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Reviewed by: Pat Torfe

Directed by: Bernard McEveety

Charles Bateman
Strother Martin
Strother Martin
Charles Robinson

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What's it about

Ben, his girlfriend Nicky and his daughter KT are on vacation when they get trapped in the small town of Hillborough, where weird shite has been going down. Communication with the outside world has been lost, kids have disappeared and their parents are found dead. According to the local priest, it turns out there's a cult that's been conducting ceremonies with said kids in anticipation of some great event. Of course, nobody believes him until KT is snatched, leaving Ben and the few authority figures left in the town to save her.

Is it good movie?

Hot off the heels of ROSEMARY'S BABY, yet before THE EXORCIST hit theatres and made everyone crap their collective pants, the low-budget BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN was probably more or less relegated to the drive-in, as the 'Devil craze' had yet to take hold in America. It's a shame, since the film, while not exactly the same calibre as those two or a glorified cheesefest either, is one of those B-movies that was unfortunately overlooked.

The film, at first glance, is your typical B-movie: no-name actors save for Strother Martin (who had been relegated to cowboy TV shows for his career, most notably Gunsmoke and Hotel de Paree, though he played the warden in COOL HAND LUKE) and Strother Martin (HANG 'EM HIGH, as well as being the writer for this film), a director who had spent his career directing TV shows, and clichés such as fog and robed cultists (this time it's the elderly's turn to wear 'em) spouting your typical cult chants. But beyond that, you do get some creepy moments like your possessed doll, surreal direction and cinematography that could only come from the era, and a twist ending thrown in for good measure.

Don't let Bernard McEveety's career of directing TV fool you, the man did what he could with what he had, which wasn't much. For example, the bulk of the hero scenes involve the characters being sequestered in the sheriff's office, and instead of showing one guy talking and taking up the shot, we see all 5 characters in the same shot, doing their mannerisms. It's not something you see in every film, and so it was nice to see. Other shots remind you that this film was indeed being made in the 60's, as we get some trippy shots and a rather surreal dream sequence. Alas, you do see where the budget was lacking in places, most notably in the above sheriff's office scene.

Acting-wise, everyone does an amicable job. Strother Martin showed his creepy side with Doc Duncan, and was very convincing in the role, though went a tad overboard at times. The guy really seemed to be enjoying himself, though. Charles Bateman was great as the caring and likable father figure, Ben. L.Q. Jones was awesome as the Sheriff, and reminded me of Sam Elliot, for some reason. Ahna Capri as Nicky did what she had to do, and did it pretty well (namely look good and half-ass the acting). Charles Robinson, on the other hand, was no Max Von Sydow, and overacted to the extreme as the Priest. That stupid laugh of his topped it for me. I don't usually like child actors in horror films, since it seems all they do is act annoying and scream a lot, and while Geri Reischl did get on my nerves a couple times, she was okay as KT.

Of course, it wouldn't be a B-movie if we didn't have cheesy gore, now would it? The film wasn't overly gory, though we do get a severed leg, bloody corpses, a slit throat, an impaling and a decapitation. However, the decap suffered the wrath of the budget, as we see it in silhouette (although the quick cuts helped to lessen the disappointment). Also, we get some lame convulsions from two parents instead of some blood, which made it seem like they tried to fake seizures more than anything else. Whether that was the intention or not, I don't know.

Another sore spot is the fact that the plot holes are big enough to pass two Harry Knowles through them, like why such a small town doesn't notice its old people are nutbar cultists, and why the sheriff and his department are so laid back with all the weird stuff going on. But hey, you watch B-movies for a reason, right? Lastly, those of you expecting your exploitation flick to have boobs and blood can look elsewhere, as everyone keeps their tops on in this one. Plus, the MTV crowd will not be sticking around for this one, as like many of the films of this era, it's slow to start and requires you to pay attention (plus the climax is faster than your high school prom date).

Overall, this low budget fare is neither heaven nor hell, but somewhere in between. Those of you looking to see what devil worship was like before it was in style and don't mind seeing the 70's-era style, then this one might make your night. The rest of us can grab a case and a few buds and try their hand at commentary.

Video / Audio

Video: Being that this film was released just when DVDs had gotten established and the quality of the film itself, your expectations would be pretty low on the transfer. Surprisingly, this flick looks pretty good. The 2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen has good contrast and colour, and for the most part is dirt free. The sharpness, grain and the like take hits in spots, but that is most likely due to the era and budget. Unfortunately, those who dread edge enhancement should be prepared, and there's quite a lot of it, but what's here overall should satisfy any B-movie nut.

Audio: We get English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono with your optional English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Thai subtitles. Obviously, this film isn't the one to show off your new sound system with. At certain points the soundtrack, fx noise, and dialogue all converge in the center channels and muffle together a little fighting for space, along with the occasional pop and click. Again, it's the era and age of the film. The sound for what's here is okay.

The Extras

This is, frankly, a forgotten B-movie, so it's no surprise the extras are next to none. What we do get are trailers for the Columbia Pictures collection of B-monster movies called 'Creature Features', along with trailers for THE CRAFT and HOLLOW MAN.

Last Call

Not one that you'd put as the frontrunner for best Devil-worship flick, but certainly not one you'd want to get drunk beforehand if you're the patient type. A low-budget offering mixed in with some good acting and good camera work can be enjoyable, provided you pay attention while putting your brain on the backburner. It's a guilty pleasure of the era, for sure. Well, for those who remember seeing it, that is. And those who did see it will be pleased with the transfer and audio portions, all at a budget price.

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