Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!
Sometimes you just can’t explain a movie. That’s certainly the case with The Devil’s Rain, a low-budget horror movie with substantially goofy special effects that has an absolutely staggering cast list. I have no idea what the budget for this was, but most of it had to be the cast. That said, it’s worth noting that Ernest Borgnine has stated that this was made with Mafia money and that he never got paid for his work on the film.
So let’s talk about that cast for a moment. Ernest Borgnine is a stand-out, but much of the rest of the cast is stellar as well. William Shatner! Tom Skerritt! Ida Goddam Lupino! Eddie Albert and Keenan Wynn! John Travolta in an early role! And arch-fiend Anton LeVay himself as a satanic high priest. I have absolutely no explanation for any of this.
The plot here is honestly not very inspiring. A family is plagued by a satanic cult because they (the family) possess an ancient book of evil power. The cult, headed by a man named Corbis (Ernest Borgnine), plagues the Preston family because they want that book back. We learn eventually that the Prestons stole the book from the satanic cult centuries earlier, and since the puritanical 1600s, the Corbis line has attacked them. In the film’s present, Corbis has captured Steve Preston (George Sawaya), the current family patriarch, and allows him to return to warn his wife (Ida Lupino) and younger son Mark (William Shatner). He tells them Corbis is close and that they should give him the book, but in the middle of a terrible rainstorm, he literally melts into a pile of wax in front of his family’s faces.
Off Mark goes to confront Corbis in a weird little ghost town. The two have a battle of faith. If he wins, Mark asks for his parents to be returned to him. If he loses, Corbis gets the book and gets Mark as well to serve as a vessel for a demonic entity. Naturally, Mark loses. Eventually, we’re going to have his older brother Tom (Tom Skerritt) come to help. Tom’s wife Julie (Joan Prather) is a psychic, who has a series of disturbing visions of the past, present, and future surrounding this satanic cult. Also along for the ride is psychic researcher Dr. Sam Richards (Eddie Albert). Soon enough, the trio is heading off to the ghost town to see if they can rescue Tom’s entire family from the fires of Hell.
The Devil’s Rain runs 86 minutes, and at that length, it still manages to feel bloated. We learn in the opening scene that the people who are trapped by Corbis and become his cultists are sort of waxen creatures that melt in the rain. We see that with Steve Preston. Knowing that, it’s easy to predict that there will be a scene where another rainstorm comes and causes the cultists to melt on a much larger scale. That’s kind of a spoiler, but not really. You had to know that that was going to happen once you saw a) the opening scene and b) the fact that the cultists all appear to have weird eyeless masks on their faces. The thing is this—when that moment comes, it just goes on and on. It feels like a good 10 minutes of the film’s running time consists of people’s faces melting and green goo coming out of their eyes, mouths, and other facial orifices. It just goes on and on, gratuitously and needlessly. The special effects are purely bargain basement except for the rather singular make-up moment when Ernest Borgnine turns into a goat man. Honestly, that alone is worth the price of admission.
In some very weird respects, The Devil’s Rain reminded me of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 “classic” film A Touch of Satan. There are surprising similarities all the way through, and not to this film’s credit, the MST film was released first. The flashback to an earlier century, the mob of villagers attacking the satanic cult—all of this screams out for having Mike, Crow, and Servo sitting ringside dishing up quips while the film plays out.
All of this is to say that The Devil’s Rain isn’t very good despite the staggering cast. There could be an interesting movie here, but it needs about six more plot elements to be worth even its actual scant running time. As it is, it feels like a short film stretched needlessly to feature length for no reason other than it needed to be feature length to make back its money. Since Borgnine claims he never got paid, it wouldn’t surprise me if it didn’t.
Why to watch The Devil’s Rain: That cast!
Why not to watch: Those special effects are neither special nor effects.