Race with the Devil (1975)

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Wow, what a great little flick. Race With the Devil is a seventies road movie/satanic horror film about a group of holidaymakers who get more than they bargained for when they witness the brutal murder of a young girl by a group of devil worshippers. The film is an obvious influence for modern horror films such as From Dusk Till Dawn and The Devil’s Rejects, and also serves as a great prelude to later seventies classics including The Hills Have Eyes. There isn’t anything particularly nasty in the film, which actually helps it as it allows more time to be spent on the plot and characters. Race With the Devil was clearly never meant to be a shocking horror film, as most of the movie is spent dealing up suspense, and this is good also as it ensures that Ride With the Devil is one exciting trip through the wastelands of America. The plot never really delves into the reasons why the satanic cult sacrifices people, and this is indicative of the time in which the movie was made. The fact that they’re cult members is incidental to the fact that they’re chasing our leading group of characters.

Director Jack Starrett does an amazing job of creating paranoia for our central quartet. The director ensures that we never really know where we are, and who to trust; and this serves in making the suspense all the more potent. The acting isn’t brilliant, but cult stars Warren Oates and Peter Fonda make for enjoyable leads as they try their best to stay alive. The rest of the cast, including the central women, do their jobs well and this film pretty much delivers what you would expect from a seventies horror thriller on the acting side. Race With the Devil spends its first hour building up to an absolutely great climax, which features car chases, gunfights and even good old-fashioned brainpower. The film is slow burning (yet interesting) up until this point, but once it hits the hour mark – it really takes off. The car chases are well filmed, and the way that Starrett always keeps our focus on the lead characters makes sure that we are able to get behind them, and the chase pans out as it should. On the whole, this is a very enjoyable thriller that has shamefully been lost over the years. While watching, I was surprised at how this hasn’t been tagged for a remake yet – so you can guess how I felt when I discovered that, actually, it has…