Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Devil's Rain (1975)

It's the most wonderful time of the year! I missed out on October but hope to come up smiling in November. I've decided to kick off this year's horror season with a newly acquired film that seemed appropriate for a rainy day, The Devil's Rain. This film got my attention when I saw that it featured Ernest Borgnine, Eddie Albert, Ida Lupino, William Shatner, Keenan Wynn, Tom Skerritt, and Joan Prather, along with John Travolta in his first movie role. I have a special fondness for occult films of the 1970s, and I look forward to checking this one out. Don't read all the way to the end if you intend on watching this film and want to be surprised. There are a slew of interesting extras on the Severin Films DVD I purchased that I haven't dug into yet. Be sure to click on images to enjoy them in their full glory.

I beseech thee, daughter, and all our daughters to follow, to protect this book and keep it from the devil's disciple. So long as you do, Jonathan Corbis is powerless to deliver his souls to Satan, where I would rather my beloved husband, Martin Fyffe, suffer the torments of the Devil's Rain. For whilst imprisoned there, I pray that Martin, through God's grace, will find a way to scratch his name from its pages. 

Signed Aaronessa Fyffe, Wellington, 1680.

The film opens with some freaky paintings by Hieronymus Bosch and a cacophony of sound that may include some musical instruments, moaning voices, and mechanical noise, while screams of "Please help me!" and "Let me out of here!" can be discerned. It's unsettling and sets the viewer on edge.

The shadow of Mrs. Preston's hand passes over a crucifix on the wall as she goes to the window to peer worriedly out the window at a raging rainstorm. Her husband is missing and she's upset because it mirrors events from bad dreams she's been having. Her son, Mark, dismisses her fears until his Dad shows up with slightly dissolved facial features and tells them to bring the book to Corbis at Redstone out in the desert. He invokes Satan and then promptly melts into goo on the porch out in the rain, as Mark watches in horror and disgust.

Mrs. Preston is convinced it wasn't really her husband and mentions the book, claiming her dream was a warning and that they've been found. They go into the house and she pries up a floorboard and removes a big black book and an amulet in a pouch. She tells Mark to bring the book to Corbis, but he says it's not theirs to bargain with, and he won't give it to the devil's man. He gets a gun from a drawer, saying he'll deal with him on his own terms, and she presses the amulet on him, saying Corbis can't hurt him if he's wearing it. Just as he replaces the big black book, a horn honks and he sees his father's truck outside.

He tells John to watch over his mother as he goes outside and finds a poppet attached to the steering wheel of the truck. Lights begin to flash on and off in the house as he hears screams and crashing sounds coming from the house. He runs back and finds a mewling John strung up by his feet with a bloodied head. He cuts him down and he tells him his mother is gone. Tables are overturned and books are strewn across the room where he pries up the floorboard and removes the pouch with amulet. He tells John he'll be back, who babbles about how they had no faces.

Mark has a long drive through the desert. It is no longer raining and the sun is coming up as he stops by the side of the road to put the amulet on.

He continues to drive some more until he reaches the ghost town of Redstone.

He meets Corbis and challenges him to a showdown of faith. Mark tells him that if he wins, his mother and father go with him, which Corbis agrees to, but if he loses, Corbis gets the book and Mark.

They enter a boarded up church and Corbis tells him to sit and wait for the ceremony to begin. He hears chanting and sees a congregation assembled in pews facing an altar. He sits in a pew and clutches the amulet around his neck. Corbis appears in a bright red robe and invokes Satan as an organist begins playing and Mark recites the Lord's Prayer. Corbis calls on Martin Fyffe to come into this vessel, but he asserts that he's Mark Preston. Corbis says there is no evil there, only purity, and asks if he sees his mother.

His eyeless mom stands up from one of the pews and says they've made a place for him there and she beckons to him. She tells him he can have peace and appeals to him to join them. Corbis asks whose belief is greater and when he tells them to seize him, Mark pulls out a gun and shoots a member of the congregation, who spurts pink and blue fluid and collapses. Corbis asks if that's his faith, and he drops the gun and exits the church where more black robed figures are standing outside.

