"Anna is fascinated by all kinds of mysteries because to her
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 03/06/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Satan's Blood (1977) aka Escalofrío is an interesting, low budget shocker more so because it was one of the first Spanish produced films to feature gratuitous scenes of nekkidness, something not heard of in Spanish cinema due to the strict censorship laws imposed on the film industry, which changed dramatically after the death of General Franco in 1975 (up until the 1970s it was more acceptable to have gallons of gore than it was a nekkid female form in a movie). Produced and co-directed by Juan Piquer Simón (Monster Island, Pieces, The Pod People), the film features a relatively small cast including Ángel Aranda (Planet of the Vampires), Sandra Alberti (What's a Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This?), Mariana Karr, and José María Guillén.
The film begins with a black mass ritual, one featuring a group of men, clad in dark robes, carrying a young woman into a room and placing her on an alter before an older man. The older man proceeds to get all hands on with the woman, stripping her clothes off and rubbing his grubby mitts all over her supple, young form...while the rest of the men watch...lovely...cut to the credits...after the credits we meet a young couple named Anna and Andy, who live in the city. The couple are trying to decide what to do on their Saturday, settling on taking the dog for a walk, which segue ways into a doofy montage filled with all sorts of activity (even including a trip to the cinema, which just happens to be showing the original Star Wars, according to the marquee). Anyway, while returning home, the couple runs into another couple, named Bruno and Mary, and Bruno claims to have gone to school with Andy. Andy doesn't seem to recall, but the couple convinces Andy and Anna to return with them to their home for a drink. Turns out Bruno and Mary live in a creepy country estate way out in the boonies, furnished with odd accoutrements including black candles in the candelabras (a sure sign of evil). The foursome make with the chit chat until Mary breaks out the Ouija board, setting up for some creepy channeling. After the weirdness, Anna and Andy get talked into staying the night, as it's very late, and so the fun begins...their dog disappears, Anna gets attacked by a mysterious hobo lurking about the estate, and both Anna and Andy fall under the enchantment of the of the powers of Mary resulting in all four engaging in a session of oily group canoodling in the confines of a large, chalk pentagram in front of the fireplace. Night passes and Anna and Andy wake with no recollection of the events the night before (except perhaps for a slight soreness in some rather personal areas). They decide it's time to hit the bricks, but trouble with the car puts the kibosh on this plan (gee, it was working fine yesterday). The presence of evil intensifies, a few deaths occur, Andy flips out, and the house seems to have a mind of its own and plans for the young couple (and their dog).
I did enjoy this uncut, European version of the film, but that not to say it didn't have some serious flaws, the main one being the fact the story had a real lack of direction. It felt like there was a loose outline to the plot (the opening black mass sequence seemed to have nothing to do with the rest of the story other than its occult aspects), while most of it made up as the filmmakers went along. The story ends on a really strong note, making me wonder if perhaps this was what the rest of the film was built upon. One bit I found really annoying was the inclusion of the information early on that Anna was pregnant. Given the set up, I thought this would play heavily into the story, sort of a `Rosemary's Baby' type of scenario, but it never panned out. Why waste time bringing it up if you aren't going to exploit it? Because it allowed for the filmmakers to eat up some screen time...and that's what a lot of the story felt like...extended sequences whose only purpose was to pad out the running time (the whole Ouija/séance bit runs a solid seven minutes which is the equivalent of thirty minutes in real time). And what was up with the hobo, looking like an early French explorer in his knit hat, lurking around the estate, peeping through windows and such? Oh, he gets his comeuppance, to be sure...the funniest sequence in the film was when he attacked Anna as she wandered the house in the middle of the night, and she escapes his lustful advances with a knee to the gonsaticles (that's not to say I found the attack funny, but you have to see the bit afterwards, when he's walking away holding his aching jewels). I think while watching this movie I was supposed to develop a sense of sympathy for Anna and Andy, as their naiveté leads them into danger... naiveté...more like stupidity. A couple living in an isolate manor out in the country may not set off any warning bells, but what about all the black candles, the Ouija table, the extensive library on the occult, the large, chalk pentagram drawn on the floor in front of the fireplace? I don't care if the car doesn't start, or the telephones out of order...I'm hoofing it to the nearest town rather than stay in the devil house. Perhaps the most idiotic bit happened when Andy and Anna, watching from an upstairs window, spied Bruno fiddling under the hood of their car, and then react all surprised later on when their car doesn't start. All right, I've picked on the movie pretty well...so what did I like? Well, in terms of sleaze the film certainly didn't disappoint. All four main characters doff their clothes more than once, supplying us with copious amounts of all natural female full frontal, male bumcake, and even a few, brief sausage shots (the last two I could have done without, but whatever). Also the movie has a great deal of weirdness (check out the bits when Mary speaks in a tongue not her own and Mary and Bruno are `feeding'), followed by a great, twist type ending (I dug on the conspiracy angle), one that I sort of saw coming (it was telegraphed early on), but it was extremely fun nonetheless.
