Race With the Devil (1975)

Article #1266 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-1-2004
Posting Date: 1-29-2005
Directed by Jack Starrett
Featuring Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Loretta Swit

After witnessing the murder of a young girl by a Satanic cult, four vacationers in a recreational vehicle find themselves being pursued by members of the cult.

In some ways, I can appreciate what this movie is trying to do; it’s trying to build a sense of dread by hinting at a vast intricate conspiracy, thereby compensating for the fact that it keeps the identities of the actual Satanists vague, shadowy and unsubstantiated. Unfortunately, in order to pull this off, you really have to know how to turn the screws of suspense, and that’s what this movie fails to do. Not only is there too much empty time and too many pointless scenes here, the tense sequences are shrill and confusing rather than scary. Consequently, the sense of conspiracy comes across as improbable rather than ominous, and when you consider that their attacks on the vacationers put themselves in a great deal of unnecessary danger, you’re not too impressed with their intelligence. Maybe that’s why the big scene of the movie is an extended chase sequence with lots of car crashes; I sense that the makers of this movie felt a lot more comfortable with the action aspects of the plot than with the horror aspects. As it is, the scariest thing in this movie is the opening credits, and that’s not a good thing. A decent cast tries hard, but a weak script lets them down.


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