Race With The Devil (1975 USA)

carAs one informed person stated somewhere on the web “Warren Oates died for our sins.” Indeed, it almost seems that he really did. Warren Oates’ facial expressions are always entertaining, as he often appears as if he’s grimacing in pain. In this drive-in B movie classic there is much pain for him to endure. As for me, I can watch this with a smirk because this is a favourite guilty pleasure of mine. You could say I journey to a place named Prozac-istan.

Not sure where I was heading with the above preamble. Moving on!…This paranoia thriller comes across as a melodrama, with spurts of action (mostly Satanist road rage) and a horrifyingly creepy and downbeat conclusion. This clever plot starts off slow and talkative, but it picks up mid-way through with certain incidents becoming unbearably tense and nerve wrecking – like the snakes in the motor home, chaotic car chasing scenes and the chilling ending. There are some startling and vibrant images that created an impact, especially the opening scene of the film, the burning tree and a downright striking and persistent score.

The cinematography at times is quite flashy and jumpy, with plenty of zoom in to capture the character’s expressions. The plot is very enjoyable as far as occult/action thrillers go, with a genuinely creepy devil worship scene (the chanting is very scary), an effectively downbeat ending, and a sense of paranoia and dread throughout. You’re never sure when the devil worshipers will strike next, or which supporting character might be one. There is a scene at a swimming pool that is very effective in showing the justified paranoia of the main characters when they sense they’re being stared at and they grow increasing uncomfortable. The music and stillness of the scene works very well.


Peter Fonda has his usual earnest, freewheeling, and laid back personality which disguises a fast-witted man of action. Mr Oates has a somewhat tired, “just woke up” quality that is very watchable and easy to relate to, but he is also capable of getting righteously angry and ready to fight. As for the two female characters…well, they just kind of stay in the background, look pretty, flash their toothpaste-ad smiles and do some research into Satan. They could have been better written. So why does this movie work so well? My thinking is that it carries off two seemingly mutually exclusive settings from the two entirely different genres.

First, there is the freedom and anarchy of the road, the wild times, excitement and open-ended adventure promised in every Road Movie, whose conclusion stretches as far as the road will take you. Second, there is the claustrophobia and sense of being trapped common to the horror film–all made possible by the tight confines of the haunted house on wheels, the giant RV. Snakes pop out of cabinets. Witches and warlocks break through windows. Tiny dogs end up on a noose. All while toothless sons of Satan look on, snicker, plot, and scheme the deaths of the two couples. Last point: the picture gets maximum creepy mileage from the fact that just about everyone the four encounter–be it sheriff, librarian or gas station attendant (that last played by no-nonsense director Jack Starrett himself) – are part of the Satanic ‘community.’ This is a very paranoid experience to endure!




  1. Need…to…see…this

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent review of a classic thriller! I love this film, it is incredibly suspenseful and a must-see. Thanks for sharing! 🙂


  3. Thank you Marina! This movie can be a hair-raising experience.


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