Il était une fois le diable / Devil Story (1986)

Director: Bernard Launois
Starring: Véronique Renaud, Marcel Portier, Catherine Day .France. 1h 12m

This crazy French horror movie isn’t easy to categories, it’s definitely unique at times quite zany and while it has certain charms with being different and outlandish its major let down is the repetitive sound effects that really started to grate on my nerves within the opening 20 minutes only increase its irritability right to the bitter end.

Overall Devil Story feels as if narrative isn’t really all that important but the director, Bernard Launois, seems to have reveled with delight by adding everything you possibly could into his last production. The film opens with a crazed man slashing innocent victims and rural France and ends up with an occultist bringing about a Mummy Showdown. But like other infamous French movies of the era such as Zombie Lake (1981) there seems to have been this drive to just make gory horror films with little story line to back them up, but it’s generally all good groovy fun and being a lover of “bad movies” you gotta roll with the bizarre and they don’t get much more off the beaten track than this.

There really isn’t a lot of character development in this film although it’s hard to ignore potato shaped looking zombie wearing an SS officers uniform while mindlessly massacring innocent French people out and about in the countryside. Slowly as new characters are introduced but everyone is pretty much a cardboard cutout compared to the “mishapen man” , the audience is eventually introduced to his keeper, so to speak, a woman who uses his brute-force to help her perform account rights and the attempt to resurrect her daughter. but through many failed attempts there’s now a series of Egyptian style mummies creeping around in the forgotten graveyards of Fécamp, Seine-Maritime. Meanwhile there’s an old man who helps run a local inn who is obsessed with the fact that all of the recent slaughtering is all down to one black while horse and spends most of the film trying to shoot the steed.

This mindless mashup feels as if somebody was flicking through several copies of Tales From the Crypt comics and just decided to splice all of the horror stories together somebody with the attempt to try and make something ultimately scary but unfortunately failed and instead made it more comical than it needed to be but it’s still something that has to be seen mostly just be believed! But the major downside is the really basic repetitive sound effects, which can be summed up as 1 horse neighing, 1 cat screeching and purring, 1 owl hooting which is heard every 2 minutes in any forest scene, but even the cast managed to only make one screaming noise per person, there’s even one scene where the horse noise is  played rewound and played again.

Without really knowing a great deal about the director and his back catalogue to date, it just feels as if he was winding down and literally chucking everything into the mix in order to make one final farewell to cinema, but while it has so many faults, it is still watchable in that bad movie kind of sense but it still doesn’t have enough to really make it one of the best of the bad, but where there is an amazing reworking of the trailer by Trailers That Stink, which definitely worth watching and will bring her extra flare to this tired movie.

As much as I really prefer films to remain as they are I do feel that there is a bit of scope for this to be reworked in some way, definitely the soundtrack needs to be checked and the noises can be varied and a lot of expansion can be done there but it’s very rare that a director will try something this different and this unique going from psychopath slashing and hacking to this strange obscure cult ending it’s not something that you’ll find everyday with it’s strong gothic roots and the addition of 70’s inspired gore there’s a lot to like in this rare find.

Rating: 3/10

R: Zombie Lake (1981)

L: French Horrors

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