I can’t recall where I first came across this latest Netflix find, 1975’s Race with the Devil, but it’s a scrappy little thriller that’s established itself as a rarity in my book: an older genre flick that I’d wholeheartedly encourage a remake of, in the hands of none other than Rob Zombie. Gut feelings are screaming at me, and they’re shouting that a great deal of Zombie’s sensibilities would find a cozy nook with this material. Avoid the bullshit cliche of casting college-aged “hotties” and stick with the middle-aged leads; execute the highway action chunks with real cars, Vanishing Point style; and toss in some hardcore, plot-moving scare additions within the slow, somewhat-plodding middle section of the ’75 film.
I’m telling you….Zombie would own this. It’d give the guy a chance to do something that’s not straightforward horror. Race with the Devil has a plot that can summed up just like this: four adults on a road trip to Aspen, Colorado are chased and terrorized by a satanic cult after the two male travelers witness a ritualistic murder. So give Zombie the free reign to overboard with the cult ritual sequence, and then let him give pure action scenes a shot with the story’s car chase-heavy final stretch. Real cars smashing real cars; people being shot off of a speeding mobile home. I’d be willing to bet mucho dinero that Quentin Tarantino loves Race with the Devil and watched it while conceiving his Death Proof.
There’s room for improvement amidst the rampant coolness, so a remake would make total sense. Like I mentioned above, the middle chunk of the film is sluggish and takes too long to kick back into the spooks. Too many menacing looks from the weird townsfolk and not enough actually happening. Once the very-well-handled scene involving venomous snakes in the couples’ trailer blasts away, however, the rest of Race with the Devil is smooth, good-times sailing. Also worth saluting is the film’s awesome downbeat ending, a final shot that Zombie could have a field day with if left alone to his own creativity. It’s a pure ’70s fuck-a-happy ending.
I know that a Race with the Devil redo was attempted back in 2005, but that effort fell flat on its mug, as far as I know. It’s ready for another shot. I’d imagine that the last thing Rob Zombie would want to do after two new Halloween films is another remake. This one just feels proper, though.
If I only had any clout whatsoever…….[Trailer after the jump]
Bonus Point: If anybody has seen and loved The ‘Burbs, the Joe Dante-directed, Tom Hanks-starring 1989 black comedy about creepy new neighbors, the ritual murder scene in Race with the Devil will connect on a nostalgic, “Oh shit, that’s it” level. Every time I watch The ‘Burbs and the parts when Hanks is watching a movie with a pretty raw-dog demonic chantfest scene, I’ve always wondered what movie that clip was from…..well, got the answer now: Race with the Devil.
Race with the Devil trailer: