The Devil’s Rain, like Scream and Scream Again, is not a good movie. It is a more competently shot film. However, its story is barely comprehensible and the dialog is painful to listen to, in spite of its solid cast.
The Devil’s Rain is, basically, a Satan-sploitation film, meant to be a sort of 20th century occult western story, with a mix of Rosemary’s Baby and The Devil Rides Out. The premise is that the Preston family, living in the American Southwest somewhere, is being terrorized by the reincarnation of a satanic priest named Corbis, played by Ernest Borgnine. At some point in the 1700s, the Preston family’s ancestors were part of Corbis’ coven, and they betrayed them to witch-hunters, in the process taking a book where the various members of the coven had signed away their souls to Lucifer. Now Corbis has returned to take the book back.
This is, on paper, a really good plot, and a very coherent plot. It even starts on a very strong note by opening with credits over close-ups of a painting by Hieronymus Bosch, before having the patriarch of the Preston family come to deliver Corbis’ demands before melting in a rainstorm.
And after this the film just blunders into a gorgeously shot and acted field of rakes.
Director Robert Fuest had done the Doctor Phibes films, which were wonderful, and this film similarly is gorgeously shot, and he gets some excellent performances out of the cast – particularly Tom Skerritt and Borgnine. William Shatner is also in the film, and he’s generally going full Shat, but he still has some great moments, particularly during the first meeting scene. It’s just all the words coming out of these characters’ mouths are clumsy, stilted, and awkward.
Borgnine makes it work, giving the dialog a level of weight and gravitas that really makes gives me new appreciation of his skill as an actor, at a level where I wish I had seen Borgnine play more villains like this. It’s got a level of weight that I’d compare to Christopher Lee in For The Devil A Daughter.
Nobody else really makes this work. I don’t know if this is the fault of the main three script-writers, or if Satanism Consultant Anton Levay took a pass on the script and screwed it up, but nobody else has particularly good lines, particularly the protagonists.
Perhaps the other strong suit of the film is the melting effect. We get a really strong use of it in the film’s opening, along with a couple other scenes later in the film, before finally, in the big climax of the movie, when the souls of Corbis’ coven are released from the soul jar where they are being held (called “The Devil’s Rain”), a torrential downpour comes and causes the satanic church to explode and all the members of the coven to melt away. This works… and then the scene goes on for another 10 minutes.
I wanted to like this movie – I was hoping it would be a fun, enjoyable Satan-sploitation film. Instead it’s just clunky.
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