Mondo Macabro presents a strong, good-looking, anamorphic widescreen (1.66:1) picture on this DVD, along with a very solid Dolby Digital stereo audio track. Also provided is a choice between an English dubbed track, Spanish with English subtitles, and a Spanish only track. As far as extras, there's a bit of text written by Pete Tombs providing history for the film, placing into context of when it was originally released, a still gallery, an alternative opening sequence (one which tries to justify the amount of sleaze in the film), a featurette titled `The Devil's Disciples' featuring Gavin Baddeley, one of the world's foremost authorities on the occult, discussing Satanism in the 20th century, and a lengthy Mondo Macabro preview montage. Normally I'd probably rate this a three and a half star film, but given the obvious efforts by Mondo Macabro in terms of the DVD release, I have no problem given a four star rating overall.
Satanists, murders, and orgies - what more could you want?
Lead Cenobite | Cape Breton, Canada | 08/13/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I hate to admit it, but the main reason I bought this movie is because of the cool art on the DVD case. But I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. Satan's Blood begins with a scene that can be described as pure exploitation. The opening scene is of a Black Mass. The room is decorated with a huge pentagram on a wall, and black candles light the room. A priest bows before the pentagram, and attends to a woman who has just been brought into the room. She is in a white dress, and everyone else are wearing black ceremonial robes. After a display of full-frontal female nudity, the priest stabs the woman in the back. But I can only assume he stabbed her, because it doesn't actually look like he stabs her. It looks like he slid the dagger underneath her back WITHOUT stabbing her. There are several other stabbings in the movie, and none of them look realistic. Regardless, it's safe to assume the woman was an unwilling human sacrifice. My other complaint about this scene is that the woman doesn't seem to mind being raped. Is a greater degree of realism too much to ask for from the filmmakers?
We are then introduced to the two main characters, Andres and Ana (Andy and Anna in the dubbed version), and their dog Blackie. Ana is four months pregnant. While driving around town they are stopped by another couple, Bruno and Berta (Bruno and Mary in the dubbed version). Bruno claims to have known Andres back in college, but Andres can't recall ever seeing him. Regardless, Andres and Ana agree to go to the mysterious couple's huge country house. Shortly after arriving, Blackie is barking loudly at a freezer, which leads the viewer to think the mysterious couple are hiding something in the freezer - especially when Berta menacingly says "Silence!" to Blackie, and he immediately falls silent. It quickly becomes apparent that the couple store meat in their freezer, after we see Berta hunched over a kitchen table, chomping loudly on a raw piece of flesh. The manner in which the mysterious couple eats is a sight that unnerved me.
