The Devil’s Rain (1975)

The Devil’s Rain (1975)

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Twitter Plot Summary: William Shatner gets involved in some face melting occult madness.

It was a dark and stormy night, and William Shatner emerges from the darkness having been unable to locate his father in the bad weather. Just a few moments later his father returns, albeit with a melty face and a sinister warning in Latin. It seems that a malevolent Satanist known as Corbis (an always welcome Ernest Borgnine) is responsible for this state of affairs – his cult are capable somehow of making people melt down into nothing. Welcome to The Devil’s Rain

It’s an odd one to be sure – nobody seems all that bothered when folks die/melt right in front of them for one, although Shatner does have a couple of moments which no doubt fed into his infamous “KHAN!” scream in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Still, over time there is the opportunity for Shatner to take his top off and use his Star Trek skills to really sell being hurt by the cult. Borgnine meanwhile owns every scene he appears in, varying between unsettling and pantomime villainy depending on the juiciness of the dialogue given to him. Tom Skerritt has the straight role as the man investigating the cult, and Travolta has only a couple of scenes without dialogue in what was his feature film debut. Bathed in shadow, he’s only recognisable by his chin. Suffice to say he’s not a selling point for this production.

All of this takes places with little explanation – the writer clearly took the mantra of starting the story partway through almost too literally. Matters are given explanation eventually, but the opening is a little too sudden, leaving the second half too exposition heavy for the whole production to have any balance.

This is William Shatner's real face. About as convincing as his serious acting.
This is William Shatner’s real face. About as convincing as his serious acting.

The effects are very impressive, so impressive in fact that they seem to have been given top billing alongside the desolate landscape the film is set in rather than the cast. One sequence labours for minutes on the melting faces and bodies of members of the cult, almost excessively so. Okay, we get it, you’ve spent a fair bit of money on the melting face effect, there’s no need to labour that point for quite as long as you do. An obligatory twist ending – apparently for the sake of it – just confuses matters rather than settling the narrative. It is at least a better effort than a Paul WS Anderson cliffhanger.

The real selling point here is the film’s cast. Okay so it’s mid-70s horror fare, but otherwise how can you go wrong with the likes of William Shatner, Ernest Borgnine, John Travolta and Tom Skerritt showing up? Even today, given that they’re all much older nowadays, and ignoring the fact Borgnine is dead, it’s still a cast you’d want to see in practically anything, no matter the actual quality of the film. Without these names in the fast list, The Devil’s Rain would rightly be relegated to late night television or buried somewhere at the bottom of a budget DVD bucket. Even with this cast in place it’s hard pressed to offer much else of interest.

Score: 2/5

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