Originally published in Bleeding Skull! A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey.
The French have their talons in me. I’m always on the lookout for another Ogroff, which happens to be the apex of French trash-horror cinema. Now a distant second has been discovered. Let’s clink glasses.
If you’re not on the floor in hysterics after the first hour of Devil Story, abandon hope. Come to think of it, thoughts of abandonment are a good starting point. Devil Story, the first and final horror film from enigmatic director Bernard Launois, abandons normalcy. It’s a compact, night-in-the-life campfire tale that fixates on juvenile exploitation. As a bonus, it’s also completely hilarious. Was that Launois’s intention? Who knows. Any film that can fork over a three minute scene of blood-barfing AND an all-night hunt for a satanic horse (“Goddamn that sonuvabitch horse!”) needs no justification.
The first ten minutes of the film feels like Ogroff: The Early Years. A malformed boogeyman in a pea coat scours the French countryside while murdering random travelers. Blowing blood out of a tube is the main focus here. Soon after, a couple’s car breaks down, a cat yelps at them, and they arrive at a castle that is inhabited by a couple of old farts. The old people speak of “The Equinox”: Days as long as nights! Animals grunting! Ye olde plundering! As it turns out, the mad killer and his gypsy mother not only live in the hills and kill people, but they also own a mummy. The mummy walks through a cemetery. The old man (in camouflage) spends most of the film blasting a shotgun and lobbing insults at the “devil horse.” A woman runs around. The killer falls through a brick wall. Also:
“THE LEGEND CONTINUES.”
Although my copy of Devil Story was dubbed in English, subtitled in Turkish, and credited in French, the film conquers all language barriers. There’s no need for translation when we’re dealing with fixations on goop in mouths, protracted cheap ‘n’ nasty gore, and incessant screaming. The film contains none of the gutter poetics that lurk in the corners of Jean Rollin and Jess Franco films. Bad stunts, overly-enthusiastic dubbing, Florida license plates (what?!), big synths; Devil Story screams America. Think of it as an extreme gore version of Dungeon Of Harrow, but without the dullness of that 1960s “hit.” Launois could have included about fifty less instances of that horse neighing, but nobody’s perfect.