Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Devil's Rain (1975)

The Devil’s Rain (1975, dir. Robert Fuest)
Review by Goat Scrote
     We imps at TOG Laboratories have been busy preparing the way to Armageddon for quite some time now. To commemorate our 666th article, we’ve summoned a slice of 70s Satanic cinema so ripe n’ cheesy you’ll think you’ve landed in one of the moister, smellier crevices of Satan’s underpants. “Devil’s Rain” is a stinker but it’s got a ridiculously excessive finale which is worth seeing just for the jaw-dropping amount of slime involved.
Mork calling Orson.
     If you don’t have the patience for the slow pacing and laugh-inducing "action" sequences characteristic of the 1970s, you should still tune in for the fun splatter of the climax starting around the 74 minute mark. You don’t need to understand what’s happening plot-wise to enjoy the best things about the finale. It's a gooey rainbow of B-grade horror silliness as eyeless cultists dissolve into puddles and a regular dude wrestles with the devil. If they’d made the slime red instead of green, this might have been an R-rated grindhouse classic. As it is, it’s a mostly-bloodless 70s PG with a lot of melting zombie-flesh at the end. The effects department must have gone through hundreds of gallons of goop for that oozing, dripping, drizzling payoff.
Insert obligatory semen joke here.
     At the high point of his career, director Robert Fuest made two psychedelically schlocky Vincent Price classics, “The Abominable Doctor Phibes” (1971) and “Dr. Phibes Rises Again” (1972), as well as a couple of other cult classics. “The Devil’s Rain” was such a rancid flop, however, that it killed Fuest’s film career deader than an unbaptized virgin goat at a Black Mass. Fuest was banished ever afterward to the land of TV. Yes, the wretched stink of this movie was so severe that it canceled out the pleasing patchouli aroma of both of the super-swingin’ Dr. Phibes films.
Don't they sell these at Spencer's Gifts?
     Then there’s the curious fact that the filmmakers consulted with the actual Church of Satan while making this film. I imagine they did this partly to stir controversy for attention, and partly to pretend that there was some kind of legitimacy to the supernatural story which the writers had cooked up. They even gave cameos to Anton and Diane LaVey, self-proclaimed High Priest and Priestess of Satan's ministry on Earth at the time. I’m sure the LaVeys were very happy to collect their paychecks and soak up the free publicity on top of that, because why the Hell not? I can't help but imagine Anton LaVey casually reeling off inane occult nonsense with his trademark grim and frightening theatrical demeanor, then laughing cheerfully all the way to the bank.
Leaked! You'll never believe who they've cast as Dr. Fate
in the upcoming Justice League sequel!
     “Devil’s Rain” has campy performances from a reasonably well-known cast which includes Ernest Borgnine, Eddie Albert, Ida Lupino, Keenan Wynn, Tom Skerritt, and extra-large douchebag in human form William Fucking Shatner. Spoiler alert, in this one Shatner gets his punk ass whupped severely, and I found that ass-whuppin’ profoundly spiritually satisfying. Is that wrong?
I love my seventies porn collection.
     Even though Ernest Borgnine plays the villain, he is the real hero for me because he seems to be the only person on screen trying to make a movie which is not boring. He knows he is making a bad movie, for sure, but he still does what he can to make it an entertaining bad movie. I like his hammy, melodramatic performance as the manipulative cult leader who can shift from politely folksy to gleefully wicked to quietly sinister whenever it suits him. It's not nearly enough to counteract all the boring parts, but any time Borgnine is chewing scenery the movie is a lot more fun.
Anyone who sold their soul for this movie
is definitely entitled to a refund.
     I've saved the biggest star for last. This pile of eviscerated sun-bloated hog bowels disguised as a film holds the distinction of debuting an unknown young actor named John Travolta. He doesn’t speak and you never even get to see his whole face, so don’t get too excited. You may also be interested to know that the set of “The Devil’s Rain” is where the larval actor had his first introduction to the cynical money-making machine which calls itself Scientology. That's two, count 'em, two separate real-life cults with connections to this movie!
Can you spot the Travolta hidden in this picture?
     The opening credits roll over close-ups from paintings by Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450 - 1516 CE) depicting vast hellscapes full of creative and awful torments. If only Bosch had made horror movies. His paintings prove that he was very good at crafting disturbing, surreal, gory, and grotesque religious imagery. He was also good at straight-up vicious torture porn. Whatever he filmed it would have been better than the shit I’m watching today, I just know it.
"Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Very, Very, Very Beginning"
A Hieronymus Bosch Joint
  The story begins with a fierce thunderstorm lashing a house out in the desert. Inside, frumpy and anxious Mrs. Preston (pioneering director, writer, singer, and actress Ida Lupino) is dressed in what appears to be a pink checkered tablecloth. Don't let her role fool you, she was one of the toughest, most determined, and smartest people in Hollywood during the 50s. Mama Preston frets about her husband, who is many hours late. Her son Mark Preston (William Fucking Shatner) returns from a search empty-handed. Moments later his father returns on his own, but all is not well.
This is what I get for adding
Bill Shatner to an overpopulated world.
  Papa Preston (George Sawaya) has misplaced his eyeballs and his face is slowly melting. He delivers a message from a villain named Corbis, who is waiting in a nearby ghost town. Corbis wants the family to turn over a book of Satanic power which is in their possession. Then Papa Preston praises Satan and melts into sludge. I wonder if they shoveled him into a bucket for a funeral later on, or if they just let his remains soak into the mud for fertilizer? The movie sort of implies the latter.
This book of alien space wisdom has cured me of gay!
     Mark is drawn away from the house by a ruse and returns to find Mama Preston has been kidnapped. The aged family retainer (TV regular Woody Chambliss, who also played old Sgt. Pepper in the 1978 Beatles film) has been tied up and beaten senseless. This character is forgotten almost immediately after being introduced.
     Mark grabs a pistol and an amulet of protection, jumps in his station wagon, and heads out to do battle with the forces of darkness. He arrives at the ghost town and Jonathan Corbis (Ernest Borgnine) pops up out of nowhere to have a friendly chat.
Borgnine starts the hoodie-and-medallion look.
     Corbis wants the book and demands to know where Mark has hidden it. They have a faith vs. faith challenge inside a creepy old boarded-up church. Within is a Satanic altar and some robed bozos chanting evil hymns to bad organ music. Cap’n Kirk prays his butt off to Jesus and friends, while Borgnine offers adulation to the ruler of the Bottomless Pit. Their competition over who can overact the hardest ends when one of the robed cultists reveals herself to be Mama Preston, now eyeless and enslaved to Satan. Mark loses his cool and shoots one of the minions. Green gloop oozes out and Borgnine makes fun of him for putting his faith in a mere weapon.
The power of Kirk compels you!
The power of Kirk compels you!
     Poor gun-happy Mark has lost the metaphysical battle, so the cultists strip him of his amulet and half his clothes, take him captive, and torture him for the location of the book. The cultists apply an extreme version of good-cop, bad-cop. Corbis torments him a while, then trades places with a seductress. She passionately kisses a willing Shatner… until he realizes that he’s actually slipping tongue to the eyeless, slime-filled, undead shell of his saggy-fleshed elderly mother! Ewwww, on so many levels... Judas Priest! I wish films and TV wouldn't have forced so many innocent people to kiss Shatner. He clearly doesn't get the basic concept and it's fucking embarrassing.
     Meanwhile, at the lab of Dr. Sam Richards (Eddie Albert), he believes he is about to "unlock the key to ESP".  Tom Preston (Tom Skerritt) is the Doctor’s assistant and the youngest son of the Preston family. His wife Julie Preston (Joan Prather) is the subject of the psychic experiment. She has visions of bad shit going down involving the Satanic church in the ghost town. The Sheriff (Keenan Wynn) is busy with the aftermath of the big storm, so Tom and Julie are forced to investigate what happened to his family on their own.
Okay, I'll do the movie as long as I'm not in any
scenes with You-Know-Fucking-Who.
     Tom and Julie arrive in the ghost town toting a rifle. The church is dark inside except for the light from a stained-glass window which looks like a prop from a super-cheesy 80s heavy metal video. (That actually makes the window well ahead of its time, I guess?) That’s the only clue Tom needs to figure out that the whole mess is about devil worship. He's a genius. They find his brother's shirt in the church, then their car explodes in a fireball outside. When they run out to investigate, someone driving Mark’s station wagon tries to flatten them. Tom shoots at the car and it crashes, then he chases and fights the psycho cowboy who was behind the wheel.
     This movie has really unexciting action and unconvincing fights. Behold the magic of cinema.
     Meanwhile, courtesy of Julie's psychic powers, we flash back to the olden days. A bunch of Satanists dressed like pilgrims in a Thanksgiving school play are plotting secret evil stuff. Shatner is one of the cultists. Corbis bitches about the lost book even back then, hundreds of years ago. The other cultists must be really sick of hearing about that shit by now.
