Riding with the Devil

By Richard von Busack

The Metro

If You're riding down one of San Jose's bike paths, thinking happily of the fruit shake that will be yours at the end of the rail, and suddenly you see a black-cloaked figure wheeling toward you, pray that it passes you by. Raging Cyclist, Sean McCarthy's hideo-comic film in the vein of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead trilogy, shows what happens when a monster on the bikeways sets its sights on a happy-go-lucky jerk (Ephraim Joseph). You can't say he didn't ask for it. The victim wears an offensive giant yellow happy face on the back of his bike jersey. He shouts aggravating things on the cell phone like "That's what I want to hear! Let's powwow later!" Happily, the cyclist is beaten up by a gang of little girls--they're like the "Sour Grapes Bunch" that used to put the scare on the Banana Splits. Still wobbly from that assault, the cyclist is attacked by a hooded, sword wielding demon (William Gharapetian "my Lee van Cleef," quips McCarthy). Left half dead by the roadside, the cyclist becomes hallucinary. Masked weirdoes menace him at the parking lot of the Albertson's at Meridian and Redmond. In the backroom of Campus Bicycles, a roomful of occultists explain the story of a "Devil Hunter." ("Not a hunter of devils, but rather, a devil who hunts.")

Everything leads to an epic struggle between a hero and a demonic soul eater atop Castle Rock in the Santa Cruz Mountains. In a forcefully directed action scene, these figures do battle while a turkey buzzard shrieks dubbed-in warning cries from the pitiless heavens above. Twenty-three-year-old McCarthy, who lives in Almaden, has some 50 short films under his belt, as well as the feature-length movie Last Day in the Suburban Jungle. He's been independent since his days at Leland High School. McCarthy was only nominally a film student as a way of getting a discount on film stock. Raging Cyclist was four years in the making, because of the budget. McCarthy paid for the film with a variety of odd jobs, from being a security guard to making sandwiches to running up his credit cards. He also worked on Sasha Parisot and Ken Kerns' locally made Skin Deep. Raging Cyclist is seriously funny and technically top-drawer. McCarthy designed his own camera rigs for his swooping racing scenes along the area's bike trails. He was inspired by the Raimi brothers' "shakeycam," a home-built Steadycam made with a camera affixed to a board. McCarthy is also a disciple of Robert Rodriguez's grab-it- and-run filmmaking. "I've been arrested a few times for filming without a permit," he says. "I try to tip off the police when i'm doing a violence scene. One time we were filming down in the park by Stevens Creek, and the cops asked, 'Were you down here earlier, doing a scene where some guys with shotguns were forcing someone into the trunk of a car?' And it wasn't us!" Maybe there's something out there on the bikeways after all.