My sole criteria for “31 Days of Horror” is that they have to be movies I’ve never seen before. I’m slightly cheating with the final film in this year’s marathon. I have seen the end of this one, catching maybe the last 15 minutes of it once in college. That was enough to tell me it was a stinker, but I figured “In for a penny…” and I might as well subject myself to it in its entirety. Besides, it fits right in with this year’s theme of black magic, Satanism, and witchcraft movies.
The movie I speak of is The Devil’s Rain (1975), a film that stars Earnest Borgnine, Tom Skerritt, Eddie Albert, William Shatner, AND John Travolta. I mean, how could you not watch a movie with that level of talent across the board?
The movie’s plot concerns a book that once belonged to the witch and Satanic high priest, Jonathan Corbis (Borgnine), but was stolen from him 300 years ago by one of his coven members in an attempt to save the soul of a loved one (at least, that’s what I think was going on). The descendants of that thief have guarded the book ever since, but now Corbis is really putting the screws to them. Mark Preston (Shatner) decides to test his faith against Corbis’ in an attempt to rescue his mother and father from the priest’s satanic clutches, but that doesn’t pan out too well. Next thing you know, Mark’s brother, Tom (Skerritt) gets the call his whole family’s gone missing and runs to help along with his wife, Julie (Joan Prather) and his friend Dr. Sam Richards (Albert). Can they stop the cult before they unleash the Devil’s Rain (or something)?
The Devil’s Rain was summed up succinctly by Australian film reviewer Michael Adams who called it “the ultimate cult movie”: “It’s about a cult, has a cult following, was devised with input from a cult leader, and saw a future superstar indoctrinated into a cult he’d help popularize.” The cult leader Adams refers to is Anton LaVey, the notorious and very publicity-minded founder of the Church of Satan, who served as a technical advisor on the film and has a small role along with his wife. The future superstar is a reference to Travolta and his well-known connection to Scientology. Travolta was purportedly introduced to Dianetics by co-star, Joan Prather, during filming, leading to his eventual association with the Church of Scientology.
Despite the high potential for sheer camp enjoyment, I found The Devil’s Rain to be an utter mess, even more so than the last 15 minutes of the movie which features lots and lots of melting people shuffling around in the rain. I swear, the movie isn’t even 90 minutes long and they still had to pad it out with shot after shot of eyeless faces running like a box of Crayola crayons left atop the space heater. The Incredible Melting Man didn’t have this much melting in it.
The joy I did get from the movie was entirely unintentional. Corbis’ cult members all lose their eyes when they join up, leaving black sockets in their place. This gives them the appearance of wearing Halloween masks. At the risk of spoilers, Shatner ends up an eyeless cult member, so he looks exactly like Michael Meyers from Halloween given that the iconic “The Shape’s” mask was based on a Captain Kirk mask. I chuckled, anyway. I’ll take what I can get here.
Unintentional Michael Meyer’s cameos notwithstanding, The Devil’s Rain is a real slog through the mud and deserves only 2 skulls out of 5. I was hoping for so much more, but I got exactly what I expected.
That wraps up this year’s 31 Days of Horror (delayed). I managed to squeak in the final film before the ball drops and 2022 is upon us. If you’ve read this far, thank you for your patience and I hope you do check out some of the titles I subjected myself to this time around. I’ll be back in about 10 months with another 31 Days of Horror.
Happy New Year, everyone!