One of the movie's highlights is when the two couples sit down to contact the dead. Instead of using a cheap Ouija board that any old department store would sell, the mysterious couple have a beautiful Ouija table! They just haul off the tablecloth, grab a fancy glass, and they're ready to communicate with the dead. But the Ouija reveals some deeply personal information about Ana, which upsets her greatly. You wouldn't think watching people use a 'talking board' (or in this case, a 'talking table') would be interesting, but it is in Satan's Blood. It helps ratchet up the suspense. Keep an eye out for the candle that mysteriously goes out by itself after the spirit spoke to Bruno! The second highlight of the film is an orgy scene. The dim-lighting, the roaring fire in the fireplace, and the ominous background music make the ritualistic orgy scene seem surreal, fascinating, and even frightening. And the picture of Jesus that bursts into flames makes for some incredible imagery. But it's hard to believe that Andres and Ana, who by chance have stumbled upon a naked Bruno and Berta in the middle of a Satanic ritual, would partake in an orgy with them. It's even harder to imagine they would after Berta spoke to them in a rather demonic voice (shortly before the orgy began). Perhaps they were too passive to refuse? Or curious? Or both?
There's lots of cool stuff in this movie. The opening credits show blood dripping, with some rather loud and frightening music playing - so simple, yet so cool. And it's cool how Bruno and Berta like to snarl when they have sex. It makes them seem sinister, and evil. And decades before the weird looking doll in Saw, there was the weird looking doll in Satan's Blood, which makes the same scream as Berta did at the end of a ritual. It's not as cool as the doll in Saw, but I'd say it's pretty cool. And just what was the doll's significance? Was it just thrown into the movie because it's cool? And the sight of the mutilated dog will disturb most people more than what the mysterious couple keep in their freezer. And the part where the doors are slamming shut is cool. And if you look closely you'll notice the squatter is seated at the Satanists' table. That's when it becomes apparent what their nefarious plan was from the very beginning. And in case you didn't figure it out then, it becomes crystal clear in the final scene on the street.
The dubbing for Satan's Blood isn't too great. The main problem I had with it was that the dubbed voice for Bruno sounded too goofy most of the time. It sounded like the new host of America's Funniest Home Videos provided the dubbed voice of Bruno. While the English dubbing wasn't terrible, you'll need to watch it with English subtitles to properly experience and enjoy the film.
The DVD also has an interesting documentary called The Devil's Disciples. Gavin Baddeley talks at length about the origins of the Black Mass, the impact of Aleister Crowley on our common perceptions of Satanism, and the creation of the Church of Satan by Anton LaVey. I found the differences between the devil-worship of yesteryear and modern Satanism to be quite interesting.
It's complicated movies like this where a director's commentary is a good thing to have. Unfortunately, Satan's Blood has no commentary track. I'd like to have someone explain what the significance of Andres' statement about a "feeling of emptiness" meant, supposing it was of any significance at all. And I also have no idea what's up with the weird doll. Regardless, this is a really good movie, and I recommend it."
Surprisingly good Polanski-esque horror film
Garry Messick | Boynton Beach, FL USA | 05/22/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This Spanish film was made not long after the demise of Franco, when censorship loosened up in Spain considerably. My sense is that this was basically intended as an exploitation flick, but the filmmakers had talent and imagination, and the result is a low-budget horror gem. Very well directed, replete with a sinister atmosphere reminiscent of Polanski films like THE TENANT and ROSEMARY'S BABY and some genuinely strange and creepy touches. A good horror film for viewers with brains and imagination."
A great peice of trash!
Jack Smith | W-S, NC uSSa | 10/03/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
You bet! If you are looking for a sleazy, mid-70's horror film chalked full of full-frontal nudity fake blood AND Satanism this is one of the best there is. What more could you ask for? How about poor dubbing, plot holes that you could drive a Buick thru and a consistent level of motivational inconsistency that will drive you to pull out your hair with frustration? Yes, yes and YES!
If you love camp horror films like I do, this little gem will deliver more fun and excitement than 5 Saw-sequels, combined.
And as an added bonus there's a fun little documentary on Satanism.
5-stars? Hell, give 'em 6."