Monday, 26 October 2020

More Favourite Horror Flicks, Alphabetically: Race with the Devil

Race with the Devil

Dir: Jack Starrett. Cast: Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Loretta Switt, Lara Parker. 1975.

Race with the Devil is the kind of movie that packs it all in — Satanism, car chases, motorbike racing, Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Loretta Switt, creepy trees, and leaping snakes! It’s also the kind of movie that, once you let your defences down around, reveals itself as a pure movie-watching experience. And that’s why it’s one of my favourite horror movies.

Devil is a flick that exists to entertain. Well, it exists to make money through entertaining, but close enough, because here, we get what we came for. 

A drive-in staple of the 1970’s, Race with the Devil follows two couples as they take to the back roads of Texas in a Winnebago, looking for a break from city life. Any of us who have seen Deliverance know how well that is going to go, and true to form, one boozy night, Fonda and Oates witness a Black Mass complete with sacrifice. To get things going proper, the Satanists realize they’ve been spotted, and the chase begins. 

And it’s this chase that makes up the majority of the film’s running time, with stops along the way for breaks in the action, and opportunities to ratchet up the paranoia. 

Director Starrett was expert at making exploitation moves work, with directorial credits that include Run, Angel Run!, Slaughter and Cleopatra Jones. After Devil, he’d go on to direct A Small Town in Texas and Walking Tall: Final Chapter. The primary actors — Fonda, Oates, Switt and Parker — are likeable, believable as couples and as friends, and many of the decisions they make are logical, given the structure of the movie. The chases are exciting, the cult scenes are suspenseful, and somehow, jamming all these varied elements together works. 

If you’re in search of some PG-rated, drive-in style horror thrills, Race with the Devil is as good as it gets. 

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

What Makes the Horror Community?

As a life-long horror fan about to end his fifty-fifth year, I have come to realize something obvious: Although there are certain films that are canon within the genre, it’s the ones that aren’t that give it — and us — our character. 

Whether we connect with them or not, F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and William Friedkin’s The Exorcist will always be pillars of the genre, but what about the flicks that fill in the gaps between those pillars? For me, these are films like Philip S. Gilbert’s Blood and Lace, Peter Sasdy’s Hands of the Ripper and Brian De Palma’s The Fury, horror movies that I connect with personally, but that aren’t recognized as essential. 

These are the films that add character to genre appreciation, the very thing that defines me as individual from you and your horror fanaticism. It’s a pleasure to be able to introduce a fellow horror nerd to a lesser known movie that I love, to be able to introduce them to my perspective, even though sometimes it’s a flop. You pays your money, you takes your chances, so to speak. 

Canon titles are essential, they are cornerstones of any genre, and if someone were to ask me about how to start getting into horror movies, I’d tell them to seek out those titles immediately. You know the ones, the ones that appear on pretty much every Best Horror Films list. 

I’d tell them to be fearless and without prejudice, to seek out silent movies, movies from every corner of the globe, get rid of any fear they have of subtitles, lousy dubbing, format, age, and god forbid, black and white. 

If they get hooked, well then, they’re going to start seeking out the films that will give them their personality as a horror fan. They’re going to look for other movies from the director of a canon film they’ve connected with, or its studio, writer or country of origin.   

Once we’ve moved through the canon, the joy is in finding the films that matter to each of us individually. That’s when we truly find out who we are as horror people.

One last thought about all of this: We need to allow people to have their own likes and dislikes, their own taste, and therefore, their own personalities within the genre. It isn’t up to us to say that this or that film is “shit”. It can only ever be up to each of us to say that we didn’t connect with this or that film. 

We need to encourage diversity within the horror community, just as we need to encourage it in the world outside of our dark little cabal.