"The Devonsville Terror" focuses on a small town in New England where three women perceived to be witches were executed in 1683. 300 years later, a mysterious woman, Jenny (Suzanna Love) arrives in town as the new school teacher. She seems to be a student of the feminist movement, which doesn't sit well in these parts. Little has changed in Devonsville— the one room schoolhouse has a class of about 20 kids and still has a fireplace, and the people still seem to have retained a colonial mindset. The arrival of two other women (a scientist and a female sex radio host) gets the townsmen riled up and curious as to whether or not the witches have returned reincarnated. Meanwhile, a doctor (Donald Pleasance) spends all of his screen time pulling worms out of his arm and studying a curse bestowed on his family linked back to the executions.
I'm not even going to get into Uli Lommel's filmography of the past decade because it truly is that bad, but I will stand up for him on two counts, because he did make two decent horror films in the '80s: this, and "The Boogeyman" (1980). "The Devonsville Terror" plays out like a Halloween TV movie of the week and draws from historical occurrences such as the Salem witch trials. Because of this, the script is actually pretty informed and intelligent in terms of logistics. It's a Lommel film, so some coherence has either been lost in editing or was never entirely present to begin with, but overall it's a mostly cohesive picture.
It's obvious from the get-go that this film's thematics are rooted in feminism, and it acts as a reiteration of the modern issue of cultural progress vs. tradition, which, for a horror film, is a bit sophisticated. All three of the modern female characters who enter the town represent three things that much of conservative America fears: feminism, sexuality, and science. That alone sets this film apart for me and elevates it above most horror fodder. Thematically, this film is far elevated above what it need be.
As for the horror— it's not scary. There are a few spooky shots and some really cool camera-work (the kaleidoscopic flashback shots of the witch executions are the things horror classics are made of),but I'd say it's more atmospheric than anything. It has the autumnal New England setting down to a tee, and is a perfect October/November watch. The opening scene in the film where the witches are executed is perhaps the best scene in the film, and really sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Not only is it well shot, but it's also well acted and actually still fairly shocking.
The acting in the film is not great, but is good. Suzanna Love plays the vulnerable, educated schoolteacher and has a gentleness that juxtaposes nicely with the harsh, judgmental nature of the townsfolk who seem to be against her. Donald Pleasance has little screen time and spends all of it in a single setting pulling worms out of his arms (which is apparently the result of a curse by the witches tracing back through his paternal lineage),but he's a pleasure to watch as always.
Overall, "The Devonsville Terror" is a shocker for those who thought Uli Lommel never made a decent film. This is not a bad movie. It's actually on par or even above average as far as '80s horror goes, and it is a thematically sophisticated genre film. Not only is it well made, but it's also plain fun to watch. Definitely not something just anyone would enjoy, but if you like your witches and ghouls served '80s TV movie style, then "The Devonsville Terror" is prime pickings. 7/10.