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The Curator of Schlock #93 by Jeff Shuster

Race with the Devil

Fonda and Oates. Need I say more?

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I guess I do need to say more, otherwise I’ll have a seven-word review.  1975’s Race with the Devil from director Jack Skarrett was a nice surprise. The Internet dubs this movie as an “occult thriller” which is what people call horror movies when they don’t want to call them horror movies. Whatever. The movie starts out with Peter Fonda in a motorcycle race, and that’s enough to sell me. I guess I imagine every character Peter Fonda plays as a kind of reincarnated Wyatt. 

This movie also stars Warrenn Oates (of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia fame). I’ve gathered that Fonda and Oates were kind of the “Two Coreys” of their day. Lara Parker (Dark Shadows) and Loretta Swit (M*A*S*H) play their wives. The four of them decide to take a vacation in the middle of winter, hoping to drive an RV all the way to Colorado for some skiing.

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All goes well until Oates decides to have them make camp off the beaten trail rather than spend the night at some fancy RV campsite. Fonda and Oates get their drink and look ready to hit the sack when they see a tree across the river catch fire. A glance through some binoculars reveals a whole bunch of Satanists chanting and dancing around. 

Now, this is more like it! No dwarfs named Hercules doling out stupid curses or Christopher Lee performing ultra complicated reverse-baptisms. We just get some old-fashioned Satanists complete with hooded robes, naked women frolicking, and virgin sacrifices. It’s that last part that freaks out Fonda and Oates.

Oates’ wife helpfully yells at him from the RV to get to bed, and the Satanists realize they’re being watched. Fonda and Oates break for the RV, kicking off a race with the devil (worshipers).

I have to say these are some bush league Satanists. Upon closer inspection we see that they’re all not wearing the black robes. Some of them look like they just took an old blanket and wrapped it around their head. Some are wearing them like capes. Maybe proper vestments don’t matter to them, but it’s pretty ridiculous when the Satanist chasing you is dressed like Captain Underpants! And you’d think one of them would have canvased the area before going through with whole human sacrifice ceremony. Just torch the RV or postpone your human sacrifice until the following week. 

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I don’t think my family ever owned an RV. We had what was called a “camper van”. It had a bunk bed and a refrigerator that came with a little lock to fasten it closed. My mom packed stew for a camping trip one time and my dad forgot to fasten that lock. Stew was flying all over the place as soon as he made a left turn. Dad was not a happy camper that day.

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Still, one thing we never had to worry about was Satanists attacking our vehicle. RVs are kind of like fortresses on wheels. And if a Satanists tries pouring gasoline through your skylight while you’re doing 85 on the Interstate, just climb up top and shoot him with your shotgun…and try not to fall off a vehicle going 85 miles per hour because you’re racing with the devil.

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Photo by Leslie Salas.

Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124, and episode 131) is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida.

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