Sunday 6 April 2008

The Brotherhood of Satan (1971)

The opening sequence is fascinating but a little bizarre. We see a blatantly obvious toy tank with blatantly obvious flashing lights interspersed with what might just be a very large and very real tank running right over a whole slew of very large and very real cars. Is a little boy reconstructing real events, like a pubescent CSI tech or does he just have a truly disturbed imagination? Well this is a 1971 cult horror movie so that's an open question.

After the credits we watch a family on holiday in the Californian countryside and I was struck at how much a happy children's party in the early seventies looks like a vision of the future as painted by fifties futurists. Maybe they got it right after all and we just didn't notice. Except they only got it right with the fashions, they got it rong with all the domed glass buildings and flying cars. Well our family discovers a horrific car wreck by the side of the road and try to report it at the nearest town but instead meet a population hiding in their houses, a sheriff who rattles off questions as if they're guilty of something and then as the situation calms everyone comes out to party at the fact that it is over, whatever it is, until a man with an axe heads right for them. Needless to say they hit the road pretty quickly!

Of course they don't get too far. A little girl appears in the road, they crash and end up back at the same town again as guests until they can leave properly. They gradually discover just what's going on. A bunch of senior citizens who worship Satan and secretly run by the local doctor, played by Strother Martin, are renewing their youth and using the children to achieve their evil ends. In three days, 26 people have been slaughtered, six families wiped out and kids missing all over the place. The town seems to be locked down so that nobody can enter and nobody can leave, except for some reason this one family.

It's an interesting film, but not necessarily for many of the right reasons. The concept is cool but the realisation is a little lacking. Either it's bad, such as some outrageous overacting, especially by Strother Martin, and some really dumb cops, or it's great but wrong, such as the location for the final ceremony. It looks and sounds awesome but makes no sense at all. Why would such a coven create a huge fake spider web structure round their altar? Who came up with the satanic orchestra? It's as cool as it is out of place from reality, and that's where much of the film lies.

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