Corbis recites an invocation and a snake appears in place of the amulet. When Mark throws it off, it becomes the amulet again, but he is unable to retrieve it before one of the hooded goons steps on it. One of them helps him up and he takes off running, as the group pursues him. His eyeless mother watches from the door as he reaches his car and falls to the ground as he's surrounded by guys in robes. They back off and Corbis steps forward and claims the family name of Preston will soon be no more.

Dr. Sam Richards tells an audience of students in white coats that Julie Preston, who is laid out on a gurney, is controlling her heart rate as a monitor blips nearby. Students question him and he spouts a bunch of gobbeldygook and then claims they are on the verge of isolating the ESP brainwave pattern. She begins to describe how calm she feels and that something or someone in the distance is moving closer to her or she is moving closer to it. She says she sees images like a movie, as images from the church flash onscreen. Tom Preston gets a message and she begins to get agitated, seeing visions of herself clawing at a window in the rain. She screams for Tom and he tells her something's happened to his family.

Back at the Preston home, Tom is meeting with the Sheriff, who is trying to convince him that his family is fine, despite the tale John has told, and that the helicopter pilot hasn't seen anyone at the old Redstone ghost town in years, let alone the night before. He says he can't afford to send any of his men there since he needs them to help with aftereffects of the storm, and Tom says he's going to go look for his brother Mark. The Sheriff advises him to bring water and extra gas and tells him to call him when he returns.

Julie and Tom go to the house to tell John they're going to Redstone, and he repeats that they had no faces. Tom tells him that Dr. Richards will be there tomorrow and he should tell him everything he told them. He points to some residue on the ground where Tom's dad melted the night before. Julie scrapes it up with her fingernails, saying it's wax. They get in the car and drive off down the road as John comes out of the house holding the black book.

Mark is chained to a cross with a pentagram carved on his chest, as Corbis leans over him asking where the book is. He calls Lilith over, who leans over to kiss him, but becomes his mother as she stands back up. Corbis calls to Martin Fyffe, saying his vessel is prepared and his journey is about to begin, as the cross bearing Mark is tipped upside down as he screams.

Tom and Julie head to the church at Redstone and she says it looks like a church from New England and that it doesn't belong there. Tom holds his rifle and enters the church first. They both go inside and stare at the stained glass window with the goat head. They approach the altar that has the cross covered with a purple cloth. Tom removes the cloth, but all they find is the same wax that was on the porch of the Preston home. Tom finds Mark's shirt with the name Preston written in red on it as they hear an explosion and go out to find their car in flames.

Mark's car comes toward them, nearly hitting them, and Tom takes a shot at the driver, who crashes into a post. The driver escapes into the old building and Tom and Julie follow. Tom goes to look in the upstairs rooms as Julie waits on the stairs. He finds a locked door, but as he goes to kick it in, a man comes out of another door and struggles with him. Tom subdues him on the stairs and Julie hands him a rope to tie him up.

She stares into the man's gaping eye holes and Tom asks what she sees. She says she can see them looking for the book a long time ago. She sees Corbis telling a group of people inside a home that the book is gone but that he is not, as he reminds them that they took the pleasures of Satan and pledged their souls in blood in the book. He says that if the book is lost, he cannot lead them to Satan's everlasting kingdom. He calls on Martin Fyffe, saying it's strange his wife is not there to join them at worship. He tells him she's sick and they hear a knock at the door.

Corbis goes out and finds Preacher Blythe outside with a group of torch wielding villagers, who accuses him of being a witch. A woman steps forward and Corbis points at her, saying she's the one, and backhands her across the face, calling her a slut. He goes inside and tells Martin Fyffe that his wife betrayed them by stealing the book and giving their names to the heathen.

