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Sometimes, Dead Is Better

Released to blu-ray this week by Slasher//Video (courtesy of Olive Films) is the long forgotten, early 80’s slasher, Satan’s Blade. I say “long forgotten”, but “never known” is a little closer to the truth. The release has even generated a little buzz, mostly due to such an obscure title getting the HD treatment.

The film begins with 2 robbers entering a bank. There are 2 female tellers in this small bank, and no one else.  We don’t see the robbers’ faces. One of them produces a knife and proceeds to cut the buttons off the blouse of one of the teller’s. The sexploitation feel is immediately evident as the camera lingers more on the woman’s breasts than it does the knife or her fear.

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The other thief is much more focused and goes straight for the money. Both tellers are shot and killed. Due to the extremely low-budget, there is some blood, but no bullet wounds. The robbers get in their getaway car and make their escape.

They soon arrive at a cabin on a snowy mountainside. They enter the cabin and begin to take off their jackets and shoes. One of them starts to take off their pants. Guess what? They are actually women, which makes the scene with the teller a little hotter. Or it would, if I found any of these women attractive.

The brains of the operation, Ruth, hides the loot behind an a/c vent. The other woman, Trish, wants to take a Valium to relax. Ruth tells her to take a long, hot bath instead. She agrees, enters the bathroom, and starts to undress to begin the film’s first gratuitous nudity scene.

The camera cuts outside to find a shadow against the house. Back inside, a still naked Trish asks Ruth how George knew about the bank’s security system. Ruth replies that he used to work there. Who the hell is George? Trish asks when he’s supposed to show up for his “cut”. Ruth says that George has become a burden. She plans on “cutting him out of the deal”, but first she pumps bullets into Trish’s stomach, back,  and forehead.

Ruth attempts to drag Trish’s body outside, but she’s stabbed in the back as she opens the door. She knows a lil’ something about backstabbing herself. I’m probably wrong here, but the place that she attempts to crawl back into does not look like the place she was walking out of. She manages to crawl back into the house, but dies from her wounds.

Police report to the cabin after complaints of shots fired. The 2 officers enter the house to find the bodies of the women dumped on the staircase, a symbol painted in blood on the wall nearby. It’s during this scene that the film’s “star” makes their first appearance. However, if the title of “star” is determined by total time on-screen, then the film’s “star” is the boom mic.

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The police talk to the lodge owner of the cabin where the women were killed. The owner asks if they should close up the lodge. His mother blames the murders on the spirit of a long dead mountain man who still haunts the area.

2 groups arrive at the lodge. The first group consists of 2 married couples out to celebrate one of the husbands passing the bar exam. The other is a group of 5 young women out for a weekend getaway. The women ask if there is a vacancy. Tony, the new graduate, asks about the murder the night before. The owner says that the police believe it to be connected to the robbery, but wacky ol’ Mom chirps in, “if it’s not the legend”.

She tells a story of a giant mountain man who lived in the area with his family long before civilization encroached. As “man” built their homes and towns on the mountain, it forced him higher and higher up the mountain until he had nowhere to live. The mountain man asked the gods for a weapon to fight back with, but people say that what he received instead was a weapon from evil spirits. Legend says that he not only killed the settlers, but also his family. and even himself…. which makes no sense. Some say he’s a spirit roaming the mountainside, some say he’s a “monster of evil”  living under the nearby lake. Well, which is it?

The girls agree to take the room anyway. Wait, they are sleeping in a crime scene? And the cops are okay with this? Nah, this ain’t adding up at all.

Both groups arrive at their cabins. The boom mic drops in for another appearance, literally. The girls start talking about which of the married men they prefer. What they should be talking about is the bloody stain that was left on the wall from the killer’s symbol. The girls don’t seem to mind. It’s the 80’s. They just want to have fun.

I’d like to take this time to apologize for that last line. 

The husbands go out for a walk. They come across an old fisherman with his line cast in a stream. They ask how the fishing is going, the old man replying that “they aren’t biting”. He knows about the murders and attributes them to the legend. “He’s come up out of the lake”, says the old man.

