• Devonsville Terror, The



    Released by: 88 Films
    Released on: December 26th, 2017.
    Director: Ulli Lommel
    Cast: Suzanna Love, Donald Pleasence, Paul Wilson, Robert Walker Jr., Mary Walden
    Year: 1983

    The Movie:

    Two hundred years ago a trio of witches in the New England town of Devonsville were put to death by the townspeople for practicing the dark arts. They’re not just killed, mind you, they’re tortured, burned and then fed to pigs! Cut to the Devonsville of 1983 and local man Walter Gibbs (Paul Willson) murders his poor wife for reasons on one seems to understand.

    Shortly after, Jenny Scanlon (Suzanna Love), the town’s new school teacher, gets off the bus and prepares to get to work. It isn’t long before she’s earned the ire of some of Devonsville’s more conservative residents when it’s found out that she’s told a student that in some religions god is a female. This leads, of course, for some in town to believe Scanlon to be a witch. If that weren’t enough a feminist leaning DJ and a pesky female environmentalist are also seen by some as likely colluding with the devil. When Walter starts to develop feelings for Jenny and then sees her in a vision walking in her birthday suit towards his house, things get strange only to culminate in his having a dream in which he sees her take retribution against him for killing his wife.

    Making matters worse is the presence of the town physician, Dr. Worly (Donald Pleasence). Not only is he in agreement with the others that these three women are witches, but after finding an arcane book walled up in the basement of his house he’s come to realize that a distant relative of his was the one who spearheaded the witch trials back in 1863. He intends to prove that what he’s uncovered in said book is fact, and his family was cursed by those witches centuries ago for their actions. How can he break the curse? By proving the women innocent… but since Jenny and the others have arrived, things aren’t going so well for him, it looks like that curse might actually be real.

    This is some seriously wonky shit. Lommel’s film is entertaining enough but the story, familiar as it is in many ways, has some fairly massive logic gaps in it. Regardless, it manages to string together a basic story effective enough in bridging the stronger, more exploitative set pieces that are the film’s main selling points so as to hold our attention. Don’t go looking for historical accuracy, you’ll only hurt yourself (the scene that takes place in the 1600’s features some witches with decidedly eighties era hair styles!) but the screwy plot elements and ‘New England’ setting help, if nothing else, to give the film some character. The film takes some well-aimed and wholly deserving potshots at remnants of puritan culture, vilifying the male townsfolk who would have their women remain subservient – barefoot and pregnant – but it’s too sleazy to serve as any sort of feminist statement (particularly when Ms. Love gets topless every fifteen minutes or so). The film’s gore effects are fairly well done and plentiful enough in the last half of the movie to keep things interesting.

    Performances are all over the place. Pleasence sleep walks through some scenes but then comes to life in others. That said, even sleepwalking Pleasence is still pretty fun to watch. Once his character realizes he’s cursed he turns up the energy level a fair bit. Paul Wilson as the fairly unhinged Walter Gibbs is a bit scenery chewy in some spots but it works. Suzanna Love, who was married to the director at the time this picture was made and is probably best known for appearing in both of his The Bogeyman films, was an heiress of the Dupont fortune and likely at least partially bankrolled this one. That interesting bit of trivia aside, she’s pretty good here. Her character is likeable, she’s got some sex appeal, she’s tough in her own way and Love works quite well in the role.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The Devonsville Terror arrives on Blu-ray from 88 Films framed at 1.85.1 widescreen aspect ratio in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer ‘remastered in 2k’ on a 25GB disc. Some shots do look a little softer than others but for the most part the image here is a solid upgrade over the previous DVD release in detail, texture and depth, but temper expectations there. Colors are a bit flat though the black levels tend to be pretty strong. Outdoor scenes shot with good natural lighting fare better than any of the many shots captured indoors, where things do look a bit dark, but even these scenes never really pop. Skin tones look nice and lifelike and the picture is clean and clear and free of all but minor print damage and the occasional scratch, although the image is fairly grainy. There are no issues with noise reduction or compression issues and this is quite a solid looking transfer of a very rather dark looking film.

    The English language LPCM 2.0 Mono track is fine. It has about as much depth as most mono tracks for slightly older, modestly budgeted pictures do. The dialogue sounds quite natural, properly mixed in against the score. The score has okay range and presence to it and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion while the weird sound effects used throughout the movie also have decent weight behind them. There are no subtitles or closed captioning options provided.

    The main extra on the disc is a seven minute interview with director Ulli Lommel who looks resplendent in his aviator shades and his cowboy hat. He essentially rambles on about making the film for a few minutes. It’s worth watching once but Lommel comes across as a bit of a kook here and doesn’t go as in-depth as you might hope he would.

    Aside from that we get an 88 Films trailer reel, menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    The Devonsville Terror is no unsung classic but it is better than its fairly dire reputation would have you believe. Ms. Love isn’t half bad as the female lead, Pleasance is his typically enjoyable self and well-cast as the physician. The finale, if predictable, is pretty well handled. The Blu-ray is light on extras but it does offer a decent upgrade in quality over past DVD editions.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!



















    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Matt H.'s Avatar
      Matt H. -
      I watched this a couple of months ago and it's been haunting me ever since. I think it's a minor gem.
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      Quote Originally Posted by Matt H. View Post
      I watched this a couple of months ago and it's been haunting me ever since. I think it's a minor gem.
      I have to agree, Matt. I revisited it for the first time since its first VHS release when the 88 Films Blu-ray came out last year, and was struck by how impactful the film was.
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      I hadn't noticed this. You three have sold me. Thanks