Featuring Christopher Lee in a rare (if slightly excitable) heroic role, The Devil Rides Out is a great slice of near-cosmic horror. It may get more than a little heavy-handed with its pro-Christian themes trouncing the evil satanic cult (a touchstone of many of director terence Fisher’s films) but the pluses outweighs the few minuses for my money: this is a lovely shot film with some great visuals including a truly cool depiction of the Horned One himself, and an intense sequence involving our heroes in a circle of protection when the Angel of Death approaches. Things get weird in the best possible way.
THE QUICK SUMMARY: Kids get into the weirdest things…just ask Nicholas, the The Duke De Richleau and his American friend Rex, who discover their young ward Simon has gotten mixed up with a mysterious cult. Sacrificial chickens in trucks, pentagrams on the floor can only mean one thing: someone is trying to call forth the Goat of Mendes, the Devil himself! Nicholas much put his extensive research into the occult arts to the test against the fiendish Mocata, who seems to hold power over time and space itself, willing young Simon and the beautiful Tanith to take part in the ritual to bring the Dark Lord forth. Good thing Nicholas knows a few tricks of his own, and has the power of Jesus Christ on his side!
Terence Fisher is one of those directors who don’t get enough credit. Each of his Hammer films has a polish and visual sumptuousness that make even the silliest things a delight to watch. Sure you can see that the massive spider threatening our heroes is projected behind glass, but that doesn’t make it any less exciting. And Lee to his credit really works here, playing against type and digging his heels into the hero stuff. Based on a novel by Dennis Wheatley, it’s a real shame we couldn’t get a series of films with Lee playing the Duke De Richleau, fighting evil in his pious, magical way.
As an outlier from the Frankenstein and Dracula films Hammer would continue to return to, The Devil Rides Out is that rare new story that really works. As a side note the recent release from Scream Factory looks stunning, and boats a bevy of supplemental features sure to get you deeper into Hammer’s wicked world. Great film, and a great last minute change to my list, though I’ll still get to Hammer’s interpretation of The Phantom of the Opera sooner rather than later.