Unless otherwise noted in the post title, these are not
reviews, per se. They are articles for people who have already seen the film or read the book in question--meaning that there will be spoilers. If you're already familiar with the material being covered, or don't mind the plot being spoiled, please read on and leave a comment.

Friday, February 13, 2015

[Satanophobia] Satan's Blood (1978)

Andy (José María Guillén) and his pregnant wife Annie (Mariana Karr) are spending a lazy weekend afternoon home alone. Boredom eventually begins to wear on them, and, unable to reach any of their friends, decide to pack up their beloved pooch Blackie and strike out on a drive through the city. While on the road, they are approached by another vehicle containing couple Bruno (Angel Aranda) and Mary (Sandra Alberti). Bruno insists that he and Andy attended school together, though Andy doesn't remember him at all.
Satan's Blood - Theatrical Poster
Theatrical Poster

Bruno knows enough about Andy to make him think that maybe he's right, but enough of the facts are wrong to make him think that maybe he's mistaken. Boredom must override the Stranger Danger fear that is instilled in us at school, as Andy and Annie accept an invitation back to their home for wine, cheese, and conversation.

Annie and Andy almost turn around and go home after following the other couple for nearly an hour into the remote countryside. This is the first of many, many almost-escapes—so many, in fact, that it eventually becomes quite tiresome.

Once they all arrive at Bruno and Mary's house, any hope for plot coherency goes right out the window. It begins when Bruno reveals a school photograph that shows he and Andy in the same class, though Andy has no recollection of ever wearing the uniform he is clearly seen wearing in the picture. Then Mary announces that she is something of a psychic, and that she can read Anna's thoughts because she is quite transparent. This leads into a conversation about the occult, and the foursome decide to attempt to contact the spirit world via the Ouija board.

Satan's Blood - Coffee Table of the Damned
Coffee Table of the Damned
This is no ordinary, mass produced, out-of-the-box Ouija board, though. This is a beautifully crafted coffee table that doubles as a Ouija board—obviously not something that a casual occultist has just lying about. Odder still, they're not attempting to drum up the ghost of their dead uncle or something harmless like that. They're trying to make a direct call to the devil himself. Satan informs them that Bruno will commit suicide, and that Annie is harboring a secret love for Andy's brother Louis.

Then things really get weird: Annie has a meltdown, lapses into a semi-catatonic state, comes to, declares that she wants to leave, and opts instead to stay the night and have bathtub sex with her husband when a storm blows in. Later that night, a mysterious intruder tries to rape her, a naked Bruno and Mary are found praying to Satan in the center of a pentagram, and the couples have an orgy. Annie dreams about a porcelain doll with bleeding eyes that turns into Mary, who then forces herself on Annie and is stabbed because of it.

Annie and Andy oversleep, and the next afternoon, Blackie is found dead and hanging from the ceiling, and Bruno kills himself. A suspicious doctor (José Pagán) shows up to recite a rather unholy sounding prayer over the body, and then vanishes with a lightning strike. Mary tries to kill herself as well, but when she fails, Andy finishes the job for her. She comes back from the dead wielding a handgun, Bruno pops back up in a zombie-like state, and Andy and Annie finally get away.

Back home, they discover that their apartment is completely empty. They are invited inside by their elderly next door neighbors, and find themselves surrounded—Bruno, Mary, the doctor, Annie's would-be rapist and even Blackie are all there. Annie and Andy are stabbed to death by the once-dead lunatics, but in the final scene, they are approaching another couple in traffic, with Andy claiming that he went to school with one of them.

Cue credits.

Some critics are quick to declare that this film has striking similarities to ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968), but those similarities aren't very striking at all. Yes, both films dealt with the devil, and both films featured elderly neighbors who were actually secret Satanists, but that's where the similarities end. Unfortunately, in the wake of such successful satanic fare as ROSEMARY'S BABY and THE EXORCIST (1973), seemingly every film of remotely the same strain is compared to those two, if not accused of outright plagiarism. It's the same phenomenon that I found time and time again while covering aquaphobia, wherein every aquatic killer was said to be a JAWS rip-off. Such comparisons are rarely constructive and oftentimes unjustified, and even when the comparison is apt, it should not detract one from viewing the film objectively and basing opinions on its own merits. Failing to do so hints at ignorance to the fact that everything is derivative of something else which came before. That is simply how art, in all of its forms, evolves. Charles Schulz's comic strip Peanuts could be traced, step-by-step, back to the Yellow Kid in 1895 if anyone were so inclined.

Now that I've defended this movie, I should also declare that I didn't care for it all that much.
As you can see from the synopsis above, logical progression of the storyline was not high on the filmmaker's list of priorities. After a certain point, the movie is comprised almost solely of disjointed scenes of weird sex and weird violence. Satanic film and surrealism often go hand-in-hand, but this didn't seem like surrealism to me. It felt like a Mad Lib. And yet, if you edit a lot of the piffle from your memory of the film, it does seem to string itself along a bit more cognitively than it initially appeared. That's not to say that it is anything resembling a linear narrative, but you can still get from A to long as you pay little mind to most of the letters in between.

There are some genuine highlights scattered throughout the nonsense: the aforementioned Ouija table and a
Satan's Blood - Creepy Porcelina
Creepy Porcelina
number of other set pieces would be welcome in any genre fan's dream home; the porcelain doll, which makes a couple of appearances, might not make a lot of sense, but remains genuinely creepy; there is a good deal of atmosphere here, and a fair amount of tension. Unfortunately, that tension is typically eradicated too soon by yet another softcore sex scene that shows up at the most inopportune moment.

There's also some degree of education that comes with watching this film—at least if you're a devil's disciple. Everyone knows the basic names that the dark one goes by, but the characters here offer up a whole new laundry list of things to call him, including: King of the Lower World, Prince of Rape and Fornication, Father of Incest, Prince of Necrophilia, Serpent of Genesis, and "You Who Are of Death, Who Kiss Death on the Mouth."

Multiple names seem to be a theme here: This import from Spanish filmmaker Carlos Puerto goes by a few aliases, in order to confuse the viewing audience even more than the film itself did—Escalofrio and the odd choice of Don't Panic. To muddy the waters even more, some of the characters have alternate names as well: in the Spanish-language version (available with English subtitles), Annie is known as Ana, Andy is known as Andres, and Mary is known as Berta. Only Bruno retains his fabulous moniker throughout both versions. I viewed the dubbed version, and have referred to their characters by the names given there.

When researching the movie, the various titles and the various identities of the lead characters made the whole thing even more of a disorienting experience.  If this was by design, then Carlos Puerto might be a much better surrealist than I was giving him credit for.


No comments:

Post a Comment