Everyone has their staples for Halloween watching, like John Carpenter’s “Halloween” and “Nightmare Before Christmas.” But be forewarned, gentle reader, because your master of Scarimonies (God, I sound like the Crypt Keeper), Dukey Flyswatter, will suggest some gems and themes that may have flown drastically under your radar, like a schizophrenic Vampire Bat. Week four, we focus on movies that defy categorization, but are just plain creepy.
“The Brotherhood Of Satan” (1971)
Director: Bernard McVeety. Stars: Strother Martin, L.Q.Jones, Alvy Moore, Ahna Capri.
Although “The Brotherhood of Satan” could have easily fit into last week’s drive-in theme, it’s less of an exploitation film than the other picks. It also has this weird aura of modern Southern Gothic mixed in with an anti hippie-type vibe, but as though it were incongruently directed by someone on Ecstacy.
A married couple and their young daughter, K.T., are driving through the American Southwest when they stumble upon a burning car wreck on the side of the road. When they stop at the next town to report it, they are handcuffed and given the 3rd degree in a rough and paranoid fashion, until the sheriff and his constituents are convinced that they are in as much of a hapless situation as the rest of the town. For the last week or so, no one has been able to come into or leave the town without facing peril or death. On top of that, there are missing children that no one can find and the motives are very unclear.
It turns out that the town is a hotbed of activity for a coven of senior citizen witches anxious to inhabit the bodies of the missing tots so they can live yet another lifetime. Those who try to stop the children, who are lured via spells, meet with unlikely accidents or are attacked by toys turned deadly. To make thing worse for the sheriff, who is in near nervous breakdown mode, and the panicked parents who just arrived, the Satanic priest is a prominent citizen.
Whether you think of this as a good low-budget entry, or a cheesy B movie, it contains scenes that are very hard to ignore or forget. One of the bits that was cut for the edited TV version is a few seconds of Strother Martin unwrapping his ceremonial robe, horrifying us with his little red speedo (and nothing else). Brrrr. One of the things that makes this work so well is the camaraderie of its character actors. Strother Martin and L.Q. Jones had worked together on “The Wild Bunch” and some other projects, and Alvy Moore (Hank Kimball from the “Green Acres” T.V. series) had also worked with Jones co-producing the films “The Witchmaker” and “A Boy And His Dog.” They suck you in with a series of scripted and improvised sequences. The finale is impressive and unexpected. Techno rockers My Life With The Thrill Kill Cult have sampled it in one of their songs.
“The Brotherhood Of Satan” shows up from time to time on television (TCM) and can be viewed on Amazon, iTunes, Yidio and it was released on Blu Ray Disc, co-billed with William Castle’s “Mr. Sardonicus” at a mere Ten Dollars. Party on, Garth. Party on, Wayne.