Two of the most acclaimed occult horror films of the 1970s—William Friedkin’s notorious shocker The Exorcist and Richard Donner’s biblical prophecy classic The Omen—succeeded in terrifying audiences by treating their supernatural subject matter with absolute realism. For his 1975 Satanic horror The Devil’s Rain, Robert Fuest (director of the absurdly enjoyable Dr. Phibes movies) employed Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan, as technical adviser, presumably to lend his film a similar sense of credibility and level of authenticity.
Despite this, however, Fuest still managed to turn out one hell of a cheesy film, one rife with trite occult stereotypes and embarrassingly creaky old-school horror trappings. Hooded eyeless acolytes, a raging thunder storm, an ancient tome written in blood, a centuries old curse, a deserted church in a ghost town decorated with Satanic symbology: it’s all there, along with tinted flashbacks to ‘ye olde days’ and a demon with curly horns and a goat-like face.
For audiences still reeling from Linda Blair’s rotating head, this approach proved less than thrilling, but for today’s cult movie fans, for whom a high level of kitsch can only be considered a bonus, Fuest’s seriously daft slice of diabolical horror should still prove a reasonably entertaining oddity. The Devil’s Rain is by no means a good film, but it conjures up a strange hallucinatory atmosphere (largely due to the sheer incoherence of the script), offers some impressively gloopy special effects during the film’s melt-tastic finalé, and delivers plenty of unintentional hilarity at the expense of its usually reliable cast (any film that features John Travolta in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role as a blind devil worshipper, sees Ernest Borgnine sporting hilarious demonic makeup, and has William Shatner reciting the Lord’s prayer in his trademark staccato style has surely got to be worth a look for curiosity’s sake).