Resurfaced from the depths of the 80’s, Devil Story is an idyllic pick for 2021 Fantastic Fest, courtesy of the good folks at Vinegar Syndrome. A showcase of inept filmmaking, the utter mess of a film will certainly delight fans of trash cinema. Essentially, Devil Story is a particularly special type of polished disaster, clawing its way out of celluloid hell to bewilder audiences once again.
Wasting no time with proper ‘narrative’, Devil Story opens with a mutated Nazi with a penchant for stabbing and shooting any poor soul attempting to camp. Budgeted practical effects keep the blood flowing in a comedic excess, while a few simple synth chords are included to accompany the hunchback creature as it grunts endlessly – does it even like what it is doing, we will never know!. Essentially, it is the ideal way to kick off ‘the bad movie experience’, an exercise in schlock that will have audiences gleeful at witnessing a new cinematic abomination for the first time.
Awkward intro aside, the film attempts to claw back a bit and formulate some semblance of story and conflict. Instead, the viewer is gifted a bottom of the barrel supernatural tale, complete with a mystic horse, a mummy and an ornery old man in search of pirate gold! How this all ties together from the slasher intro isn’t exactly clear, but Devil Story mashes all these elements together in a deliriously peculiar way. Included are such highlights as: old man shooting a hundred shotgun rounds missing a horse a few meters away, a pirate ship miniature bursting from a mountain and a monster getting his head half kicked off by a horse (just to touch on some of the lunacy within). Consequently, the experience is quite the smorgasbord of poorly realized ideas that always linger on too long – a good ten minute chunk dedicated to the inept horse shooter.
Adding to the stunning lack of depth, the absence of dialogue is confounding, almost audacious, in how little context is given. Furthermore, the ‘sound design’ consists of stock horse noises, dull repetitive synths, guttural grunting and ear piercing screams – all played ad nauseum. It is rather confounding but also represents the one possible shortcoming of the bad movie experience – a lack of quotable dialogue. Essentially, all you are getting for sound is a series of incoherent grumbles, shrieks and neighs that drown out a few dozen lines of dialogue.
Ultimately, Devil Story is without any redeemable quality – beyond admiration of the committed delusion of director Bernard Launois in presenting his fragmented vision to the world with confidence. At just over an hour, the runtime is laboriously stretched to make it over the 60 minute mark through sheer repetition of a few themes. Undeniably, the end result is insultingly bad and will be frowned upon among the casual filmgoers. However, fans of bad cinema will lovingly embrace the ride with a shit-eating grin – reflected in final score below.
Of note, Vinegar Syndrome did a phenomenal job with the restoration of this one – it looks gorgeous (newly restored in 4K from its 35mm original camera negative). The physical release will be chocked full of goodies, there will be a chance to grab it soon if you can’t make it in person – though seeing this in the theater is ideal if you can catch a screening.
You lovable lump of a man, your star shone so bright… yet, it was destined to be short. They got you in the end; the horse, the girl, the mummy… They may have dragged you through the dirt, but none of them captured our hearts, our love, like you did. Just know, that decades after your lonely death, you now live on in the hearts of deviant cinephiles everywhere. Sleep well, my sweet, hideously deformed angel.
We Watched Devil Story as part of Fantastic Fest 2021
Greetings, My name is Adam and I am from Canada.
My love for all things bizarre came at a young age, as boredom in a small town lead me down a rabbit hole of obscure film, music, tv and literature. I have carried these fascinations with and turned it into a passion for writing, sharing and discussing the various arts.
My area of expertise, if there was one, would be geared towards Asian horror with a particular interest in film and manga. However, if it is odd, disturbing or trashy I probably heard of it or can at least pretend I have in conversation.
Thank you for taking the time to read my work, I always look to grow both as a writer and fan. I truly appreciate anyone willing to come along for the journey and share their passions in turn.