Man, this is one strange movie. I haven't seen many films which centre entirely around the exploits of Satanists, but this is one of the few I have seen. I don't even know if I like it that much (even though I'm a sucker for Devil-movies of any kind) but it certainly has an odd atmosphere to it. I've heard it referred to as a satanic western, but other than the setting being in a ghost mining town, and some of the characters wearing cowboy hats, I can't see it really. It's the ending that grabs the most attention, that being the graphic, gooey meltdown of most of the cast in the devil's rain of the title. It's eye-catching, to say the very least. Well, I guess you'll be wanting to know a bit about the storyline.
The opening credits are impressive medieval paintings, accompanied by the moanings of the damned, screaming "let me out of here". On a dark and stormy night, we're introduced to Mark and "Mrs." Preston, mother and son, played by cult icon William Shatner and Ida Lupino, respectively. They're concerned about a certain man called "Corbis" and protecting a book from his clutches. Soon enough, a man appears who they seem to recognise as their father and husband. But as torrential rain pours down, he graphically melts away to a puddle of goo. They can't believe that it's him, but before he melts he tells them Corbis wants the book, and that he's at Redstone, "the old mining place".
Before they can even think about what to do next, Mrs. Preston is whisked away by some unseen baddies, who brutally beat their old friend who lives with them. Preston sets off in pursuit, tracking Corbis (Ernest Borgnine) in the old ghost town. At first pretending to be someone else, the cowboy-hatted Corbis soon reveals himself and traps Preston into a deadly game, of faith versus faith, to obtain his mother and father, or else lose the book and his soul. Soon Corbis has traded his cowboy gear for the more traditional red robes and hood of the Satanist. We also get to meet his coven, inclusing a young, and unmistakeable - you just know that chin - John Travolta. All the Satanists have black holes where there should be eyes.
As the mystic battle of wills continues, we're introduced to Preston's brother Tom (Tom Skerritt) and wife Julie (Joan Prather) who is a psychic, She forsees the trouble ahead and she and Tom go off to save his brother. They're too late though - Mark has been converted to Corbis's ways along with his Mother. Once they travel to Redstone, tipped off by the old friend beaten earlier, they're attacked by the Travolta-Satanist, and Julie receives a vision of all their pasts. The Corbis Satanists were burnt as witches centuries ago, betrayed by the Preston family who were also witches with them. To protect his wife, the original Shatner-Preston betrayed them to the witch-hunters and hid the book of magic that would give them eternal life. Naturally, Corbis swore to return and wreak vengeance thoughout their lifetimes...
Finally, as Tom watches, Mark is converted to a black-eyed Corbis-Satanist, tortured into it by a melting voodoo doll. At this point Corbis turns into a horned demon, as in the photo above. I'm not sure if this is Satan or just Corbis in a demon's body - anyway, reasonably good makeup on display here folks. Tom only just escapes. The coven regain the book of power and Julie is captured for sacrifice. Tom and friend Dr. Sam Richards (Eddie Albert) find a globe with Corbis's captured and miniturised souls, all being drenched with "the devil's rain". This is how he keeps his subjects in thrall, by keeping their souls trapped inside the globe. As Julie is threatened with sacrificial death, Tom finally convinces his brother to regain his humanity, save his sister-in-law and smash the globe.
Mark finally comes to his senses and obeys. Once the globe is destroyed, the devil's rain begins, a torrential rainstorm melting everyone down to nothing but puddles except Julie, Tom and Richards. This scene is pretty amazing and goes on for ages - must be about fifteen minutes - but Girls and Ghouls, it's worth it. This has to be the best melting movie I've seen. I guess there aren't that many, though! It's not clear to me if the souls are at peace once they've melted away or not ... you'll have to work it out for yourself. And of course, though liquified, Corbis has one last trick up his sleeve for our heroes...
Just for it's sheer uniqueness, I'd say to give this one a look. Hollywood great Borgnine does seem to relish his evil part, that's for sure. Skerritt plays his usual macho hero-self, but that's all he's required to do. William Shatner really isn't in it that much, but offers some typical Shatner histrionics that you can always rely on. He really seems to be hurting as his voodoo doll is tortured! In the end though, it's the "big meltdown" that I'd hire or buy this one for. There aren't many endings like it, and this one was often promoted with the runny climax as the main feature. Whether the film-makers knew this all along and didn't put much effort into the leadup I'm not sure, but hey, it's fun anyway. There's a consistently dark, brooding atmosphere throughout that should please most horror fans, but I have a strong feeling there are better Satanist-pictures out there.
© Boris Lugosi 2005.
Review written: 03/08/2005 20:31:53