The Movie Waffler Blu-ray Review - SATAN'S BLADE (1984) | The Movie Waffler

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Blu-ray Review - SATAN'S BLADE (1984)

Two groups of holiday-makers are targeted by a mysterious killer.





Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: L Scott Castillo Jr

Starring: Tom Bongiorno, Stephanie Leigh Steel, Thomas Cue, Elisa R Malinovitz, Janeen Lowe



Satan's Blade is released by Arrow Video on Dual Format Blu-ray & DVD July 11th



Satan's Blade is trash, made for cynical reasons, yet there's a certain sleazy analog charm absent from the sort of cheap, shot on digital found footage quickies that clog up Netflix in the modern era. Slasher aficionados will be happy to add this impressive restoration to their collection of dubious cult items.


Arrow Video are really digging deep with this none-more-obscure relic of the slasher era given the 2K restoration treatment. What times we live in! Could filmmaker L Scott Castillo Jr have imagined his down and dirty debut would some day be viewed by rabid horror fans on 50" high definition screens in the comfort of their living rooms, its earworm synth score pumping out of surround sound speakers?

Unlikely. As Castillo readily admits in an interview included on the disc, he views cinema as a business, not an art, and Satan's Blade was made for purely commercial reasons. Castillo claims to have opted for a horror movie because "they're easy to make", which says a lot about his naivete, an innocence reflected in the amateurish nature of his finished product.



Taking a cue from Psycho (this is where such comparisons end), the movie introduces us to a pair of 'protagonists' who are dispatched in an early twist. The opening scene features a bank heist by two masked raiders that ends in the bloody and unconvincingly acted deaths of the branch's two female employees (this appears to be the only bank in America not to employ a security guard). When the robbers retire to a cabin in the mountains, they reveal their true identities - shock horror, they're gals! Whodathunkit? When one of the girls shoots the other dead, she believes she's set to make off with the loot until a mysterious figure stabs her in the back. Crime never pays.


You might assume a murder investigation would be cause enough to close down the cabin, but the owner promptly rents it out to a bunch of college girls, who don't seem too bothered by the idea of staying in the same cabin where a double homicide occurred the previous night (there's even a blood stain on the wall, which nobody seems upset by). In the cabin next door are two married couples, setting up plenty of victims for the eventual return of the killer.



I say eventual, because it takes an age for him to show up. The movie runs for a mere 79 minutes, and it's not until around the hour mark that the blood begins to spill. We get an earlier tease in which three of the college girls are brutally knifed by a seriously creepy killer in a troll-like mask, but this turns out to be a dream sequence. This is by far the standout moment of the film, shot with a modicum of style entirely absent from the rest of the production. The sequence leads us to presume it's a premonition by the character we assume will turn out to be this story's 'final girl', but that's not the case at all; it's just a random dream with no connection to the actual killer.


Castillo's film wasn't released until 1984, and promptly disappeared into Mom and Pop video store obscurity, but he began shooting as early as 1980, meaning he got in on the slasher boom just before it really exploded (1981 would give us a host of slashers, including Halloween II, Friday the 13th Part 2 and The Burning). Interesting then how the movie subverts the cliché of the innocent, virginal girl making it to the end; here it's the most sexually voracious of the group of college girls who survives the longest, and in a likely unintended twist, she's absent from the cabin when the killer shows up because she's down by the lake trying to get in the pants of one of her married neighbours. Being horny can save your life girls!



Make no bones about it, Satan's Blade is trash, made for cynical reasons, yet there's a certain sleazy analog charm absent from the sort of cheap, shot on digital found footage quickies that clog up Netflix in the modern era. The average viewer should steer well clear of this, but slasher aficionados will be happy to add this impressive restoration to their collection of dubious cult items.

Extras:

Two bonus features focussing on Castillo are as shoddily put together as his film, seemingly shot out of focus on a camcorder in his kitchen. He's an affable, charming presence though, which makes his reminiscences enjoyable to listen to. There's also a commentary by the guys from slasher-centric podcast The Hysteria Continues, along with the usual Arrow booklet.

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