Saturday, September 29, 2007

Evil Dead RV

What ever happened to the good old days when it seemed every time you turned around there was a guy wearing a goat's head sacrificing a nude virgin? Well maybe it never got that bad (in most areas), but it's comforting to know that there was a time when the threat of Satanic cults was a great distress to this nation. Case in point the Satanic cult craze in Hollywood and television through the 70s and early 80s. Rosemary's Baby probably jump started the film industry's fascination, and The Exorcist did nothing to slow it down.

So the Satanic cult/Satan genre had a few good movies, but we also got a bunch of low-grade/high-fun crazy crap such as Necromancy (also known as A Life for a Life, Rosemary's Disciples, The Toy Factory and The Witching), starring a brow-furrowed Orson Welles as the devilish owner of a bad toy factory (never seen) and the leader of a Satanic cult (very much seen). But as far as Satanic cults go, it doesn't get much more fun than 1975's Race With the Devil.

Starring Peter Fonda and Warren Oates (strangely looking much older and fatter than he did in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, made only a year earlier), Race With the Devil combines the familiar Satanic cult paranoia of Rosemary's Baby with the sensibilities of a Winnebago road trip. What starts off as a pleasant Texas to Colorado ski vacation via a new RV turns bad when Roger (Fonda) and Frank (Oates) find a secluded camping area for the men and their girlfriends, and accidentally spy an apparent Satanic sacrifice across the river. Somehow the men are spotted, and eventually high-tail their asses out of there, but not before a suspenseful river crossing (this is before people knew RVs were not off-road vehicles) and fighting off a few stowaway cult members.

Of course, the local law is little to no help (despite the usually God-fearing R.G. Armstrong playing the sheriff), but our foursome is able to steal a book on Satanism from the library. So they're in the clear, right? Unfortunately, this is not your everyday Satanic cult. The brand of cult in Race With the Devil is the kind that will fill your RV with snakes, the kind that will stare at you while you're in a swimming pool, and the kind that will take you out to dinner at a country western bar with one hand and sacrifice your little dog with the other.

Our gang soon finds out what most of us had already suspected: the entire state of Texas is one giant Satanic cult. This leads to a Winnebago death chase that may have inspired some of the delicious madness that ends The Road Warrior. There are some absolutely smashing stunts to be had in the climactic chase scene, and if you're hoping for the gang to outrun the Satanists, well -- you just don't know how Texas cults work, do ya? They always get their man.

Race With the Devil is all kinds of fun, and it's helped by the fact that the nameless Satanic cult is played as an outright MacGuffin. We never learn what their intentions are, what they plan to do with our gang, or even who it was they were sacrificing that one night. And who cares? As long as it results in a cross country chase with a Winnebago, I'm satisfied.

Note: While googling Race With the Devil, I ran into this Black Oak Arkansas album of the same name. Niiiiiice.


Cinebeats said...

I love "Satanic cult" films, and I really have no idea why except that the movies tend to be all kinds of crazy fun or damn creepy. Race with the Devil is a terrific film!

Here's some odd/weird facts for you. I once worked at this office with a nice woman who was married to an FBI agent. Since I'm fascinated with real crime stories, police procedures, etc. I would often casually ask her questions about her husbands job and one day I asked her what kinds of crimes her husband investigated the most. Her surprising answer? Black mass/cult murders. Of course my response was something like, What the? Because I rarely see anything in the news about crimes like that.

Then she quietly whispered in my ear that most of those types of crimes don't make the evening news because they're too strange and disturbing, and the FBI doesn't want anyone to panic when they find out how many of these Satanic crimes go on and how violent they are. She said when the report murders, they often leave out the cult-like or Satanic aspects of them.

Of course, after that I panicked. She scared the crap out me and I've never forgotten what she told me. In retrospect considering how crazy religious fanatics are of all denominations, I suppose I shouldn't be that surprised, but it was rather unnerving to learn that bit of surprising info.

Mike Sheffler said...

Seems like there would be more armored RVs on the road. Sure, you get used to the Satanic cults in your area, but what about when you go on a cross-country trip? You don't know what to expect.

Also: They were headed for a ski trip in Colorado? I was in Denver last New Year's, and the blizzard-ed roads didn't look particularly RV friendly -- and we weren't even trying to drive up any mountains.

Adam Ross said...

Wow, Kimberly -- that's, uh, really scary! I have one FBI story (not as good): when I was 10 my mom blew out a tire and this car behind her immediately stopped to help. While these two men she had never seen were fixing the tire they identified themselves as FBI agents and asked her if she knew the Dunbar family (people we barely knew through church), she said yes and they went on their way. Never heard another thing about it.

Mike -- of course, this was also when the AMC Eagle was the pinnacle of off-road technology, so people probably weren't too afraid of the occasional broken connector arm.