Friday, 29 October 2021

The Devonsville Terror

A Witch In Time

The Devonsville Terror
USA 1983 Directed by Ulli Lommel
88 Films Blu Ray Zone B

Warning: Some spoilers... although it's not really that kind of movie.

There were two reasons I wanted to see a film like The Devonsville Terror (a movie I would not normally be interested in seeing, it has to be said). First up, it was shot in Wisconsin a month or so before another film I recently saw, The Demons Of Ludlow (as part of Arrrow’s Weird Wyoming boxed edition... reviews of the individual films in that set will be put up on the blog at some point soonish... but possibly not until 2022). It shares a few of the same minor cast members and I thought it would be interesting to watch another movie using the same locations etc.

Secondly, it’s another film by Ulli Lommel, made the same year as the brilliant Olivia (aka Prozzie aka Double Jeopardy, which I reviewed here) and it’s once again starring and co-written by his then wife, the remarkable Suzanna Love. And, like Olivia, it also co-stars, in a much less prominent role (not quite an extra but he might as well have been) Robert Walker Jr, who readers may remember as playing the troublesome and troubled, lethal teenager Charlie Evans in the very early Star Trek episode Charlie X.

So, yeah, I was looking forward to this one but, I have to say, it’s not nearly the film Olivia was, in all honesty. This one’s a standard ‘witch return’ movie and it starts off 300 years prior to the main action of the film, with three ladies being seized by a witch hunter before being tortured to death. One is eaten by pigs, one is broken on a wheel by being rolled along on it and the third is burned at the stake, invoking some kind of vague curse as she dies.

Cut back to the present (or, you know, 300 years later, at any rate) and the little village of Devonshire is having the 300th birthday of its guilty past, when the village gathered the witches and put them to death. The resident doctor, Dr. Warley, is played by none other than Donald Pleasance (although the voice over extracts read from his diaries in a couple of places is obviously read by someone else, presumably trying hard to sound like the great man). The doctor believes the witches were wrongfully burned and commonly puts his patients under hypnotic regression (mostly unknown to them) to find out more about their actions in that event... the film seems to subscribe, without question, to the idea that everyone has past lives directly connected to their ancestors. It’s just a phenomenon presented as the presumption of fact so, yeah, the audience isn’t given a chance to question that idea. Dr. Warley himself is cursed with a rare illness, passed from one generation to another, where he has worms swimming in his blood as punishment for his ancestor’s deeds and, indeed, on a number of occasions you see him making excisions in his wrist and pulling out worms.

Anyway, around this time, three new people arrive in the village of Devonshire. One of them, Jenny (played by Suzanna Love) is the new school teacher. Another, Chris, played by Mary Walden, is studying the water locally because of toxic chemicals she suspects the locals have been dumping in there. The third, Monica, played by Deanna Haas, is a new radio DJ and seems somewhat reminiscent of Adrienne Barbeau’s character in the then recent movie The Fog... although, to be fair, the film doesn’t seem to be cribbing from John Carpenter’s production half as much as The Demons Of Ludlow did.

And it’s a short film with the town not responding kindly to any of these new outsiders and, ultimately, attempting to kill them all in modern versions of the deaths visited on the three witches, who do appear to be these women’s ancestors, 300 years before. So one of them gets eaten by a dog, another gets dragged along behind a car and, well, when Jenny is tied to a stake she gets her revenge in a scene which is, frankly, completely lifted from another influential film from a couple of years before, namely Steven Spielberg’s Raiders Of The Lost Ark. In a less than credible and ‘way out there’ moment, Suzanna Love takes a page from Bobbie Bresee’s book in Mausoleum (again, review coming at some point soon) and shoots lasers from her eyes. This causes the ‘Raiders moment’ where one man’s head explodes and the other man’s head melts, with his glasses falling down his melting features as in the Spielberg film. Then, we see Jenny leaving the town on a bus and that’s the end. The curse is apparently lifted.

It’s a short movie and that might be the reason why this film, although watchable, is not all that engaging or that credible as a story line. Robert Walker’s character, for instance, is built up in a couple of scenes and then he bizarrely just seems to drop out of the narrative when things start really happening. There’s no awareness on the part of the three women that they’re in any way related to the witches at the start of the film either and... yeah, it all seems to be a hasty sketch of a movie rather than a fully fleshed story, it seemed ot me. About the only thing worth mentioning here perhaps, asides from Suzanna Love who I believe is a seriously underrated actress and should be better known, is a dream sequence Jenny has where some impressive, ogre-like creatures are glimpsed, with some nice, possibly animatronic movement on their faces. It’s a shame these creatures weren’t used in the rest of the movie because they look very good and the rest of the film could have done with the lift.

As it is, The Devonsville Terror is a watchable film and, certainly, it handles the whole witchcraft idea more tastefully than Bill Rebane’s The Demons Of Ludlow but, yeah, it’s not all that great and, asides from the aforementioned dream sequence and some brief landscape shots filled with nice Autumnal colour, it’s not a great film by any means and one I would have trouble recommending to others. I’m glad I saw it though and, you never know, I may watch it again some day.

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