A dark cauldron of black magic, sin, and redemption, The Devil's Rain travels the dark byways of space and time to deliver its sinister message of doom . . . It also produces more than its share of chuckles due to incredible lapses of story logic! More importantly, this midnight movie of devilish revenge explores the black pits of our hearts, instilling its campy, crazy images with relevance in an age that has forgotten it may even have a soul! Atmospherically chilling with a memorable cast of fine actors, this uneven stew of Satanism, Witchcraft, and redemption is given the star treatment by Dark Sky Films. Played out amidst the wilds of the Mexican dessert, this catalogue of occult shenanigans has never looked better. And while it is far from an occult classic, the inspired oddness of the basic premise and the undeniable eeriness of the settings -- not to mention the isolated scenes of Satanic depravity and surreal imagery -- makes it well worth owning.
A patch-work cinematic quilt of various conventions and plot-lines culled from folklore and the popular films that came before it, The Devil's Rain is one of the more original, unique, and maligned additions to the "Satanic Panic" movement sparked by the successive success of Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, and The Omen. Never reaching the craftsmanship, mythic power, or sound storytelling values of these examples, Devil's Rain carves its own identity by keeping to its dark, oppressive guns. Corbis (Ernest Borgnine), a centuries-old black magician, hunts a Midwest family across time to retrieve the book of names that will devil lost souls to Hell. This book was stolen from Corbis by a redeemed member of his ancient coven, and each of her ancestors has been charged with keeping the tome from his hands (the scenes of long ago deviltry are delivered in an impressively claustrophobic flashback complete with Old Salem-like atmosphere dripping from the shadows and burning torch-light). Containing the names of the devil's disciples, it's imperative for the horned one to retrieve this volume. Along the way, he kills several members of the cursed family dead, tortured, and ruined. Tom Skerrit, the last surviving son, and his lady love, arrive at a foreboding desert town in the middle of a purgatorial wasteland to rescue their relatives . . And soon regret it.
While The Devil's Rain suffers from a story that tries to be too many films at one time, and a screenplay that teases with character revelations which are properly revealed, the several different scenes that do work, and the atmosphere of doom that surround the entire production, make this film a valuable addition to the genre. Robert Fuest teases moments of effective helplessness and hopelessness from his characters, and evokes both terror and pity for the innocent. Several fine moments, from the storm drenched attack on the family ranch to Shatner's defeat in the gloom laden desert church, are handled with true artistry. Inspired direction and wonderful performances by Shatner and Borgnine instil some believability into a story filled with ridiculous lapses of continuity. Borgnine particularly dives into his role, spreading hate and discord with his chillingly believable gospel of the Devil (yea!), going so far as to sprout horns in a mind-numbing climax, wherein he and his converts groove in a black mass. Including an appearance by Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan (and author of The Satanic Bible), this rare entry by Fuest exchanges the high camp sensibility of the Phibes films, and the action hysterics of The Avengers, for a dark, depressing faerie tale.
Dark Sky's transfer brings startling clarity to these scenes of satanic wonder, allowing the brimstone and fires of Hell to burn free from the expected lines or surface blotching accompanying other releases. The picture is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen, and is by far the best the film has ever looked. Fuest's use of color is emphasized, as are the mingling shadows and stark contrasts of fire and desert, the demonic and the human. Audio in 2.0 Mono opens the gates of hell wide, mirroring the tortured souls of the characters with an evocative sound track and effects that are equally distributed. Extras are generous, no surprise coming from Dark Sky, and include the engaging, admirably honest commentary of Robert Fuest, who admits to the film's many story and filmic problems, and admits that he would have enjoyed the time/option to re-do several things. This commentary is active, lacking many of the uncomfortable silences so inherent in other DVDs. While a few seconds of Newsreel with Anton LaVey, High Priest of the Church of Satan, is near worthless and in no way significant to the film, the commentary is alone worth the price of the disc. The ensuing Theatrical Trailer, exploitative Radio Spots, and Still Gallery are simply frosting on this tasty Devil's Cake -- remaining one of the oddest, more atmospheric occult thrillers ever made.
Review by William P. Simmons
|Released by Dark Sky Films|
|Region 1 - NTSC|
|see main review|