The girls showcase just how bad acting can be during their bedtime toast. Their yawning was forced. Mine was not.

The wives go to bed and the husbands celebrate Tony’s passing the bar by killing off a bottle of Jack. In their drunken state, they start talking about the group of young women in the next cabin. Tony, in as sleazy an inflection as possible, wonders out loud if they are having a “hard time sleeping”.

And in fact, it appears that they are. A very hard time. We jump back to their cabin to find that a man with a monstrous, demonic face has already murdered most of the girls and is in the act of killing the rest. Of course, in true horror movie fashion, this is revealed to be just a dream that one of the girls is having. She awakens from her dream, but is soon startled to find someone in a mask staring in her window. The girls run screaming downstairs.

It’s revealed to be the husbands pulling an alcohol-fueled prank. The girls laugh it off and go outside to chase the men off. After falling in the snow, Tony is lucky enough to be straddled by the only marginally attractive member of the group. As they were louder than need be, Tony’s wife, quite unimpressed by what she sees, pops her head out of the window and tells the men that they should “probably” come back inside and go to sleep. Any married man will tell you that sleep is not what is awaiting Tony when he gets back in. Both men wake up with a hangover the next morning. Tony’s wife is significantly more upset than his friend Al’s.

Tony decides to go fishing at the stream where he saw the old man the day before. His new friend from the previous night, Stephanie, sneaks up on him and gives him a fright as payback for his prank. He tries to apologize, but she stops him with a kiss. A kiss he does not try to stop her from giving. He finally remembers that he’s married. He reminds her of this. She reminds him that his wife isn’t here. He shoots her down again, but they remain amicable. He even tries teaching her how to fish. Oh, Tony, I do not think that your wife would be happy about this either.

The movie shifts focus to the 2 policemen from earlier, now parked on the side of a road, eating donuts (of course), and talking about the case. One mentions that 2 brothers were murdered in the same cabin 14 years earlier. It was actually the other officer’s first case. It went unsolved. The older cop believes that the murderer of the bank theft girls copied the original murder to try to throw off the police.

Tony’s wife, Lisa, is now acting like he’s already cheated on her. Well shit, he might as well go through with it if he’s already in trouble, right?

Editor’s Note: Totally DON’T do that. That’s horrible advice.

With Al & his wife out to dinner, Tony & his wife on their way out to get their own dinner, and Stephanie still wandering the mountainside, the other girls are left at the cabin. As any killer worth their salt would, ours picks this time to finally enter the film. He brings the boom mic along. The film also chooses this moment to rip off a much better film, Halloween, by filming from the killer’s prospective. There is even some shadowing on the edges of the frame to simulate the mask, which was also done to better effect in Halloween.

The remaining runtime features the killer dispatching the majority of the cast. There is a strong Slumber Party Massacre feel to the film, as most of the female cast are killed while in various states of undress. This approach is taken for purely exploitative reasons as there is no real reason for it. Well, other than showing some skin. That’s usually reason enough.

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Satan’s Blade is not a good movie, although it is quite atmospheric and has a fairly intense synth-based score. The director leaves the film open for a sequel with the spirit of the mountain throwing the knife into a tree for someone else to find. The film even ends with “The Legend Continues” splashed across the screen.

Audio/Video: Presented in damn near 4:3 ratio.  There is very noticeable print damage/scratching early in the film, but it clears up noticeably as the film progresses. Crackles and pops at credits, but otherwise audio is consistent, if not overly dynamic. Considering the budget and extreme obscurity of the film, the picture is actually quite sharp. Very impressive.

Special Features: The featurette, Remembering Satan’s Blade is a very awkward interview with the director. Almost painful to watch.

Other special features include a director’s commentary, isolated scores, photo gallery, trailer, and 2 deleted alternate scenes.

Overall: Hardcore slasher devotees may find something of interest, as might fans of obscure/forgotten films. I can not recommend this one enough to fans of boom mics. However, casual fans will most likely be bored… if they aren’t scared off by the atrocious acting.

 

 

 

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