it, we’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, add your Pasolini scenes and facts in the comments.