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Sunday, March 16, 2014

THE REDEEMER: SON OF SATAN (1978)

THE REDEEMER: SON OF SATAN (1978) (R) Dir. Constantine S. Gochis
aka THE REDEEMER aka CLASS REUNION MASSACRE
84 mins.


This is a weird movie. It's been speculated to be a religious film, but that's debatable. Six adults attend their ten year class reunion at their old high school, only to find there's no one there but them. They enter the banquet hall, pig out, and it begins to dawn on them that something might be wrong. They begin to investigate, and soon the former students realize they are locked and barred inside the school, with no way out, and there is a killer after them.... for SOME reason.
 
Seriously, they can't figure it out, and even after the denouement, I couldn't either. There are both a prologue and epilogue to the movie that just discombobulate the plot further. Basically, a thespian/priest, who had attended the same school and grade as his victims, is attacking them for living sinful lives. One girl is a lesbian, another is vain, one man is a lawyer, another is gay, etc. Apparently that is the motive. I kept waiting for a "you picked on me in high school" motive, as even the characters speculate that to be so. But no, unless I somehow missed it.
 
 
The editing is atrocious, but it fits in context with the grainy footage, muted yet oversaturated colors, and choppy narrative. It's surreal, if anything, and it does add a certain dream-like atmosphere to the clich├ęd slasher proceedings. There is little gore, but one scene in the school lavatory is brutally violent and well-executed. Props to both actors in that scene. The ending is impenetrable. Once the redeemer is finished with his work, there is a prologue that not only reveals his identity (as if the audience didn't know by now), but suggests he might have accomplices as well. Oh, and something about a curse involving a third thumb. An odd final note to end an odd movie.
 
 
The killer is played by T.G. Finkbinder, who is now a high school teacher, and although some of his performance is heavy-handed, some it works as well. As an actor, I'm sure he jumped at the role, as the redeemer dresses differently in almost every scene he shows up in, and every costume the killer wears is like new personality.
 
The movie also begs the question, 'do the writer and director sympathize with the priest?' If so, is this a Christian horror movie? Like the ending, this question will probably never be answered. I do know that the original title of the film was simply The Redeemer, and it was filmed in 1976. However, it was not released until 1978, after The Exorcist made a huge splash, so the producers added the 'Son of Satan' subtitle to cash-in on the Satanic horror boom late that decade. In reality, the concept of Satan has nothing to do with this film; if anything, it deals with sin and redemption.
 
 
Would I recommend this film? Perhaps to hardcore horror completists and fans of the surreal. It's not particularly well written, shot or acted, but it does have a feeling that separates it from other no-budgeted films of its time. It's a shame the director Gochis didn't make more films after this one, because as flawed as it is, it shows promise. 5/10
 
 

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