Race With The Devil (1975)
This was my first viewing of this 1970’s satanic panic thriller and I have to say, I FUCKING LOVED THIS MOVIE. There are so many levels to this that make it the perfect late-night film. Starting with the cast alone; it stars Peter Fonda, Warren Oates (you may know him best as Sgt. Hulka from Stripes), Lara Parker (Dark Shadows) and Loretta Swit (‘Hot Lips’ Houlihan from M*A*S*H) all coming together to make one hell of a supporting cast. You may also recognize director Jack Starett as ‘Galt’ from a little movie called First Blood.
The premise is classic: two couples vacationing together come across a satanic ritual in the Texas back country and spend the bulk of the film on the run from this unspecified cult. The true beauty of this film is how they seem to make the couple’s run almost hopeless from the start. Doubt is cast onto every person that they encounter, making it seem like the bulk of these small Texas towns are run in the shadows by this cult. At its core it reminds me a lot of The Devil’s Rain, as you get a similar feeling of dread and hopelessness almost right away.
I honestly cannot recommend this film enough. It has everything you could want: poorly researched satanic rituals, scenes of almost suffocating paranoia and wild car chase shootouts. It also has a motorcycle racing subplot that ties in the whole ‘race’ theme in case you were wondering. They certainly don’t make them like this anymore. It has a perfect ending too, wouldn’t have seemed right with any other outcome.
Fear No Evil (1981)
I had such high hopes for this based on the trailer that I saw at the PDX horrorthon this past weekend, but this film did not deliver. This is the first film from Frank Laloggia (and boy does it show). The dialogue is weak, the story is disjointed and poorly constructed and the religious undertones seem like they were thrown in after the fact. I get the feeling like they were going for a mix of The Omen and Carrie, but this falls amazingly short of either film. The only standout from the cast (to me, atleast) was the films lead: Stefan Angrim, but that is only because I recognized him from Class of 1984 (he played the gang’s drug dealer ‘Drugstore’).
The actual story revolves around the lead, Andrew being the personification of Lucifer. For the life of me I don’t really recall how or why that is the case, and I’m not sure if that’s because it was so boring that I was struggling to stay awake or because they seemingly glossed over that part of the plot. The story spends a lot of time showing him as a weird outsider (including a very out of place shower scene where he makes out with a very misogynistic bully character), but overall, he doesn’t seem as disliked as you would expect that character to be. The end of the film revolves around a battle between good vs evil and includes some amazingly dated and poorly done effects.
I honestly couldn’t wait for this film to be over, as it could barely keep my attention and contained no real likeable characters (even the good characters were forgettable). The only actual part of this that I liked was the first wave punk soundtrack that you always heard whenever the bully character was on screen. The rest of this movie is complete scrap that should have been left on the editing room floor. I gave this one 2 stars on Letterboxd, but even that may be too generous.
Dr Butcher M.D. a.k.a. Zombie Holocaust (1980)
Because Fear No Evil sucked so much, I wanted to end this final Cine-ween installment of Movie Madness…Madness on a high note, so I’m going to discuss a fine film with an amazing title: Dr Butcher M.D. Like the trailer states, the M.D. stands for Medical Deviate, and this movie certainly delivers on the deviant behavior and gore. Directed by Marino Girolami (who seems to be best know for spaghetti westerns and police procedurals), this film seems to be VERY influenced by the previous year’s Zombie (both of which have Ian McCulloch in the leading role). Aside from that, both films seem to ‘operate’ (get it) around the idea of a scientist or doctor on a remote island that is crawling with the undead.
This is certainly not breaking the mold when it comes to zombie movies, but there is something comforting in the fact that you can know exactly what you’ll get before you even start it. This film is full of gore effects that seem very dated by today’s standards, decent looking zombie makeup and the Italian film standard of gratuitous female nudity for no real reason. The only real bummer of the film (to me) is the whole cannibal islander subplot, which I never was a huge fan of as those films always seem exploitative as hell. While I would not consider this to be essential viewing, I still think it’s worth a watch if you come across it.