One of the worst reviewed horror films of all time is The Devil’s Rain from 1975, or at least from those critics who were notable at the time. Really though, if you deign to give this film a shot, you will find it actually is not all that bad. In fact, there is quite a bit to entertain you in this film despite what everyone said way back then. The movie stars Ernest Borgnine as Corbis, a man who wants to get his hands on an ancient book being held by the Preston family. Said family is comprised of matriarch Ida Lupino, son Mark played by William Shatner, brother Tom as portrayed by Tom Skerritt and there is also veteran Eddie Albert as Dr. Sam Richards. Those who keep their eyes peeled will also see a young John Travolta in the film as well. Many generations ago, the Preston family betrayed Corbis, took his book and went into hiding. But Corbis has a long memory and has cursed the family so that he might find them no matter how many years might pass. All the guy wants to do is worship Satan in all his glory and cannot understand why people have to get in the way of that.
So yes, the movie finds Borgnine as the leader of a cult of Satanists and the man is actually kind of creepy in his grandiose, over-the-top manner. Though Corbis may want that book pretty badly, he also wants souls for his master and those are a lot easier to come by. When the film opens, two of the souls he claims first are that of Ida Lupino’s character and her husband. Whenever he does so, it looks as if the victim’s eyes have been gouged out and it is a little unsettling to look at among other images in the film. One thing that the makers of this little gem did not cheap out on were the special effects which you can see not only in the makeup, but also the practical effects used to turn Corbis into a goat-headed devil and the way everyone bleeds or melts when they die. A lot of people have said that the film was not that scary and really, it does not provide too many chills but it is disturbing at times, in the ways mentioned and in the way these Satanists are so devout in their worship. Faith can be a scary thing, whether for good or bad.
William Shatner is a lot of fun in the film, at least while he is himself and before his soul gets torn from his body. The man is a master of the dramatic pause and it is put on good display here. While Bob Newhart uses it for comedy and no one, not even Shatner can do it better, it works because it makes the material funnier. In this movie, it fails to lend to the drama or the horror and is simply a little awkward at times. You find yourself waiting for him to say the line, and it is always just there on the tip of his tongue and yet it takes an age for it to make its way out. There is also a problem with the script that affects Shatner as well, when during the flashback scene everyone is speaking such as they did hundreds of years ago with words such as thus, thy, thou and more while he is simply speaking current day English. Unintentional hilarity to say the least!
There were a lot of hands in the pot when writing this movie and perhaps that is why it tends to be a little uneven in spots, one being the introduction of Tom Skerrit’s character and another the first meeting between Shatner and Borgnine. Despite that, there is some decent cinematography that makes that dried and dusty old town look like a place you do not want to be, never mind the boarded up old church where Corbis and his cult perform their ceremonies. Robert Fuest who directed this film supposedly did not have much of a career after this film and it is a bit of a shame as The Devil’s Rain is by no means the worst film ever put to stock. If you are wondering where the picture got its title, should you make it to the end of the movie you will get your answer. Cheesy and hokey though it might be, the film never fails to keep you hooked or entertained on every single scene.