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Friday, May 29, 2015

Satan's Blade


Satan’s Blade
1984
L. Scott Castillo Jr.

In a way, the slasher film is the perfect beast. Very few other sub genres of film can consistently turn grungy cheapness into an asset. A slasher film can be made for the cost of a camera rental and a bucket of Kayo syrup. Volumes have been written on the ways the slasher film both confronts and reaffirms societal norms. There is a lot more going on underneath the surface in this often maligned corner of the horror world, and it’s one that I have grown in appreciation of over the years.

My POV anytime I wear my Boardinghouse T-shirt.
Following a bank robbery, a couple of thieves hide out in a remote cabin only to meet a grizzly end. Later, two groups of visitors stay in the same cabins, despite warnings that the area is haunted by a mountain man who slays anyone who steps foot in the area. One by one people are attacked and stabbed with a strange blade. Is the killer a ghost, or something else?

Satan’s Blade begins with an extended opening bank robbery that includes a little sexual harassment and overt violence. The film throws the viewer it’s first curve by revealing our bank robbers are not the kind of people we expect. It then again twists the story by not even having these people be our main characters. They are a warning of things to come. It’s far too slowly paced a sequence in such a short film, but it shows some initial promise. Once our two main groups arrive in the story, that promise gets squandered by some inner relationship drama that no one in front of or behind the camera can sell. There is one curious moment, a scene between Tony (Tom Bongiorno) and Stephanie (Stephanie Leigh Steel)  that looks like it’s heading for some infidelity and possible gratuitous nudity, but ends up being rather sweet.

Jamie Farr is... SATAN!
Of course, all the faux relationship drama between characters is meant to lull the viewer into a false sense of security. With occasional shots of the dark forest, along with an ever present sinister electronic score, we wait for the inevitable attack. Satan’s Blade throws in an effective dream sequence that serves to remind us that there is a supernatural element at play here, even if it is largely behind the scenes.

There are a lot of interesting things happening in Satan’s Blade, but there are some big problems as well. Aside from the too slow pacing, many scenes are under lit. One of the final struggles against the killer is so drenched in muddy shadow, that I couldn’t tell a single thing that was happening. There is also some misplaced and not terribly funny humor (a weirdly recurring issue in many slasher movies).

Satan’s Blade is cheap, occasionally amateurish, but often is delivers some surprises and ends on strange coda. If you’re new to the cheap end of slashers, this isn’t a the worse place to dive-in. If you’re a fan I’d definitely give it look, especially with Slasher Video’s nice new Blu-ray release.

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