Most people have wonderful stories to tell of their RV adventures. No matter where they go and who they meet, the memories can be enjoyed for a lifetime. Of course we all have a few things that don’t go right on our treks across the country — those RV horror stories. They can range from breakdowns to vacations gone askew and everything in between. But no RV tale of terror can top the nightmare depicted in the 1975 cross-country thriller, “Race With the Devil.”
If you’re looking for iconic horror like “The Shining,” “The Exorcist,” or “The Conjuring,” this isn’t it. But it is a fairly well-paced, two hour hell ride perfect for that rainy day or late night. Just like “Jaws” had people thinking twice about swimming in the ocean in that summer of ’75, “Race with the Devil” might have had Mr. and Mrs. Winnebago reconsidering just what campground to do their hookup for the night. The film stars the late, Peter Fonda and Warren Oates. Their wives are played respectively by Lara Parker (of Dark Shadows) and Loretta Swit (of M*A*S*H fame)
Now keep in mind, the mid-1970s special effects, infrequent as they are in this film, are from a different time, so don’t expect “Star Wars” level graphics. After a bit of a slow start, the action picks up quickly as two 30-something couples set out in an RV across Texas. They happen upon an isolated stretch of land near a river where they can relax, ride their motorcycles (it is after all, a Peter Fonda flick) and enjoy some fishing. As night falls, the two men enjoy some adult beverages and a bit of a bull session when they notice a large bonfire across the river. The participants, dressed in odd robes and masks, begin dancing around the roaring flames when suddenly a woman is killed as a human sacrifice which is observed by Fonda and Oates. The RVers are spotted and immediately pursued by what turn out to be Satanists. Uh-oh.
Now it’s off to the races, literally. The couple visit the police in the nearest small town and are told by the sheriff, “leave things up to me,” and to go on their merry way. However, the sinister perpetrators of the human sacrifice won’t give up so easily, and seem to be one step ahead of this resourceful quartet of vacationers. We won’t go any further here and ruin things with spoilers, just be ready for some twists and turns as well as a few gruesome moments for a PG film.
There has been some chatter of a reboot of this film, but in today’s world of instant communication and GPS, the plot would most certainly have to be tweaked significantly. Still, this one and only version (so far) of “Race With the Devil” mostly holds up and has its share of thrills and solid performances by the leads.