Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Race With the Devil

In this movie, Peter Fonda and his wife and friends go on a vacation in an RV, only to run afoul of a band of devil worshippers that chase them through the boonies. If that doesn’t sound like a totally awesome premise to you, then I just don’t know that we will ever meet eye to eye on anything. To be sure, I had bought the movie because I had misheard the premise and thought that the Satanists (I know, it’s not PC to view Satanists and devil worshippers as synonymous, but fuck those pretentious idiots) were also bikers, which is about the only way to take this thing to an even higher level, but as it is it’s a pretty damn good thriller all the same.

I probably should throw in a spoiler warning for this paragraph, even if it’s something that becomes pretty obvious pretty early on. Anyway, while I was initially disappointed at the lack of vengeful, demonic bikers (and the subsequent tragic realization that we weren’t going to be treated to a horror twist on his old biker movies like Easy Rider), the fact that apparently every single person in the entire town is a part of this dark coven was pretty damned awesome, and made for some really effective moments, the best of which is when one of the characters decides to go swimming in the town’s public pool, only to slowly realize that every person there is silently staring at her. The idea of the non-believing sheriff, long a staple of dumb movies, is here nicely turned on its ear when Fonda figures out he was just lying to them all.

That said, there are some definite problems with this film, mainly that it opens up slowly. Really, really slowly. Before the Satanists arrive, we are treated to a too-long prologue showing them deciding to go on vacation, everyone getting together, and going on the big grand road trip adventure. They finally make it out to the sinister wilderness, but it’s still daytime, and no self-respecting cult member would sacrifice a virgin to their dark elder god until nightfall, so in the meantime we get Fonda and his pal Warren Oates riding around on motor bikes for a ponderously lengthy time. If you are to watch this, I could not recommend strongly enough that you skip ahead to the big cultist gathering, and give the dull nonsense at the start a pass.

To be fair, once it gets going, there are two really good chase scenes, first when the vacationers are discovered by the cultists and have to hightail it out of there while the cultists angrily smash out their windows, and then at the climax, when seemingly half the town takes to the road for a big highway chase. So it’s nice that a good two thirds of the film are good, though it’s a shame about that last third. Still, though, at its price its well worth the investment.

Rating: ***

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