Monday, July 13, 2020

Back to School, Satan Style

One of the (thankfully, very minor) misses I've experienced due to the pandemic is the postponement-and-likely-cancellation of my 20 year high school reunion. Based on the proud fact that I drank the open bar out of Frangelico at my 10 year, I had high hopes for this go 'round.

Despite being a chubby, nerdy, badminton-playing band and theater geek, I had a surprisingly good time as a teenager. That doesn't mean I don't love a good reunion slasher. From Slaughter High to Most Likely to Die, it's proven to be the perfect ground for And Then There Were None hijinks. 

Is 1978's The Redeemer: Son of Satan the first high school reunion horror flick? More importantly, is it THE BEST?

Quick Plot: A young boy named Christopher rises from a lake fully dressed and dry for Sunday service. He hops on a bus with this fellow choir boys, dons some Manos: The Hands of Fate-esque robes, and settles in for his reverend's super fiery sermon on the various evils of the world.

Cut to the various evils of the world, personified here by six 28-year-olds committing an assortment of sins. There's John, a sleazy defense lawyer; party girl Cindy; Roger, a vain actor; Jillian, a snooty pigeon shooting aristocrat in an unhappy marriage; closeted Kristin, and the best, Terry.

You know Terry. I know Terry. Anyone who has ever watched a slasher knows Terry. Terry is the glutton, that perfect horror archetype of the (often permed), somewhat (though usually not that much) overweight joker who loves one thing: food. 

Unlike the madonna and whore, the glutton doesn't always make an appearance in a horror film, but when he (and occasionally she) does, it's typically pretty brief. Maybe there's not enough cash in the craft services budget to keep the character on set. Based on most screenwriting, anyone with a few extra pounds got that way by consuming 8000 calories a day. It's an obnoxious trope, and I find it easier to laugh than think too hard.

Anyway, Terry eats a lot and hates his girlfriend's son, who may have run way because of a prank but please don't think too hard about it because the filmmakers don't. 

We soon discover that our six strangers graduated together and are all cheerfully traveling back to their old stomping grounds for their 10-year reunion. The school was apparently closed and abandoned long ago, but a full buffet awaits!

Yes, Terry is pleased.

The gang quickly realizes something is amiss, since no one else has shown up. A little exploring leads to our first casualty: Terry! And weirdly, not food-based. Ah well.

Some kind of murderous trickster has rigged the facility, planting a stupendous array of armed marionettes and clown masks all around to help assist his murders. No one is safe from his hand-to-hand combat skills or amateur magic shows, all of which are accompanied by glorious and randomly placed laser sound effects because hello 1976!

Unlike every other high school reunion hunt 'em down, the motives behind the murders stem not from bullying and pranks gone wrong but good old fashioned old testament judgement! Turns out, the same preacher who opened our film with angry fire and brimstone babble is the same guy brining literal fire to our gaggle of sinners. And apparently, God thinks this is best done with kabuki makeup.

The Redeemer: Son of Satan is the only credit attributed to director Constantine S. Gochis, which is a small shame. By no means is this a good film, but for its 1978 release date, it has a whole lot of fun with itself. The deaths are elaborate and weird, and the film's loose structure means it actually packs a few surprises. Like many an Amazon Prime discovery, I'm fairly shocked that I'd never heard of it before. It moves quickly because who needs time to get to know stock characters about to meet wacky ends? 

Though honestly, it would have been nice to learn more about these things:

High Points
Sure, some viewers will probably want more of an explanation, but can I just say how much I adored the "magical bowl cut demon seed that rises from and sinks into the water" intro/outro?

Low Points
I'm still a tad annoyed that I don't understand anything about The Redeemer's connection to his victims, but honestly, am I really going to complain when this movie has accomplices like THIS?

Lessons Learned
Nothing gets a waitress hotter than when you stuff her face with a burger and rant about Tarzan

It's rude to talk to someone while holding a gun in your hand, though it's probably ruder to then shoot said someone

Never trust a kid who doesn't laugh at your locker room joke

Redeemer: Son of Satan (that title gets sillier every time I type it) is a fun goof of a horror flick, a pre-slasher era slasher rich with odd decisions. Like many a bad but super entertaining '70s/'80s genre flick, it's streaming on Amazon Prime. Pour yourself a giant bowl of ice cream and enjoy!


  1. What a bizarre eccentric mess of a movie!
    I'd seen that cover image around for years but never took a closer look.
    Far more questions than answers... but it definitely feels like there was some thought behind it all.
    Like, what's with the two thumbs that appear and disappear? Very intentional and took some cash to pull off... but why?
    Who was the girl in the bed when the hand appears and grows a thumb?

    I think it all was some ritual to 'redeem' the preacher and the town... sacrifice these alumni of the local school to set things right.
    But as a former churchgoer I couldn't help noticing that it was playing fast and loose with its Bible quotes...

    I dunno... this one is going to haunt me for a bit.
    Thanks for pointing me at it.

  2. Right? It's SO strange for SO many reasons! And not terrible! But at times terrible! Just a weird little dose of fun that I'm really glad I took a chance on. Glad you felt the same!