Gee, honey, this B&B looks really... inviting.
     A bunch of villagers show up with torches, led by the Reverend of the town (Claudio Brook). Shatner is one of the Satanists, and his wife, Aaronessa (Erika Carlsson) has betrayed the cult to the Reverend on the condition that she and her husband be spared. The Reverend double crosses her and burns both husband and wife at the stake with the rest of the cult. Corbis is not impressed and talks Satanic smack to the crowd while the auto-da-fe proceeds. He isn’t tied to the stake, but he just dances around the pole and stays in the fire anyway. What a fun-loving kook! I don't care if he is evil incarnate, I bet Corbis is fun at parties. As long as no one mentions that dumb book.
     Back in the present, Tom and Julie take the station wagon to get away from the ghost town. On the way out Tom has a crisis of conscience. He decides to go back on foot so he can fight the magic-wielding cult single-handedly and rescue his brother. Did I write that he was a genius earlier? What a reckless idiot, that’s what I meant to write.
Driver, get me to the set of Phantasm!
     Julie drives on to fetch the Sheriff, but the mother-in-law from actual Hell takes a break from making out with her son to magically appear in the back seat. She abducts Julie with embarrassing ease.
     Night falls and the cultists march with torches, dragging a shirtless Shatner toward the altar. Tom is disguised in a cultist robe to infiltrate the evil ceremony. At the big Satanic altar, Corbis holds an evil freestyle hip-hop poetry slam. Check out his hype lyrics: “Let us behold the Father, the Ram of the Sun, the Moon, the Stars! Hail O Deathless One!”
Sucker MCs better watch their step.
     See, this is what happens when real Satanists write your Hollywood rituals for you. If you actually say that last bit out loud you could turn into an evil Satan-possessed goat-person, just like Borgnine does on camera, and just as I did many years ago. Ernest could afford the plastic surgery to cover up his mistake. I personally can't. You’ve been warned!
     Anyway, they finally break Shatner’s spirit and he turns into another eyeless goon. Tom gets spotted by his zombie Mama but he escapes to fetch more help, in the form of Dr. Richards.
This church-sponsored Easter egg hunt is a little "off" somehow.
     Dr. Richards and Tom explore the church and underneath the floor they uncover a giant Faberge egg with golden ram horns. It turns out the egg is full of souls captured by Corbis. The Sheriff appears again, now an eyeless drone, and Tom fights him hand to hand even though both men have guns. Tom wins, of course, but he and Dr. Richards are forced to hide from the other minions. One of the cultists sees that the magic egg is gone, but the heroes have left the Satanic book behind. WTF, idiots? You had one job, keep that stupid book away from Corbis! The cultist (John Travolta) runs off to give the prize to his master. The bad guys are super-psyched about this turn of events.
The golden fleece prepares to devour Oedipus,
just as it was foretold in the Necronomicon!
      The minions prepare to work their magic on Julie, but Tom jumps into the scene and brawls with anyone in a robe. Dr. Richards threatens to crack the eggy thing, which we learn is called the Devil’s Rain. Why in the world would it be called that? Zombie-Shatner gets his hands on the egg. Fortunately for the forces of goodness, Cap'n Kirk is able to overcome his Satanic enslavement and crack the Devil's Rain open.
Oh, you handsome devil.
     The roof blows out at the same moment, I guess because of the souls escaping. Actual rain, which is apparently not the Devil’s Rain, pours down from the sky. That just seems confusing, to have a movie called "The Devil's Rain" in which the only rain that falls is not the Devil's, because "rain" in this case refers to a magic blue egg full of dead people. Hey, don't look at me, ask Anton LaVey's corpse what the fuck this is about.
Give Uncle Satan a big wet kiss, Tommy!
     The rain melts the cultists and since this scene is where most of the budget went, the director spends a lot of time on the gooey, wailing deaths. Satan/Corbis is pi-i-i-i-iiiissed, but the rain melts him down even as he struggles with Tom. Then the Prince of Darkness falls into a hole and explodes because... um... reasons. Eventually the whole church explodes with no apparent provocation. It’s a sludgy mess of an ending. Then as a stinger, Julie turns out to be possessed by the spirit of Corbis and we are treated to a creepy scene of Ernest Borgnine hug-molesting Tom Skerritt.
     Whew, this movie sure does suck a lot! I still have fun watching most of Ernest Borgnine’s scenes, and of course I like the way it ends. If you're interested in this flick you might enjoy the Joe Bob Briggs commentary about it.
Should've gotten a flu shot, stupid.

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