PURE TERROR MONTH: Enter the Devil (1972)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bill Van Ryn is the man behind the website Groovy Doom and the zine Drive-In Asylum. You should grab an issue after reading this.

Independent regional production Enter the Devil was shot in Texas by producer/director Frank Q. Dobbs, who made four regional theatrical releases (one of them a hardcore porn flick titled The California Connection) before moving to a more prolific career in TV production.  Don’t confuse it with 1974 Italian Exorcist cash-in L’Osessa, which was also known as Enter the Devil in various territories. This movie belongs squarely alongside low budget devil cult opuses like Race with the Devil and The Devil’s Rain instead of possession flicks. 

A motorist traveling through the desert is victimized when his tire is shot out by an unseen person. Finding his spare tire flat, the guy hitches a ride with a guy in a pickup truck, only to end up flat on his back on a Satanic altar, surrounded by a large group of hooded figures carrying torches, who sacrifice him with a large cruciform knife. It’s safe to say the locals are pretty weird there.

The sheriff sends his deputy, Jase (David S. Cass Sr.), to investigate the man’s disappearance, and not too long afterwards, a couple of hunters find the missing guy’s car all burned out, his charred remains behind the wheel. Jase is a textbook example of an arrogant prick, behaving rudely to a gas station attendant and just about everyone else in the film, too. He stays at a lodge run by acquaintance Glen (Josh Bryant), currently hosting a group of obnoxious deer hunters who make unwanted sexual advances to Glen’s Mexican employee, Maria (Linda Rascoe). One guy in particular gets a little too eager and tries to rape Maria after cornering her in an isolated part of the lodge. Maria is rescued by her cousin, a scary Mexican dude (Norris Domingue) with a badass mustache, and we’re not too surprised when the would-be rapist ends up kidnapped by the hooded cult and thrown into a pit full of rattlesnakes.  

Maria isn’t our damsel in distress, however — she clearly knows something about the shady shenanigans going on in the area — and from nowhere comes Leslie (Irene Kelly), an anthropologist who wants to study the existence of a Christian cult rumored to be in the area. Glen moves in on her and easily invites himself into her cabin for a night of lovemaking, but we the viewers know she’s on a collision course with the Disciples of Death.

At 75 minutes, Enter the Devil doesn’t ask too much of your time, and it’s a fairly economical thriller, if a little routine. When it comes time for the hooded cultists to reveal their identities, we’re not surprised to find out that they’re the silent Mexicans who work for Glen and also in the local mine, but there’s at least one face among them that may come as a surprise to those of you who haven’t been paying close attention. There are a few well directed chase scenes, and the action inside the caves is very atmospheric. This is a PG-rated thing, so there’s no significant flesh on display or gory money shots. Can we talk about the sets, though? This movie looks more like a Western than anything else, with vast desert expanses, a dusty ghost town vibe, and spooky mines. There’s even a scene where someone is threatened by a runaway mine cart. There are a few scenes set inside the lodge cabins, which have a total late 60s shag carpet look, and I was ready to book a reservation.  

Seekers of sex and violence may be a little disappointed by how tame the film is. Cass appears in nothing but his tightie whities all of a sudden, but nobody’s naked in this one, and the Satanists aren’t intent on sacrificing any nude virgins. There is a rather horrible moment when a female victim is burned alive after being bound with barbed wire, and her body darkens horribly in the flames. That charred corpse in the beginning of the movie is pretty gruesome as well, reminding me of what happened to poor Ben Tramer in Halloween II.  It’s interesting to note that Byron Quisenberry, director of the ultra low budget Scream from 1981, did the stunts in this film and also appears as a character. 

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