Back in film school, a classmate bravely announced to us that he thought foreign films were better than American films because he’d yet to be disappointed seeing a foreign film. I had to be the person that popped his belief by pointing out that he’s only seen the films that were good enough that someone in America decided to import them. If you went to France or Italy, you’d see a lot of films that reflect what plays in American Cineplexes. But turns out I was wrong because there’s no movie in America that can compare to France’s Devil Story. This movie is 76 minutes of pure cinematic insanity on the screen.
The movie feels like it started 30 minutes before we get to see what’s happening. A strange zombie-esque humanoid with a Nazi jacket is running around the French countryside attacking people and dragging their bodies. Blood flows all over the screen. We have no idea what this creature is doing since all it does is groan. He does get ahold of a shotgun and takes out the tire of a passing car. While the husband fixes the tire, the wife gets out and sees a black cat nearby. She’s compelled to get closer to the cat, but it cuts her up. This turns into an existential argument of between husband and wife while the cat lurks nearby. They pull up to a creepy mansion that lights up as they park by the main gate. The guy inside and his maid warn him about what’s been going on in the area around the time of the equinox. In the middle of this movie about the Nazi ghoul, we’re told of the locals that would shipwreck boats on the coast. There is a hint that one boat had cargo from Egypt which comes into play.
There’s not need to reveal too much about the madness to come although it involves a possessed horse, a mummy, a zombie ship and more. Have you ever seen a sailing ship rise from the grave? You will here. Writer-director Bernard Launois wants us to think this takes place in Florida by putting that state’s plates on the couple’s Mercedes sedan. And there is enough insanity in this story to attribute it to a Florida Man. The synth score reminds me a touch of Liquid Sky which isn’t nearly as messed up Devil Story. This appears to have been the French version of Ed Woods’ Plan 9 From Outer Space except even Ed Wood couldn’t come up with something so freakishly delicious. This is the first time Devil Story has legitimately been released in America so brace yourself for zombies, mummies and devil horses.
On a dark cold winter’s night, you’ll want to a copy of Devil Story nearby. Your friends will be amazed that something so bloody and bizarre came from France and not Florida. This is a masterpiece of midnight madness.
The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The 4K scan was taken from the original camera negative. You’re seeing all the insanity on the screen. The audio is DTS-HD MA Mono in both French and English. Most of the film is screaming and grunting so either track is fine. The movie is subtitled in English.
Once Upon a Time…Devil Story (34:12) opens with Bernard Launois on the location talking about the film. He feels French films can rival American. Frank Henenlotter says whether you think Devil Story isn’t good or bad, the movie brings out a “WTF” from the audience. There’s interviews with cast and crew to discover how this film happened.
Once Upon a Time…Bernard (28:14) is a brand new interview with writer/director Bernard Launois. The press is promised 80 minutes of “suspense, fear and anxiety.” What they also got is a lot of “where did that come from?” Launois gives further background on how this small production became a strange sensation over the decades.
Select scenes with commentary by the director (24:38) are clips from the film with the director. He speaks in French so you’ll be reading subtitles. He talks about the blood spurt controversy. He explains a couple things, but doesn’t give away all the secrets of the weirdness.
French TV Coverage (3:13) is the complete news clip that’s sampled in the first two bonus features.
Original trailer (3:49) is a long trailer that doesn’t give away everything in the film.
Vinegar Syndrome presents Devil Story. Directed by Bernard Launois. Screenplay by Bernard Launois. Starring Véronique Renaud, Pascal Simon, Catherine Day, Nicole Desailly, Marcel Portier, Christian Paumelle. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 76 minutes. Release Date: October 19, 2021.
Tags: Devil Story, french, Vinegar Syndrome, zombies