Friday, July 30, 2021

Brotherhood of Satan

Brotherhood of Satan
Bernard McEveety

A family comes across a recently crushed car with dead bodies inside. Rushing to the nearest town they are swarmed by frightened townies who claim that no one has been able to leave town for the last three days and anyone who tries dies horribly in the process. To make things even worse all the children in town have gone missing. A local priest believes that a satanic cult has taken up shop and is luring the children into their clutches for some unknown purpose. The family’s daughter goes missing and it becomes race to find the cult before the complete their ritual and gain eternal life.

Brotherhood of Satan is a far stranger movie than I foresaw going in.  From its opening moments we are thrust into a confusing yet horrific montage of cuts, screaming, tank treads crushing a car, toys, and the sound of children. When we finally cut away from the carnage we see a toy tank. The implication is that the children’s toys mimicked the slaughter through some kind of sympathetic magic. Not at all what I expected and I was quite intrigued.

The world's oldest bully approaches her target.

Brotherhood of Satan is at its best when it is laying out its mysteries, A family coming upon a completely crushed car on their way into town, that same family being mobbed by townies who are terrified of children, and even mysterious black robed figures in the woods.  One of my favorite sequences is a Satanic birthday party complete with kids playing, and hooded cultists delivering a black birthday cake as others whisk kids off to be ritually sacrificed.

In reading other criticisms of this film I see much mention towards how poorly it is edited. I have to disagree on this point. The editing is unusual for sure, but every cut feels like a very deliberate method to make this odd story feel as strange as it does to its characters. The plot is slowly laid out over the course of the film (perhaps a little too slowly) and even though it is relatively simple, this obtuseness in the way it’s told gives the film more life than if it had been told in a more straightforward manner.

"No bag or board? This is worthless, old man!"

As I stated, the film is slow in the middle. Even at 92 minutes it feels like things are taking twice as long as they should. I appreciate a good slow burn but there is such a careful balancing act of tone and meting out story, it’s easy to get it wrong. It does end strongly with a finale that is ambiguous and even just a little playful like its Satanic children.

Brotherhood of Satan is weird little film, and while it certainly has its flaws, I ended up liking its more obtuse qualities.  It is difficult to bring anything new to the subgenre of satanic children, but Brotherhood of Satan manages to do it through its storytelling rather than anything to found in its actual story.

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