Monday, December 10, 2007

Race with the Devil

(Spoilers ahoy)
I'm not quite sure what it is about this classic piece of mid-70s heaven (or hell, rather) that makes it so genuinely creepy. Maybe it's the regularness of our victims (Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Loretta Swit and Lara Parker) as they head to Aspen in their 1975 tricked-out RV. Perhaps it plays to our essential vulnerability out in the world, away from home, stopping in places where we're strangers. Ever drive an isolated stretch of highway and wonder who lives in the out-of-the-way houses or works in the barely open businesses? What do they do for fun? Well, in the Texas community that our hapless tourists visit, canine and virgin sacrifices score high.

While camping in an idyllic setting their first night on the road, Oates and Fonda accidentally witness a satanic sacrifice, pack up their women, evade robed attackers and book it to a police station, only to discover the cops are a little weird. A cryptic rune left on the motor home the next day assures that the travelers have not seen the last of the cult. What follows is a mad dash across Texas, in search of a working payphone. Soon, the whole state is in on it, while the deteriorating RV smashes through roadblocks and escapes devil fans trying to run it off the road. The ending is a nice stunner, complete with 70s freezeframe. Drive-in headcount: 1 virgin, 2 dogs, 2 rattlesnakes, approximately 5 devil worshippers. How many RV occupants? If you haven't yet seen the movie, you'll have to watch it for that.

Unfortunately, Race with the Devil is being remade, with Chris Moore (Good Will Hunting, American Pie) as director. Casting and release date forthcoming. Of course there is always a chance it'll be watchable, but I doubt anyone could improve on the original. Bigger, more modern production values could only ruin (rune?) the charm.