Directed by: Robert Fuest
Written by: James Ashton, Gabe Essoe, and Gerald Hopman
Starring: Ernest Borgnine, Tom Skerritt, William Shatner, and Ida Lupino
Reviewed by: Tyler B.
Heaven Help Us When the Devil's Rain!
The battle of good and evil is a battle which has and will rage on for all eternity. God versus Satan, angels versus demons, it's the story that we are all familiar with and has been spoken in all walks of life throughout the centuries of time. With Satanism, witchcraft, and all other dark religious beliefs rooted in our cultures it's easy to see why many filmmakers have used these themes, they are rooted in our realities. No matter how outlandish or crazy a horror or exploitation picture can get, if it's about Satanism or possession it still feels like it could possibly happen. Even if it contains cult members melting away, it can't seem that far fetched, can it? Let's take a stroll in The Devil's Rain.
The Preston family find that they are in grave danger when Steve Preston (George Sawaya), the father, returns home eyeless and claims they must "give Corbis (Ernest Borgnine) what belongs to him!" Immediately after relaying this information he melts away in the pouring rain. Mark Preston (William Shatner), the eldest son, finds his mom (Ida Lupino) has been abducted by the Satantic cult lead by Corbis and must travel to the ghost town of Redstone to negotiate the return of his family. Corbis, in exchange for the family members, wants an old book that resides with the Preston family which contains the names of those who sold their souls to the Devil. Unfortunately, Mark winds up captured by the cult and word gets out to Mark's younger brother Tom (Tom Skerritt) and occult expert Dr. Richards (Eddie Alberts). They travel to Redstone to try to save the Prestons and destroy the Devil's Rain, an occult relic containing the souls of those possessed by the cult.
The Devil's Rain came out during the 70's canon of occult-themed horror films. Rightfully so after the hippy generation ended with the Manson Family murders, awakening people to the fact that Satanic cults and dark practices did exist, and maybe locking your door was a good idea. I've always enjoyed the subgenre of Satanism and possession when it comes to horror films, and films like Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist still scare the crap out of me. The Devil's Rain may be a little more camp but I enjoyed the hell out of it, no pun intended, and I still found some of the scenes to be effectively creepy. For instance, my jaw dropped during one scene after Shatner's character transformation into an eyeless cult follower. I saw right then and there Michael Meyer's mask in the living breathing flesh, since The Shape's mask was just a "disguised" Shatner mask. That was quite a surreal moment and truly caught me off guard. Ernest Borgnine is great as Corbis and really brings a demonic charm to his performance. Also, watch out for John Travolta in his second role as one of the eyeless followers.
Don't let the film's PG-rating fool you either. It may not contain all the blood sacrifices, mutilation, or green projectile vomit you'd expect in a Satanic cult film, but I could honestly say it would probably get a much higher rating even by today's standards. I can't really see any films dealing with Satanism and possession getting a PG-rating today. And the final showdown containing all the melting cult members is really gooey and messy! The best I can describe it is a cross between House of Wax and Street Trash. Faces melt, green slime and waxy substance ooze out all over the place, it's quite the sight! The effects are particularly standout and were conceived and executed by the same people who did the make-up and effects for The Planet of the Apes. Corbis' transformation into a devil-goat is dually notable and the make-up is quite freaky in it's own right. Unfortunately the film didn't do too well at the box office upon release, and this ended up being director Robert Fuest's (The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Dr. Phibes Rises Again) last notable feature film. He couldn't get any work in features afterwards so he moved onto directing TV. Having seen the Dr. Phibes films and now this, I really thought Feust had a lot of talent behind the camera and an interesting eye for the material and would really have liked to see more horror efforts from him.
The Devil's Rain was also made with the assistance of Anton LaVey, High Priest of the Church of Satan, who was the film's technical advisor. This is what ups the creepiness level for the movie, to know that the practices and rituals portrayed in the film are near-authentic. He also has a small role as well, along side his wife (or would that be anti-wife?). Dark Sky Films released the DVD, which boasts an anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer, audio commentary by director Robert Fuest, a very short newsreel featuring Anton LaVey, theatrical trailer, radio spots, and a still gallery. The transfer is fairly clean with bright vivid colours, but it is sometimes a wee bit soft in spots. Alex Phillips, Jr.'s cinematography feels desolate and works wonders for the ghost-town atmosphere of the film.
If you're in the mood for an atmospheric and creepy horror film, The Devil's Rain is a great option. It's not gory or overly violent so it's a perfect date film, but it's still oozing and goey and the final twenty minutes are quite entertaining. It's got chills, it's got thrills, it's got melting people left and right. What's not to enjoy? Just like films such as The Wicker Man, Rosemary's Baby, The Omen, and The Exorcist, this is a must have for your collection. Not to mention it contains a surprise appearance by The Shape, three years before John Carpenter's Halloween was even made! So grab the DVD, raise your Devil horns, and enjoy the rain. Buy it!
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