An old one here. I remember watching this on late night TV as a kid and digging it. In twenty years or more I’ve never quite got it out of my head, so I wondered if it would stand up all these years later. If anything, I think this movie plays out even better now, since it’s pretty unlike anything else that’s on offer nowadays. Hell, it must have looked pretty different from everything else when it came out too.
Manly man Warren Oates and best pal Peter Fonda (the latter sporting some nice shirts, by the way) set out on a road trip in Oates’ brand spanking new, top of the range motor home, along with their appropriately beautiful wives and yappy little dog, Ginger, for some well earned rest and relaxation. It’s not long before the boys inadvertently witness a ritualistic sacrifice by a bunch of backwoods Satanists, who clock them and promptly give chase.
What follows is an exciting pursuit, punctuated by some effective, tension building sequences, such as when the fleeing tourists stop to report the incident to small town law man and apparent idler, Sheriff Taylor, none other than the late R. G. Armstrong – even as kids we knew that this great man was General Phillips in Predator (“It’s been a long time, General”) and later seek refuge at an RV park populated by some rather sinister middle-aged people who like their country music loud, their dogs strung up and their motor home interiors clad in real wood (Oates went for plastic because he figured it’d be easier to clean).
There’s some sweet chases, even reminiscent of Mad Max 2 at times. Okay, that may be too high praise, but remember that this was made a few years earlier. I’m not saying George Miller ripped it off or anything, of course not, but if you like The Road Warrior, you ought to get a kick out of what’s on offer here. For instance, there’s a cool sequence where a truck careens along the highway on two wheels before smashing into a motorbike and flipping onto it’s roof. And of course everything is real, no boring CGI and no fucking insufferable 3D. Moreover, this film also has the added back-up of marauding, devil worshipping bastards and what persistent little sods they are. When the boys get really pissed off, they stop and buy a shotgun (pump-action) and there’s a scene where Peter Fonda climbs onto the roof of the motor-home during a high speed chase and effectively lays waste to some of the bad guys with the aforementioned gat from up there, including one toothless piss ant who was trying to pour gasoline through the sunroof.
About halfway through look out for a familiar face in the form of Jack Starrett a.k.a Galt from First Blood, the cantankerous cop who takes pot shots at Rambo from the chopper, but ends up falling out and busting his head on the rocks (it wasn’t John’s fault). Here he plays a less than trustworthy mechanic. In fact, the same man directed the movie it turns out, what an awesome dude, I hope I can check out some of his other work, as he apparently made a string of B-movies back in the day.
As seems to be the custom with films about satanic, devil worshipping sons of bitches, there’s no happy ending, a tradition which was also upheld by the more recent hit man / horror cross-over Kill List. Another thing about these kinds of films is that you can’t fucking trust anyone – they all turn out to be in on it in the end.
My verdict: this 70s B-movie is a classic, combining as it does some decent action, memorable dialogue, likeable, everyman heroes (who just wanted to go skiing, damn it!) and effective horror elements (that fucking gnarled tree still creeps me out and the ending made me shit my pants as a kid. I don’t know why I waited so long to watch it again.