Monday, March 16, 2009

The Devil's Rain

...but gee isn't this a unique little horror film (and a helluva way to spend a Monday afternoon, much better than marking student papers). It involves a Satanist battling for control over the souls of his followers in an old-west style town -- one which seems transparently to be the set for a very different film, bein' used after-hours, perhaps. It was made with the participation of the Church of Satan; Anton LaVey even has a cameo! Roger Ebert revealed a lot more of himself than he should have when calling this film "dull" - though his review is amusing to read indeed, and will provide you a fairly accurate, if spoiler-rich, sketch of the story. Dunno about you, but for me, calling The Devil's Rain - it has its own Wikipedia entry! - dull is like calling Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights (images also used for the opening credits of the film, so they are hardly irrelevant) "a bit flat." (What's a polite term for a "failure of the imagination?").

Or maybe Ebert just doesn't like watching people melt as much as I do? I like this Braineater review of the film much much more. (I must investigate Braineater's site further. No connection to Jim Cummins is presumed). I mean, how many movies have you seen Ernest Borgnine, John Travolta, Ida Lupino, and WILLIAM SHATNER - William Shatner! - melting in? (And most of 'em have their eyes put out, too!). Ebert complains about how long the melting takes, but for a true horror/ gore fan, that's kinda like complaining after sex that your orgasm lasted too long. Someone should take a stopwatch to the melting sequences in this and compare them to, say, those in The Incredible Melting Man - a terrible film redeemed (if at all) by the poignant, sad, and, er, existentially redolent final dissolution of the titular character (who was on the first ever issue of Famous Monsters I bought, as I recall, back when I was in elementary school). It's quite possible the melting in The Devil's Rain takes longer than the melting in that film. It's certainly attached to a much better, more inventive, more creepily provocative film (even if the main question provoked is a sincerely baffled "What the fuck am I watching?").

I gotta see if Stephen Thrower mentions it in Nightmare USA...


ammacinn said...

Very interesting: in the director's commentary for the film, Robert Fuest - of The Abominable Dr. Phibes fame - reveals that the screenwriters and executive producer, Sandy Howard, played a huge role in shaping this film. Howard was apparently the one who wanted lots of shots of people melting - Fuest, whom Howard apparently hand-picked for the job based on his past filmwork, says that the melting goes on too long, in his opinion - he doesn't seem very enthusiastic about it. He also speaks of complaining to the producers and writers of how the plot had holes in it (compared to, he says, "Dickensian narrative" - his framework is perhaps rather different from that of most US horror fans, one sees - as is that of his interrogator, who refers to Vincent Price, in Fuest's previous Phibes films, as having a "camp" presence - referencing, apparently, issues of gender - while saying this is not the case with William Shatner). Producer and screenwriters alike reassured him constantly that it was fine, though he persists in saying the film confuses him now. It DOES exist somewhat in the realm of the meta-movie, presuming a great deal of familiarity with certain narrative codes - things true genre buffs don't need to have explained, that are irrelevant to the delivery of both meaning and satisfaction... But it hardly confuses me.

More on Sandy Howard at IMDB:

He has his hands in many shock films I have enjoyed (CIRCLE OF IRON, VICE SQUAD)... and is listed as the American director for the US release of the Japanese GAMERA, which, I think, the clever Braineater fellow manages to tie in, for those of us who are paying attention...

ammacinn said...

That should be "shlock" films, of course, not "shock."

By gender, I mean gender-presentation; Price presents in a less stereotypically "masculine" way than Shatner. This in no way makes Shatner the less campy of the two, by me. But perhaps I misunderstand "camp..."