As the mob tries to break down the door, Corbis gives a boy holy water and waxen images, reminding him he knows the holy procedures and sneaks through a panel that leads him under the house. He watches as the villagers drag off the people in the house, while Fyffe's wife reminds the preacher he promised not to harm her husband. He says he'll save his soul and hers too.

Corbis and the followers are tied to stakes to be burned as he claims that his shadow will fall over the town again and again after his body burns. He curses Martin Fyffe and his descendants, saying he'll follow them to eternity until the book is his, reminding them that they're sworn to Satan and that vengeance will be his.

Julie comes out of her trance crying about how they were all burning. She hears moaning and says they're here and tells them they'd better get out of there. They get into Mark's car and drive away as black hooded figures stand in the street and watch them. Tom drives a ways and then stops, saying he's got to go back. He tells her to get to a sheriff and she drives off as he heads back with his rifle. As she's driving, Mark's hooded mom pops up from the back seat, causing her to scream and crash into a tree.

The black robed folks are bearing torches and chanting as they drag a shirtless Mark along to an outdoor altar. Tom has somehow gotten hold of a black robe and follows along incognito. Corbis leads a ritual, and as he invokes the deathless one, his face becomes that of a ram. The followers say they called him to deliver a soul and Mark is dragged over and held down to the altar as Corbis demands his soul be purified by fire and water. He places a wax figure over a flame and Mark screams as it melts. He drips the holy water of forgetfulness over his face and calls Martin Fife to come forth and claim the body he's prepared for him.

Tom advances toward the altar as Mark stands up and reveals his empty eye sockets, praising the lord of light and darkness. John Travolta points out Tom as a blasphemer, and Corbis delivers the "Seize him!" line we've been waiting for. His mom grabs him, telling him he defiled all that is holy. He shoots a few of them down and runs off. He struggles with a follower on the second story of a building, who grabs his rifle before falling off. He ducks inside and stabs another with a pitchfork as pink and blue liquid oozes out of the wounds. He manages to escape since they weren't really trying very hard to seize him, after all.

Back at the Preston home, he asks Dr. Richards where Julie is, who tells him the Sheriff has men out looking for her. He's convinced she's back at the town with Corbis. Sam grabs the book as Tom wonders out loud what Corbis wants with his family. Sam asks him to try and find out what they're facing and hands him the book. He says John gave it to him, saying it was bequeathed to his mother and it's been in the family for centuries.

Sam explains that it's a registry of the names of people who sold their souls to Satan. Tom reads a letter inside the book directed to her daughter and her descendants, asking that they keep the book from Corbis so he can't deliver his souls to Satan, and that she'd rather her husband Martin Fife endure the Devil's Rain, and while he is imprisoned, hopes he can somehow scratch his name from the pages of the book.

Sam asks about the Devil's Rain and says that Corbis believes he can separate souls from bodies. Tom gets frustrated talking about things neither he nor Sam nor the viewing audience understands, when he doesn't know what's happened to Julie. As he's about to run off half-cocked, Sam shows him Mark's name in the book. He says it wasn't there that morning as Tom storms off, saying he's going to Redstone.

Corbis is conducting another outdoor ritual, saying their lust will be fulfilled as Julie is laid out on the altar. Corbis tells her she is chosen among mortals for immortal delight as he anoints her chest. She screams as she has visions of herself clawing at a window in the rain.

Tom and Sam enter the church and remove a covering on the ground in front of the altar that nobody has noticed before, and lift up an egg shaped container with the head and feet of a ram attached. Fleeting faces are visible through a window as they press up against the glass, moaning in the rain. Sam explains that they are the souls Corbis has possessed for 300 years, and Tom remarks that it's the Devil's Rain.

The Sheriff enters and when Tom calls him, he looks up and shows his eyeless face. He tries to hit Tom with an ax, and Sam makes him fall into the hole where the souls were kept, causing a fire to erupt from the hole.

