3.5/10
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10 user 13 critic

Devil Story (1985)

Il était une fois le diable - Devil Story (original title)
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Cast

Cast overview:
Véronique Renaud
Marcel Portier
Catherine Day
Nicole Desailly
Christian Paumelle
Pascal Simon ...
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Horror

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June 1988 (West Germany)  »

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Devil Story  »

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1.66 : 1
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Soundtracks

Toccata in D Minor
Composed by Johann Sebastian Bach
Courtesy of Erato
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I Never Knew the French Had It In Them
24 August 2006 | by (New York, USA) – See all my reviews

A four out of ten (4/10) is a good score for a bad movie that while isn't actually bad enough to warn folks away from, it isn't good enough to risk your reputation by advocating it as better than average. That would actually be about the worst score you could give a movie like this -- average -- because it's one of those movies that will either tickle your geek nerve or rub you the wrong way. It is ineptly made, incoherently edited, aimlessly plotted, unconvincingly staged, lacking in subtext or any sense of meaningful artifice of film as a craft, and the special effects "suck". My favorite is when they show people up close bleeding to death and you can see the action of a hand pump shooting the fake blood everywhere.

And yet the movie nonetheless still has something going on in it that I didn't think the French were capable of, namely a sense of humor about how to make art -- this is one of the funniest horror movies I've yet encountered. The best scenes in the film involve airborne attacks by a flying demonic kitty. Then there is the guy in the zombie mask dressed in Boy George's old uniform, shuffling around the French countryside randomly killing people in brutal manners just for the hell of it, apparently. He uses a knife, a shotgun, and one of those spiked gloves they wore in MAD MAX that will split someone's head open like a grapefruit if you punch them hard enough. There is also a mummy, a possessed zombie babe who looks like Soiuxie of The Banshees fame, and a pretty blonde woman (Véronique Renaud in what was sadly her only screen appearance) running around in her underwear, a raincoat and Wellington boots; We need more of this in films today.

There is also a retired war hero of some sort wandering around with what appears to be the same shotgun the zombie guy has, an old hag of a witch who it turns out controls the zombie & is engaged in some kind of task to trap people in the ground, and finally the horse. The horse is perhaps the biggest mystery in the film, it's role within the context of the story is obviously allegorical rather than literal, but I'll be damned if I can figure out what the point of it was other than to allow the director to repeatedly use a sound clip of the horse whinnying. After about the three hundred and fifth whinny you too will wonder what is going on here if you have not already become annoyed & gotten on with your life. But stick with it, this one's worth the effort.

The film is an enigma: It makes no sense, and in that way is very French in nature. I like how it explores the most mundane, unremarkable locations in the French countryside, appearing to have been filmed for the most part on public land when nobody else was around. It was also made for about $25,000 if even by the looks of it, and is in fact SO low budget that a stage hand actually had to toss the demonic attack kitty through the air to simulate it's frenzied assaults. But they managed to find a nice French castle to film for some atmospheric exteriors (complete with ominously hilarious Bach organ music), the movie has a kind of nihilistic aura to it where everyone dies & evil prevails, and there's some genuinely "EWWW!" inducing gore as the zombie guy slowly gets shot to pieces, bleeds grape jelly from the mouth, and keeps right on a-shufflin.

In other words, if the movie had some random gratuitous nudity & the mummy shot laser beams out of it's eye sockets, this film would pretty much have it all. It's easily the most enjoyable horror romp to come out of France since ZOMBIE LAKE, which gets the poo-poo from purists just because Jean Rollin was too snooty to accept the fact that he actually made a movie that was FUN. This one is too, though it doesn't make any sense & probably wasn't meant to. You can do that sometimes in the movies and it isn't necessarily a bad thing.

4/10


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