Released in 1983, The Devonsville Terror tells the tale of three women murdered 300 years ago after they were suspected of being witches. The film was directed by Uli Lommel, best known for the early 80s slashic The Boogeyman, and was originally intended as a theatrical release but ended up going straight to video. After watching this film, it’s apparent why that decision was made.
Set in the small New England town of Devonsville, the film begins in 1683, the height of the Salem witch trials. Three local women are killed in various brutal and needlessly elaborate ways by the townsfolk for their witchy ways. One is mauled by a pack of savage hogs and another is tied to a giant wheel and basically rolled to death. The third witch was burned at the stake which seemed a little ordinary by comparison.
The film then fast forwards to Devonsville in 1983, where the descendants of the witch killers continue to live. Their ordinary lives are soon disrupted by the arrival of three mysterious young women who cause quite a stir in the sleepy town. Jenny, the vivacious new school teacher, quickly causes controversy by suggesting to her students that God may be a woman. This does not sit well with the locals and immediately puts her in their crosshairs.
The other two new girls in town, an environmentalist, and a disc jockey at the local radio station who bares a resemblance to Stevie Wayne from The Fog, are also soon shunned by the locals for not fitting their conservative mold. Most of the focus is placed on Jenny who periodically appears in erotic visions for some of the men in town for reasons that seem to have no connection to the plot. Suzanna Love, who plays Jenny, provides one of the better performances in the film but given that most of the cast’s acting abilities range from amateurish to stiff, that isn’t really saying a lot.
Things really start to heat up when Jenny rebuffs the advances of some of the men including one who tries to woo her with his violin. Their rejection soon manifests into anger towards her and the other nubile newcomers. The townspeople’s disdain for the women begin to transform into suspicion that they may actually be the reincarnation of the three witches who were killed by their ancestors centuries before. They never really explain the cause of these suspicions which I found to be a significant hole in the already threadbare storyline.
The town’s doctor, played by veteran actor Donald Pleasence, also suspects the women may be witches and is himself riddled by a curse placed on his family by the witches of Devonsville hundreds of years earlier. One of the stranger curses I’ve seen in film, he is plagued by maggots which live in his skin and has to remove with forceps. When Jenny visits his office, the doctor hypnotizes her with some strobe lights (not sure what type of medicine he practices) to get her to confess to being a witch. Instead, she claims she is not a witch but “a messenger from the beyond” which adds to the confusion as it is never really explained what that means.
The tension continues to build between the townsfolk and the women until they abruptly decide to eliminate the suspected witches one night. Putting a more modern spin on their ancestors’ flare for creative executions, they kill one of them with a pack of rabid dogs and another by dragging her behind a truck. They save Jenny for last, using the old standby burned at the stake method on her. I guess if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Unfortunately for townsfolk, things don’t go as smoothy this time as she reveals her true witchy nature, shooting what appears to be lasers from her eyes, blowing up and melting her would-be executioners, allowing her to escape. A long drawn out scene of one of her would-be executioners slowly melting leads me to believe that a large portion of the film’s meagre budget was spent on this mildly impressive special effect. The film concludes with a tersely worded epilogue explaining that the curse that was placed on the town of Devonsville 300 years ago by the murdered witches is now over.
The Devonsville Terror is a fairly standard example of a low-budget, straight-to-video 80s horror film. There is little suspense, a very thin storyline and unimpressive acting. The inclusion of Donald Pleasence in the cast likely added some credibility to the film at the time, given his long resume and recent turn as Dr. Loomis in the Halloween franchise. Unfortunately, he seemed about as thrilled to be in the film as I was to watch. His character came across as a sedated version of Loomis and it felt like he was phoning in his performance.
If you’re an aficionado of middle of the road eighties horror or a fan of over the top witch executions, and would like you watch The Devonsville Terror yourself, it is available to stream on YouTube.
This is my contribution to The Devilishly Delightful Donald Pleasence Blogathon. Also be sure to check out my maniacal partner in crime’s contribution here. Click on the image below to see even more contributions by other bloggers. Our thanks to Cinematic Catharsis and RealWeegieMidget Reviews including us in this very Pleasence endeavour.