A procession of followers are carrying Julie on the inverted cross, led by Corbis. Tom and Sam grab the soul vessel by the horns and stop when they hear the procession approach. They go upstairs in the church and observe as John Travolta finds the book they left at the altar. He hands it to Corbis, who delightedly clutches it to his chest. The procession enters the church as Tom and Sam watch from above.

Corbis tells his followers to put her on the altar so he can prepare her for eternity. Tom rushes forward and jumps down on one of the followers. They grab him as his eyeless mother and brother turn their gaping sockets his way.

Corbis tells Travolta to bring the vessel down and put it back in its holy place. Sam tells him it won't be necessary as he stands behind it, as Mrs. Preston and then Mark appear screaming inside the Devil's Rain. He tells Corbis to allow Tom and Julie to leave with him or else he will destroy the Devil's Rain, and he hefts the vessel up over his head.

Martin Fyffe easily grabs it from him and Corbis tells him to bring it to him. Sam stops him, saying he can end his torment if he destroys the bottle. Corbis says that he is sworn to Satan, but Sam keeps pleading with him to break it, telling him to remember his wife, Aaronessa. We hear again the screams of "Please help me!" and "Let me out of here!" that we heard during the opening. Martin Fyffe raises it over his head and smashes it on the ground, causing an explosion that blows a hole in the roof, allowing rain to fall in the church.

Tom and Sam go to untie Julie as the followers begin to melt in the rain. Tom approaches Corbis at the altar, who has resumed his ram-like appearance. They circle each other and Corbis grabs Tom by the head and forces him down towards the pit where the vessel was kept.

Tom's mom is oozing green slime from her eye sockets, and Martin and Travolta are also melting away. Corbis maintains his grip, despite losing an eyeball, but Tom finally manages to get out from under him. Corbis falls into the pit, causing an explosion that sets the church on fire. Tom, Sam and Julie make their way past the melting followers as the church burns.

The followers continue to bubble and melt and ooze and gush and spurt for quite a long while, until they finally completely dissolve, leaving a gooey mess of black robes. As the church burns, a hand reaches up out of the pit of hell in front of the altar, and then an explosion tears the structure apart.

Tom, Sam and Julie stand up to see it completely destroyed. Sam walks away as Tom faces the burning ruins. Julie calls Tom and reaches out to him, and they embrace. As they turn, we see that it is really Corbis that is hugging Tom, and he laughs as he holds him. Julie is trapped in the rain, clawing at glass, calling for Tom as end credits roll.


The special effects on this film were really fantastic, but that story didn't really hold up too well. I can't work my way to understanding how Corbis became Julie or vice versa, though maybe it happened when she was standing and staring into the pit of hell.

Where the heck was Sam while Tom was hugging on Corbis at the end? How could Julie be trapped in the Devil's Rain after it had been destroyed? Why does the rain cause them to melt? So many questions and plot holes to ponder.

I was beginning to think it was going to be a Satanic Western when Mark declared a showdown with Corbis out in the street at Redstone. There is a certain charming innocence to this film that you don't find in most occult horror movies. I didn't expect it, considering that the High Priest and founder of the Church of Satan was a technical adviser to this film. There's no nudity, and though it's implied that Julie will be used for the pleasure of the devil's minister, fortunately, we didn't see it happen. I must say that I never imagined I would ever see Ida Lupino with green slime oozing from her eye sockets in a film. The lady's talent knows no bounds.

I think this movie is better appreciated if you don't think too much about it. Enjoy the extended scenes of people melting and oozing out rainbow colors, the stellar cast with no eyeballs, William Shatner evoking memories of Khan as he yells and curses Corbis, the freaky rainy day jar of trapped souls, the interesting camera angles and visuals, and Ernest Borgnine as a horny ram. Pretend it's a bad dream that makes no sense and be glad that you woke up from it. As flawed as it is, I enjoyed this movie and would watch it again. It's a fine addition to the period and genre.

Rock on!

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