The seventies were all about fascination with Satanism and with the curiosity it begat movies with themes of satanism one of the most famous being “Rosemary’s Baby.” Probably one of the more underrated satanic films, “Race with the Devil” is about being at the wrong place at the wrong time and what ensues is a claustrophobic cult classic that stars Peter Fonda as one of a group of innocent bystanders who witness a satanic ritual and are pulled in to the world of satanic worship for witnessing something they were never meant to see.
With this director Jack Starrett brings us along on a turning of the screws journey where it becomes almost impossible to escape this nightmare. What sets “Race with the Devil” apart from all the others of its ilk is that Starrett takes his time in developing the ensuing carnage between the cult and our helpless victims and takes a route very similar to “Duel” where no matter how far they run, their nightmares catch up with them. This leaves us with some truly memorable and freakish incidents involving the hanging of a cat and a slithery intruder that shrinks their world more and more as the time rolls on.
They’re not sure who they can trust and that makes this more of a mystery since most of the cult remains faceless and without remorse. They’re truly vile villains who can be just about anyone they desire and they chase our foursome through county after county attempting to silence them. “Race with the Devil” is something out of the mind psychedelic storytellers since it’s such a tense and urgent piece of filmmaking with a talented cast who make us believe we’re being sucked in as they are.
Fonda’s acting isn’t perfect but he leads the charge with a competent enough performance alongside Warren Oates (also as stiff as Fonda at times) and Loretta Switt. The ensuing chain of events leads to a horrific climax that demonstrates the hold of the satanic worshippers and will burn itself in to the minds of its viewers for days to come. It’s a bit of an underrated classic that never received the treatment it deserved. While it does have its flaws with the cast performances, it joins the likes of “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Duel” as a nightmare that simply will not end. I enjoyed it and I highly suggest watching it.