FANTASTIC FEST: Devil Story (1986)

Also known as Once Upon A Time…The Devil, we have the almighty Vinegar Syndrome to thank for this movie being newly restored in 4K from its 35mm original camera negative. I’ve had a bootleg of this waiting to be watched for years because I knew someday that I would need to call upon its infernal power to save me from a week of stress, madness and ennui. This would be that week. And man, Devil Story is beyond up to the task.

Just a warning: my description of this film is going to sound stream of conscious at best but trust me, it’s even weirder than my words. A mutant killer in an SS uniform is wandering the countryside and killing anyone unfortuante enough to get in his way. A couple’s car breaks down and they have to stay in a Gothic castle. There’s talk of an Equinox and a pirate ship that crashed into the rocks. Then we meet the mutant killer’s mother, a gypsy who lives with a mummy. There’s a horse that’s either possessed by the devil or Satan himself. There’s also a cat.

This is the kind of movie that’s blessed with large quantities of gore, a woman walking hand in bandage wrapped hand through a cemetery with a mummy and that horse. That horse! Also, the film ends as only it can, with the earth itself opening to swallow a character out of nowhere.

Why are there Florida plates on that car? How much is the pirate ship a reference to The Fog? How did the mutant get kicked in the face by a devil horse, throw up blood for a way too long period of time and then just get back to business as if nothing happened? Why does the mummy have such a thick package and throw up blue goop?

There are movies that people think are weird and then there’s Devil Story, a movie whose narrative changes, synth soundtrack and willingness to be a formless mess endeared it to me. I’m so used to the Jean Rollin classy French horror world and I’m so pleased to know that somehow there can be something like this, a movie that had to escape from some sort of parallel world where it was used as a form of image-based hallucinogen.

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