Review by Leo Goldsmith
Posted on 19 October 2004
Source Anchor Bay Entertainment DVD
features: October: 31 Days of Horror
The Devil Rides Out was purportedly one of the first films made in Great Britain about Satanism. Perhaps as a result of this, the film sustains an almost evangelical tone, warning of the mortal dangers of the “Dark One” and singing the praises of Jesus Christ. What results is a curiously self-serious film, almost a message picture about black magic, albeit with great puffs of smoke, a giant spider, and a man in a goat costume.
Based on what is described as Dennis Wheatley’s “classic novel,” the film relates the supernatural tug-of-war between the dour, but courageous Duc de Richeleau (Christopher Lee as the good guy for a change) and the sinister Mocata (Charles Gray, just returned from being knifed in the back in You Only Live Twice). Mocata’s hypnotic glare has seduced Richeleau’s young friend, Simon, into the Dark Arts, and the icy duke and his bulky friend, Rex, must race through English country lanes in pursuit, armed with crucifixes, a few library books, and sobering cries of “You damned fool!”
While the film was surely not an expensive production, its production design nonetheless benefits from Hammer Films’ usual attention to detail. The film neatly evokes the alternately serene and menacing agrarian idyll of cynical, godless rich people who dabble in black magic. And similarly, though the film’s special effects are unlikely to impress these days, the goat god, the giant spider, and the rather upsetting fire-and-brimstone ending convey the proper sense of demonic terror, usually with the aid of a very loud soundtrack. But the film’s real pyrotechnics come in the form of the performances: Gray’s mesmerizing glare is perfectly matched by the uncanny intensity of Christopher Lee, who appears to believe everything he says about Satanism.