Up until very recently, I’d never heard of The Devils, a movie from director Ken Russell. His sudden resurgence in my life was a promising one, delivering some of his most controversial and interesting work to date with the Oliver Reed leading historical horror.
I wasn’t even aware this movie was classed as a horror, especially given how broadly light its tone towards traditional and classic merits of horror are nowhere to be found. No jump scares to seek out, nor are there any predictable ploys at pulling a cheap scare from the audience. The horror here comes from the truth of the story, the performances of malicious characters and, most terrifying of all, Michael Gothard.
Gothard looks somewhat like David Bowie, and there are several moments in the movie that did make me do a double take. He’s a great actor and one that doesn’t exactly get mentioned all that much outside of his appearance in For Your Eyes Only. Still, it makes his performance even more tantalising and unpredictable, a rare occurrence in such a largely analysed art.
Why this movie didn’t do well upon its release is beyond me, because The Devils is somewhat incredible. Russell’s direction is truly superb, offering up an eclectic mix of contemporary style and unique blending’s of his own keen eye. Possibly the greatest strength of The Devils is its grandiose scenes, showcasing the possession of the nuns, with Gothard sprinting around throwing holy water at everyone.
At times the style and setting of the movie make it difficult to follow, but it’s easy enough to catch up or keep on track, so long as you can remember what’s going on and why. Reed’ performance is essential to the success of the movie, bringing about some of the most interesting work of the 1970s.
Mix that amazing performance with some strong supporting roles, a hell of a lot of violence and some interesting direction and you get an excellent movie. By far one of the most interesting and unique pieces of cinema to come out of the 20th century, all thanks to Ken Russell and his ability to deflect controversy for the sake of bringing about a superb piece of cinema.