In this series I will aim to discuss some of our key influences in greater depth and explain just what it is about these movies that have served as an inspiration on ONUS. Be that style, substance or just a general feeling, there’s something in these movies that has, in one way or another, served as a key inspiration on the film.
THE DEVIL RIDES OUT (1968) Dir. Terrance Fisher
The Devil Rides Out is probably not as well known as the others on my list of influences. It’s a Hammer Horror, but a somewhat unusual addition to the Hammer cannon. Unlike Dracula, Frankenstein or even The Mummy, The Devil Rides Out doesn’t feature an iconic monster (at least not one of the Universal ones) and it isn’t as recognised.
Sure, it has all the hallmarks of a great Hammer Horror; it’s got the Gothic set design, the fantastical lighting, the cheap but effective practical and visual effects, and it’s got that kind of camp that only Hammer can offer, but there’s something a little different here.
The villains of The Devil Rides Out are a crazed cult of Satan worshippers intent on destroying the films heroes at all cost. A large bulk of the film takes place inside a chalk circle, where all manner of demon and ghoul is sent to try and break the protagonists down, in the hopes that they will leave the safety of the chalk circle on the flaw.
It might seem like a weird source of inspiration when compared to the genuine horror and unnerving tension brought on by the other classics in my list, but The Devil Rides Out has undoubtedly served as a big influence on ONUS.
Firstly, it’s subject matter. While The Wicker Man (and folk horror in general) was most certainly a starting point, I knew from the beginning that I wanted my film to be a little more broad in its approach. I first saw The Devil Rides Out as a child and have always felt like the film had a lot to offer and would even be ready for a remake of some kind.
ONUS draws heavily on the ideas of The Devil Rides Out. While the tone is most certainly not something I was attempting to capture, there’s a lot of spooky goings on in Hammer’s Satanic opus, and I wanted to take my favourite concepts from the film and place them within a new context into mine.
As a result, ONUS has several similarities with The Devil Rides Out.
It’s set in a Gothic style manor house in the British countryside and features a cast of untrustworthy upper-class types. It most definitely has cult and occult undertones (and probably overtones, although to give away too much would spoil a lot of the fun) and I even went so far as to lift a couple of lines of dialogue from the film to sprinkle into my script.
None of the films I’ve covered over the course of this series are more important than the other, but The Devil Rides Out is perhaps the most overt. With the other films featured I wanted to capture a feeling or a concept, with The Devil Rides Out I wanted to capture imagery and sounds.
Of course, all of these things have been updated, twisted and formed into a shape that better fits the original plot of ONUS, but it didn’t feel right discussing my many influences without bringing up this often-forgotten little gem of a movie. It’s most definitely not the scariest or even the best film on the list of influences, but it is one of the more interesting, and it is the one that has the most obvious things drawn from it.
If you’ve not seen The Devil Rides Out then I do recommend it. It’s dated and comes across as camp and silly through a modern lens, but it’s also a lot of fun and there’s a lot of great ideas going on. Hopefully that’s what we’ve captured with ONUS. But you’ll have to be the judge of that…